Remember high school homecoming dance season? I recall nervously waiting for someone to ask me to what felt like the most important social gathering of my entire life. Fifteen-year-old girls don’t skimp when it comes to high drama. We over exaggerate with the best of them. My inner critic was on overdrive. “No one’s going to ask you. The couple guys you think are cute are definitely going to ask those other girls. Who are you to think someone wants to dance with you?”
When you’re fifteen, you don’t know those voices aren’t true. Those voices keep you frozen. You stay small, hoping no one will notice you. You reel in your joy like a fish on the end of the line.
One year I decided this waiting and worry and self doubt was silly so I invited a friend. He said yes. We met at our high school gym the night of homecoming, we awkwardly danced and I rushed to the bathroom afterwards to talk with my friends. We giggled and swapped stories of embarrassing moments.
It was not a night of overwhelming confidence and courage. It bubbled over with tentative uncomfortable nerves in only a way fifteen-year-old kids can know. But I learned something that night. You don’t have to wait for an invitation to the party. Which is a helpful reminder because lately I’ve been waiting for an invitation to a party that doesn’t exist.
I love leadership. I love healthy, grounded, courageous, intentional leadership. A quick scan of my Instagram feed shows you I follow and listen to a lot of leaders like that. Most of them are women.
A quick scan around my real life feed – the people I watch lead and facilitate in real life – are mostly men.
I’ve noticed this truth before but didn’t think much of it. I knew who I was and would simply keep leading how I felt called to lead. But recently, something shifted.
There’s some new work that my heart is inviting, nudging and shoving me toward. It feels like high school homecoming dance season all over again as I test that call and seek some clarity. “No one is going to ask you. Who am I to do this work?”
Despite my beloved inner critic working in overdrive, the invitation to speak into a space differently was growing stronger and yet I was holding back. I saw myself looking for validation and permission to do this work. But I was troubled by who I needed it from. One day, it hit me and I couldn’t believe I didn’t see it earlier.
I was literally waiting for permission from men to lead differently. This is a disturbing realization for a feminist-patriarchy-smashing woman who’s had no problem saying yes to being a female leader in a previously male-dominated culture. It’s a little embarrassing to see this stale belief rise to the surface. That in 2018, some of us feel like we still need permission from men to be who were called to be. And yet, I’m not surprised. Because in 2018, we are pulling back the veil on sexism in a compelling way. It’s painful to see what’s underneath but if justice is our call then we must each do the work to identify old assumptions buried underneath years of status quo.
As life would have it, I was surrounded by female colleagues at the time of this realization. Their support, encouragement, affirmation and deep “yes” was the invitation I was looking for. This was affirmed when I heard our female bishop speak and tears streamed down my cheeks. Watching her lead moves me in a profoundly deep way.
Is there a new adventure you’re being invited into? Are you waiting for an invitation into that work when your heart already knows it’s your work and this is the the season?
Here’s to saying yes to the wild invitations of our God.
Here’s to naming when we seek an invitation from someone who can’t actually give it to us.
And here’s to taking a next step forward, even when it’s uncomfortable.
Waiting For An Invitation
Are you waiting for an invitation
To a party that doesn’t yet exist?
Your heart is relentless
To work that is yours to do
In this world
You see what is
You see what could be
Your heart is sending
A very clear invitation
You look everywhere else
For permission, affirmation,
Encouragement, an invitation
There must be a secret committee
Issuing invites to your work
In the world
Fear is whispering
Fear has a big dressing room
And loves to play dress up
Fear disguises itself as
The only invitation you need
Is the one you already have
Your heart hand delivered
An invitation full of
A profound way of being
Don’t expect others
To invite you to work
That will challenge and change
That invitation will likely
A voice is calling
And it is saying