Recently at a gathering for preparing student/staff missionaries to various places around the world, we held a discussion about leadership. My director asked each group to work on a drawing of a picture of a leader. (Unbeknownst to all, some were asked to draw a picture to depict an Asian American leader; others were asked to do the same but for an American leader.)
Obviously, we realized that the pictures were a bit different from the group that did the AA vs. Western or American leader. Our director gave some great perspectives on how we need to wary of trying to fit one type of leader into a formula…hence, don’t seek to fit a square peg into a round hole.
But the moment that transfixed me into the past of my hurts as a woman leader was right after the 4 groups of us shared these pictures of leaders. Of the 4 groups made up of Asian American men and women, none of the groups showcased a woman leader. All of us somehow subconsciously assumed that leaders be they AA or American were all male. This moment had a very profound and hurtful effect on me. There I sat as we continued to talk about the differences between AA and American or Western leadership while I sank in my seat. Did anyone else notice this? Did any women leader noticed? Or male leaders? (Why didn’t the women speak up? Or the men?)
In that moment, I began to pray that someone else in the audience would notice this gender reality. I felt very alone. In what seemed an eternity, my heart was longing for someone to notice this and declared this a problem in our community…..that women are not thought to be leaders. I waited and waited and no one spoke up. I saw that I was in a moral dilemma of some sort. As my director continued with his presentation about leadership, I became more and more ill at ease. That moment transported back to my past of being a woman leader who always had to speak up for other women. I saw in that moment that had I not spoken up that this would be another subtle way of saying that indeed women are not leaders. I could not let this be be our statement to so many young women who sat there wanting someone to speak up against this horrific oversight or reality of our community.
So, I raised my hand.
My director was fantastic and agreed that it was a travesty that we all assumed that only men were leaders. He did a great job of affirming that women are leaders by their own rights.
He encouraged all of us to empower women in leadership positions. He did a great job in affirming our women.
My moment of sad aloneness turned into a great moment for our women at the conference.
But it came at a cost to me. It came at the expense of realizing that women are still not lauded as leaders. It came at the cost of me having to once again advocate for women. It took me a while to see that my heart had longed for a man in the audience to remark on the fact that there was a huge miss that we only had pictures of men leaders and no women leaders. I had to forgo my own desires for others to advocate for me, and embrace that I must advocate for our Asian American women. It brought back the past where I would long for others to advocate for me and yet none came to help in those moments. I recalled the total aloneness at those critical times.
What was a moment that transcended me into my past turned into some good for other women.
What was a moment that transported me into my past hurts, became a source of encouragement for others. What could have been a moment of utter despair was transferred into a moment of gratitude as I recalled how there have been great men in my life who totally have advocated for me to lead as a woman leader. What overflowed was a realization that I can advocate because Someone else has advocated for me…not just Jesus Christ himself, but male leaders who have platformed me and empowered me. God always redeems those moments of pain and somehow turns them into a praise to Him.
I am so glad that that moment transcended into my past hurts……because God was there in many ways to handle my hurt and my heart skillfully.
There is a still a journey for women and for me as a woman leader…but it is journey marked with God and other men and women of faith who will advocate for women and men to be all that God desires for them to be.
I am blessed to have worked with men who loved and believed in me beyond myself.
God has deeply used them to instill in me a will to lead because of them. I am so grateful to these faithful men.