A Letter to My Niece (and other young women, followers of Jesus, called to be leaders)
Dear Jenni -
So you’re a young Christian woman, and you’re a leader. Young women like you make me SO excited.
You’ve come so far already. You’ve privately dreamed about possibilities no one else knows about. You’ve imagined a future, and then thought, a little embarrassed, “There’s no way that could happen.” But the thought is still there, in the back of your imagination. You’ve come to more than one crossroads, and taken the path that is just a little riskier, just a little different from everyone else. You’re already a “go-to” person that people know can be relied on to get the job done. It’s just what you do.
You’re a leader.
You were created to lead, to cast vision, to break new trails or clear forgotten ones, to bring others with you as you follow Jesus. You may not know it yet, but there are already people who have noticed your gifts, your heart, your passion. They can see God’s call on your life. They are praying for you. And they’re watching you.
Can I offer you a few thoughts as you find your way forward?
Find leaders you admire, and learn from them. Female or male, in your field or another one, current or past. If they’re near you, invite them for coffee. If they’re at a distance, listen to their podcasts. If they’re no longer living, read their biographies. Figure out what it is you admire about them. And when, over time, you notice their weaknesses (and you will) gently take them off the pedestal on which you placed them. They are human too. Give honour where it’s due. Thoughtfully consider how you would live or lead differently, given the opportunity. The point is - intentionally, intelligently choose the kind of leader you will be.
Be wary of cynicism. Leaders are idealistic and optimistic, especially at the beginning. We see solutions as simple, ideals as norms, complications as needless. We wonder why those in charge aren’t just “doing something” … why they seem to be “playing politics” … what the point is of the slow-moving processes. It’s easy to smirk, to withdraw or even to despair, believing you are the only one who sees what needs to be done. It’s easy to become a cynic. In those moments, hold tightly to humility. Guard your heart. Pray for those most visible, carrying the heaviest responsibilities. Don’t abandon your ideals; but do let them mature with wisdom, as you yourself learn to navigate increasingly complex situations, praying that you make the right decisions, accepting that not everyone will understand or agree. And don’t trash Jesus’ Bride. The Church was God’s idea. It still is.
Deal with your issues. We’ve all got some. I know - you don’t - you’re fine. No hidden pain, no unresolved triggers, no lingering unforgiveness. Except, well, that’s probably not entirely the case. Don’t go digging for stuff, but when something pops up to the surface, don’t bury it. Work it through. Acknowledge pain. Confess. Repent. Forgive. Seek healing. Ask for help. Grow. You will come through it stronger, wiser, and more compassionate. And listen: God has not called you because you are perfect. He has called you because He chose you (and isn’t THAT a crazy thought?!). God is not surprised by your struggles. He knows exactly who you are right now; He also knows who He is going to help you become.
Laugh easily. Laugh at your own jokes, because come on - you’re hilarious! There is relief in a good belly laugh. And there is something healthy about being able to chuckle at the things we take too seriously. We live in a world that is outraged and offended all the time. It’s exhausting. Sometimes the only form of amusement seems to be sourced in sarcasm. It makes us hard. Don’t live there. Live joyfully. Smile often. Express appreciation. Refuse to be offended.
Listen, Jenni, you are so much more than you know. You are strong. You are smart. You are creative. You are principled. You are passionate. You are joyful. You’re a dreamer. You’re pragmatic. Idealistic. Courageous, even when you’re afraid. Determined. You are an influencer of people.
You’re a leader.
BE all of that, unapologetically, unreservedly, unashamedly. Don’t hold back. A whole lot of us are cheering wildly for you. We can’t wait to see what you become.