I grew up in upstate New York, in a non-Christian home. I didn't know any Christians, I never went to church, and I didn't open a Bible. It wasn't until college that I trusted Christ as my Savior. Before then, I had little understanding about what trusting Christ meant. And when faith came, mine was that childhood faith that Jesus talks about in the Gospel of Mark. Here's how it happened.
A friend from my hometown came to faith, and frankly I thought it was weird that he came to faith. I mean, I was sure only weirdoes and needy people turned to Jesus as a crutch. But this guy— call him Sammy — he was handsome, smart, and athletic. Sammy came from a good family. I couldn't figure out why in the world he needed this Jesus guy.
Going away to college, Sammy and I ended up living near each other, so we shared rides home during semester breaks. During these rides, I would pepper him with questions. "Where does it say in the Bible you can't get drunk?" "Where does it say in the Bible you can’t have sex before you're married?" And Sammy always responded in a gentle and nonjudgmental way as he walked me through some of the passages in Scripture. Finally, one memorable Sunday morning, after I had spent a long night in the bars, Sammy came over to the house to talk. We were sitting in the living room when he said, "Jackie, it's not about how good or bad you are. It's about trusting what Jesus did on the cross for your sins."
I was livid. How dare he say it had nothing to do with good or bad! Why, right down the hall was my mother. I knew that my mom had lived a saintly life. She'd given to the poor out of her meager resources, loved others unconditionally, and loved well her abusive husband. How dare Sammy say that none of that mattered? I was so outraged that I yelled for my mother to come in from the kitchen. Then I said, "Sammy, tell my mother what you just said to me."
I realize, now, that that wasn't such a kind thing to do to him. But Sammy calmly said it again. And what did my mother do? She simply wiped her hands dry on her kitchen towel and said, "Yes, that's right, Jackie."
I was stunned. I stayed that way for the rest of that day and into the night. But as I lay in bed, I began to reflect on all the things that I had used to try to fill the hole in my soul. Reduced to its essence, the list was basically sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. As I got to the end of the list, I said, "Okay, Jesus: they tell me you're the answer, so I'll give you a shot." Give you a shot. As if I could give him back if he didn't work out. How's that for great theology?
In any event, it wasn't long after that night that I married my husband, Steve, and together we made the decision to move to Dallas to enroll in Dallas Theological Seminary. I still didn't know many Christians, and I rarely went to church or read my Bible. (Yeah, I know: I can't believe they accepted me, either.) Shortly after arriving in Dallas, Steve and I found ourselves at a table eating Texas barbecue with other new students and their spouses. Each table had a host professor. Ours was Dr. Eugene Merrill, a world-renowned Old Testament scholar. I had no clue as to who he was. As we sat, I talked with the other women. One woman had five kids. One of her sons' names was Micah. Micah. What a cool name, I thought. So I said, "I've never heard that name before. Where did you get that?"
Everyone at the table turned to look at me. I knew I had committed a faux pas, but I couldn't imagine what it was. The point is that I was as green as they come. I had arrived at seminary without any Bible knowledge. I didn't know the story of Jonah or Abraham. When our hermeneutics professor asked the class to open to the book of Philemon, I bent down, searching my backpack. I know I must have bought that book at the bookstore. Oh! Table of Contents? What page is Philemon on?
It took me a long time to graduate. That was mostly because I kept having children, three of them in three-and-a-half years. And my kids were my priority. I didn't have extended family to help me take care of them, and in Dallas I was struggling to get used to these Southern Christians and this thing called Christianity. I still thought Christians were weird. (Sometimes I still do.) At that stage in my life, if I left the house it was either to take a class at the seminary or to attend a women's Bible study on Tuesday morning. And it was while sitting in that women's Bible study that I met Jesus, met him truly and deeply. Not as my Savior — I had met him in that way back home in New York, that night in my room. This time, encountering Jesus in the pages of the Bible, I came to know him as the lover of my soul. For the next several years I dug deeply into the Word. In the course of that journey, and in the fullness of time, Jesus healed my soul. I have never given him back.
The teaching of God's Word transforms. I'm living proof of that. And we evangelicals, we know this better than anyone else. It's where we place our emphasis, on teaching the word of God. We know and live the belief that God speaks to us through the Bible. But here's the paradox. Research shows that, among Christian women, those in conservative evangelicalism are the least likely to get trained in areas of leadership of the church, including training to teach God's Word. That research has been validated in what I myself have experienced around the country.
During a break at a Christian women's conference in Dallas, a woman ran toward me and grabbed my arm; I was almost bowled over. She burst out, "I'm Stacy! I teach a large group of women every week. I want to learn how to do what you do."
I was struck by the fact that this woman, who had been teaching the Bible for years—presumably to hundreds of women—had been doing so without any training. And Stacy is not an exception. Like Stacy, many women teach, but they aren't trained to teach. Like her, many long to get trained, but they have no idea how or where to go about it, except to attend seminary, which for many women is not an option.
After five years of teaching women to teach, and listening to women share, I have learned that there are a variety of explanations for why women don't get the skills they need to become effective teachers of the Word. These reasons are crucial for us to understand if we are to overcome them. And as a first step in that effort to understand, I will suggest that a number of these "reasons" are actually ghosts: theological shadows or spirits that operate through fear.
Excerpted from She Can Teach, by Dr. Jackie Roese, (MA/CE, 2001). Used with permission.