When I ask women where they swagger, not too many identify church! I love hearing the stories of women who do swagger in their spiritual lives. Thanks to Erin Counihan for this great piece on following your heart, being yourself, and answering the call.
Guest post by Erin Counihan
I’ve got a bit of a church swagger and I’m not afraid to admit it. I think I’ve always had it. I was that kid wore the white rug duct taped to my back in the nativity play but acted like she had on a full on Academy Award winning designer made sheep costume. Today, I am the woman who wears red shoes to church and sings the hymns, in harmony, from memory, quite loudly… because I can. I’ve always felt at home in the sanctuary, in the choir loft, and in the fellowship call after services (um, hello, that’s where they keep the cookies). With the exception my few uber teen-angsty high school years, I just always loved church. I loved seeing people around me caring for each other and caring for their community. I loved our pastor, who each Sunday who both inspired and challenged us. I loved being a part of that big, messy, lovely church family. And I loved who I was when I was with them.
In college, I felt a call to ministry, to serve that great church family, but I resisted that feeling. I knew I church work would be a good fit for me and that God had put a tug in my heart, but I didn’t know any lady pastors. I saw a church run by men my grandfather’s age. They were smart and kind and caring, but they didn’t joke like I did. They didn’t play field hockey. They didn’t listen to Nirvana. They didn’t toilet paper people’s houses. They certainly didn’t date or dance or read US Weekly.
So, instead, I pursued a life of public service and private worship. I remained actively swaggering in some church small groups and mission trips, but I spent most of my time building a career in the social service industry. I happily went along serving my community and my church and my friends in a silo-style existence for years. But eventually, I came to feel odd about the system I’d developed to make myself fit into the different categories society had for me- worker, social butterfly, church girl. I realized that God didn’t create me to be one person from 9-5, a different person from 8pm-midnight and third person on Sunday mornings. That girl proudly sporting a duct-taped rug is me all the time- sometimes in the sanctuary and sometimes in a dance hall. I am young and female and I have a lot to offer the church. So, I got to know a couple women pastors and enlisted them as mentors. Then I quit my job, gave up my apartment and moved across the country to put my three pronged self back into one. I started seminary this fall (a master’s program which is the standard training for pastors and other church leaders) at a fancy east coast school. I spend most of my days studying in a building where men and women have been training for ministry for 200 years, and usually I rock that building in jeans and some hot cowboy boots. I am going to be a different kind of pastor, and I am cool with that.
The thing is, God created me to be the kind of woman I think the church needs- one with brains and common sense, with compassion and humor, with humility and swagger. I spent years thinking you couldn’t be silly and fun and devout and feminine at the same time. I was wrong. To me, part of knowing God is knowing who God created you to be and what God called you to do. My call has always been to help others. Sometimes I help with solid casework skills and sometimes I help with a well-timed Hammer dance. Sometimes I help by rebuilding houses and sometimes I help by rebuilding spirits.
I get my church swagger on because I think we can be holy and real at the same time. I think we can be serious without taking ourselves too seriously. I am silly because I think God wants to hear us laugh. I study hard because I think God wants us to learn. I look after others because I think God wants us to be good neighbors. And, wear red shoes on both Fridays nights and on Sunday mornings, because, well, red shoes are just fun.