Confessions of a conflicted feminist

What is an avowed feminist to do when her call to ministry seems to conflict with her desire to be a wife and mother?

By Aimee Yeager

Be independent. Go after your career. Don’t get married before 30. If you do marry, don’t let him think you want to be pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen. Fight for non-sexist language to describe humanity and the Divine.

These are just a few of the ground rules for a “feminist.” As a self-proclaimed feminist, I fight hard for universal language. I am pursuing my calling with passion. I fight for other women to have the same opportunities.

I am not, however, a typical feminist. I find myself defending my life choices to those who think I’m not feminist enough and to those in the anti-feminist camp.

In college, I competed in pageants through the Miss America Organization. Through my participation in this program, the single largest source of educational scholarships for women in the world, I practiced interviewing skills, and promoted advocacy, voting and community service.

I gained self-confidence, the ability to speak publicly and coping skills for overcoming fears and anxieties. Best of all, I met other smart, talented and service-oriented women. I don’t tell anyone that I walked on a stage in a bikini and heels. That is taboo for a feminist.

Following graduation, I moved to Macon to work for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia. During my time with CBF/GA, I began to discern my call to ministry. I moved to Atlanta to pursue my master of divinity at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology. I prepared for my future as a single, female minister.

Then I met a man. I got married before 30, and it doesn’t stop there. I started getting baby fever. I began dreaming of part-time jobs, housekeeping and SUVs. By now you’re probably thinking, “Clearly, this woman is no feminist.” Yet, I am not alone in these desires. There are feminists who want families. But the worst confession is yet to come.

I am a child of the Baptist controversy over women in ministry. I witnessed hearts breaking. I know the bitter sting of tears from a child of the church betrayed.

I am going to seminary and pursuing my calling on the shoulders of men and women who fought for me to have the opportunity to follow God’s calling for my life. I do not take that lightly. I recognize that I hold that torch for the 5-year-old future female minister sitting on the pew. I am her role model.

That is why I am conflicted about this next confession — the geographic location of my future ministry will be determined by my husband’s appointment through the United Methodist Church.

I am lucky to have a husband who supports me and encourages me to do things that I don’t even think I am capable of. I have a husband who wants me to dream big and succeed in ministry. I have a husband who wants me to serve as I am led to serve. But, in the spirit of confession, I only want to serve part-time because, when the time comes, I want to be home with our children. His job will take priority.

I struggle with this. I wrestle with the idea that I am setting female ministers back 50 years by following the direction of my husband’s calling from town to town. I was called to ministry before I met him. Am I abandoning my zeal for ministry if I allow his call to have priority in determining our location?

In my young naiveté, I said to so many women: “Don’t follow a man around. Follow your dreams.” Isn’t that what a feminist does? Yet, here I am, sacrificing for love — choosing to follow where God is leading my husband because I believe in him, I love him and I want security for my future family.

When I mentioned this struggle to one of my professors, he spoke these wise words: “Aimee, your call is not to a specific place or a specific institution. Your call is a calling out of gifts. You can use these gifts to the glory of God in a wide variety of settings.”

His words hit home and helped me find a peace of mind in my decision to be a mom, wife and minister — a woman who is following her call, husband and future family. I am slowly accepting that I can fight for women’s rights and follow my husband’s appointments at the same time.

So I will drive my SUV around the town where my husband and I are serving. I will continue to wear my “This is What a Preacher Looks Like” T-shirt with pride. I am beginning to accept there is no conflict, just confession.

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.