Long before I heard her speak at a Synergy Conference in Orlando and before I sat down to interview her, Dr. Michelle Loyd-Paige was one of my—as she would say—"sheros." You see, back when I was a freshman at Calvin College, where Dr. Loyd-Paige is Professor of Sociology and Dean of Cultural Affairs, I enrolled in her "Food and Culture" January Interim class. Day two of the class, I was diagnosed with mono and ended up hospitalized and unable to finish the course.
Because my throat nearly swelled shut and I couldn't speak—these were the days before email or texts—my dad called Dr. Loyd-Paige to explain my situation. Instead of making me drop the class entirely, she arranged for me to write a paper and still receive the "pass" Interim credit.
All this to say, when I sat down to interview her, I felt a little in her debt. I told her the story of her great act of mercy in my life, which she didn't remember. No wonder. Not only was I only one needy student among the probably thousands she's taught, but it turns out her mission since those days has been helping women "protect their anointing" from God. Dr. Loyd-Paige not only does this in her work as a college professor, but by preaching the word of God, and by encouraging other women—through her ministry, Preach, Sista!—to be vigilant in following their own callings—or protecting their anointing.
While today Dr. Loyd-Paige serves as a great encourager to others, turns out, it wasn't encouragement that lead her to where she is today. In fact, it was something much different.
You're so confident in your calling as a woman of God. What has shaped that confidence for you?
One of the big things has been conflict. I had to realize that conflict was a part of my life and that much of my life was going to be asking, "How am I going to respond to the conflict?"
I decided along the way that I could either always be the victim because of the conflict, or I could try to find ways to negotiate the conflict.
What happens when you—especially as a woman—are the victim of conflict?
There have been times when there wasn't anything I could do in response to the conflict or the tension except to be the victim, because there was no way around it.
But there have been other times when I've had opportunity to make a decision to say, "You know what, I'm not going to be the victim this time." No matter what the outcome, I had to decide to be brave enough, bold enough to say, "I'm making room for myself at the table. This is what I want to be and what I want to do."
So, really, we just need to know how to assess the situation.
What are some of the big conflicts that you faced?
Internally, I faced the question of, Did God really call me? I think this happens to many women when called to places where there aren't many female role models.
And then, when I was going through my ordination process, I had all the classes, the apprenticeships, and the experience and I was ready to go up for the final exam, I sensed the Holy Spirit say, You can't do this. And the reason, I realized, was because it had become about me saying to my community, "See, women can be ordained."
It wasn't even that it was just the next natural step for what I'm doing, but an attitude of "See, women can too." That wasn't the right reason to become an ordained minister of the gospel.
But a year after telling me no, the Holy Spirit said, Michelle, why don't you go [take your exams]? So then I took the exams and got ordained. Not to prove anything to anyone. I needed to do it because God was calling me to do it and not because I was trying to prove that it was "okay." Even if it wasn't okay, I had to do it because God was calling me to.
That's an important distinction. I think a lot of women—myself included—get tangled up in wanting to prove a point or just to fight.
Many of us are in the fight because we have to. We call it "protecting your anointing." You have to protect the anointing that is on your life because—especially for women in ministry—so many people try to say that the anointing is not valid.
You have people who will show you the Scriptures, those Scriptures in the Bible that say you must be silent, that you can't have authority. So you must be subject, submissive. You have those coming at you.
And you don't hear the power stories of women coming across the pulpit. You don't hear about a female apostle. And you don't hear that perhaps Vashti was not just an insubordinate woman; that maybe she was protecting her dignity and maybe she was saying, "I'm not going to tolerate this. I'm not going to be abused right now because I don't feel like parading naked in front of all your drunken friends" (Esther 1:10).
We never hear that maybe Rachel wasn't so conniving. That maybe Rachel knew that Jacob could better handle leadership and wanted to protect that and to make sure he was in the proper place, because Esau was willing to sell his birthright for a pot of porridge. Would you really want him leading a nation?
We don't hear that Rachel was a woman who knew her sons. And if their "salvation"—in that context that their salvation was in their sons—was riding on this, she wanted to make sure it was the right son not the wrong son. And yet, knowing that, knowing that she would be cut off but probably not see him again, she did it anyway because it was the right thing to do. But do we hear about her as this heroine of faith? No. We only hear that she favored her son and how conniving she was.
So obviously all this can add to the conflicts that women in ministry face. What do you do to help women through these times?
I wanted to get more stories of these "sheroes of the faith" out there, so I started a book-reading group. I was careful with the reading material that I selected. During our book club, we'd discuss the stories of these women through these different lenses and then talk about it. This group isn't all women from the same church, which is helpful, too. As we talk , we get excited about our callings. When I have opportunity to speak, I try to bring that voice in.
For more information on Michelle Loyd-Paige's ministry, PreachSista!, visit the organization's website.
Caryn Rivadeneira is a writer, editor, speaker, and TCW contributor who resides in Illinois. She is the author of Mama's Got a Fake I.D.: How to Reveal the Real You Behind All That Mom. Follow Caryn online at CarynRivadeneira.com.