Recently in meeting where a group of us were discussing a discipleship model for academic theological education, I made a statement that I make often about my own formation as a follower of Jesus.
I said, “The person I am today comes as a result of three things: Jesus, the amazing mentors who have crossed paths with me, and the strong women in my life.”
The one woman in the room responded instantly, “You need to write about that.”
She is correct, and I confess it’s taken me far too long to do so.
Jesus, as always is the obvious answer. While this answer is obvious, for me it is not at all cliche. Jesus literally transformed my life. From a lost, angry, broken kid doing and dealing all sorts of illegal substances, my life has been given to the building of the Kingdom. I get to teach and pastor pastors. I get to serve the poorest leaders around the world. I help churches experience transformation. None of it would be possible had I not encountered Jesus. Without Jesus, I probably would not have met my wife and had two wonderful kids. Without Jesus, there is a good chance I would not even be alive today.
One of the most profound ways I have been blessed far beyond what would be deserved, expected, or remotely normal has been the amazing teachers and mentors God has put in my life. I have been spoiled by relationships with spiritual giants.
Finally, but certainly not least, I have been profoundly shaped by the strong women in my life. I often lament that the church does not know what to do with strong women. That lament is often vocalized as I talk with women who have been slighted, dismissed, or even abused by the church.
I have spent the entirety of my life surrounded by strong women. I grew up around strong women. For the majority of my life, I have been drawn to strong women. In my own desire to grow and be the person Jesus has created me to be, I intentionally surround myself with strong women, and I currently have the joy of joining my wife Jessica (another strong woman) in raising a strong young woman.
It has not been lost on me that I am the person I am today due to the strong women in my life. The strong women who have loved me. The strong women who have encouraged and challenged me. The strong women who have taught, mentored, and shaped me. The strong women who have tolerated me and all my nonsense.
I hope to continue to spend the rest of my days surrounded and shaped by strong women. I am a better Christ follower, husband, father, man, pastor, mentor, teacher, and person because of the strong women in my life. I would be a shell of who I am today without the strong women in my life and I could not be more grateful.
While I rejoice at the gift of the strong women that have shaped me throughout my life, I also lament. I lament for those who have not had this experience. I lament for those who fail to see or allow the strong women God has put into their life to really shape them. I lament all of the strong women who have been ignored, hurt, or abused by the church. I lament all the lost Kingdom opportunities and all of the lost ministry opportunities due to the failure of the church to create space for strong women to live fully into their calling.
I do not just lament for strong women. I lament for all women, for all people who have not been valued as beloved children of God who are also made in the image of God. Theological differences aside, we will never encounter a human being on this planet that is not loved by God. The church needs strong women, and men who are followers of Jesus need to be shaped by the strong women in their midst.
While I and we at Preparing for Amazement Ministries embrace theological hospitality, there is no question on where we stand when it comes to women serving in any and all roles in ministry, the church, and beyond. They are created in the image of God and called by God to use those gifts in any and all possible ways for the Kingdom.
Today, I praise God for all the strong women who have been and will continue to be a part of my story.
Rev. Dr. Marcus J. Carlson, Executive Director, Preparing for Amazement Ministries