Feathers were getting ruffled on both sides. I realize that infers an invisible line in the sand. The dangerous thing about an invisible line is that it is like electricity. You can’t always see it but you can sure feel it when you reach out and God forbid, touch it.
The females in the office were in a touchy-feely mood and it wasn’t because it was ‘that time of the month.’ They had had it up to there with being patronized by the opposite gender on the other side of the line. Against some of the males’ better judgment, some of the women reached out and touched a few of the sacred things.
Not the least of which was asking – after they were thoroughly chewed out up one side and down the other – why they were relegated to the proverbial ‘standing around the water cooler’ instead of allowed active participation.
That these women had the audacity to actually come up with an idea and fashion a ‘vehicle’ to pull it off was, after all, not in their job descriptions. Their stated and approved job functions, roles and responsibilities were listed right there, with a jab of the index finger for emphasis. Nor was the generic ‘other duties as assigned’ license for this undertaking either.
All of that over a tea party.
What in the name of office-ville was going on?
Simply put, a quiet revolution.
On their own time – after working all day, over lunch hours, and on weekends – these women created a space to share the beauty of the gospel and purchase a well for clean water in an African village. Not ones to hoard that goodness to themselves, they planned a Saturday high tea complete with program, and extended invitations to area churches’ women’s ministry groups and local female donors.
After all, this was the heart of the place they worked. Outreach and engagement of ones to come alongside and support the work of indigenous ministries overseas. And yes, they procured appropriate permission first.
All was well until in the minds of some, said women were found to be splashing around in a water cooler that was clearly off limits – if they’d read their job descriptions lately. Other departments already had it covered.
Besides, surely they were taking time away from their duties of caring for the complainants. Never mind that they said they were planning and creating on their own time and not office time. This was not to be tolerated!
Reading this sounds as ridiculous as it was. But the feathers being ruffled – on both sides – crackled with the current of unresolved issues between the sexes and in some cases, between co-workers in particular.
All this indignant posturing, huffing and puffing in a faith-based organization no less. God would be proud. Not.
So what came of the whole episode? Which was just one of many stories that could be told…but please don’t because it might give people the wrong impression. And behaving that way didn’t?
There were a number of outcomes from that water cooler transgression – when talk became heart became action.
The tea came off but not without confusion clouding efforts the day of the event. The women had bathed in prayer the planning, responses, and message of the need for fresh, clean water and the gospel in that African village. Prayer that could otherwise have been added and effective was withheld by a spirit of competition in the ranks. Healthy competition can be a good thing, but this type only served to squash the hearts of godly intention, fire up unresolved tension, and highlight the disparity of gender roles operating in the family of God.
Enough funds were raised from sales of tickets to the tea and generous gifts given at the event to purchase that fresh-water well. II Corinthians 9:7 tells us that ‘God loves a cheerful giver.’ The heart the Lord gave to the women in the office was shared by those who came and heard. Like throwing a rock in the middle of a pond, the ripples widened, women engaged and gave, and the life-giving water cooler flowed all the way to Africa.
The major brouhaha took place after the event. Joy over bringing in enough funds for the well quickly dissipated. Had it not been for the fact that the Lord brought about the primary goal the women had set out to achieve, they might have deemed it a huge failure. But it wasn’t. At all. A godly sense of satisfaction and the Lord’s pleasure in it all remained intact despite the cranky clouds hanging low in the office.
The surprising hurtful response from some of the males in the office provided an opportunity to meet with the president, who had initially signed off on the idea. In an open, frank talk about the issue of value and respect in the ranks – more precisely, between the males and the females – the invisible line in the sand was voiced.
“Whether you realize it or not, there is a quiet revolution going on among the women in this office.”
You can call it whatever you like: dense, oblivious, top-down management style, bigger fish to fry, emotions run wild, chip on the shoulder, bad attitude, need to take a chill pill … the list is as long as the labels we can come up with. But labels don’t change anything. They’re merely identifiers that point to a deeper root issue.
These women decided to try digging a new trench for change and in the process touched some electrical wires.
Change did occur. Having had their hands roundly slapped, the women never again engaged in such an endeavor on behalf of the ministries their workplace represented. They were admin with job descriptions to prove it. If they wanted to raise funds, well then, they could apply for the job. The sad thing is it was never about the funds. It was about needs and hearts of faith that the funds would follow. There’s a well to prove it.
Major change followed over time as the quiet revolution of hearts continued. The organization was caught, as many were, in the financial instability of the times. Downsizing followed. Job descriptions and responsibilities were absorbed by those remaining. Stress skyrocketed.
Three of the four original water cooler team with the tea party idea are gone. Fully three-quarters of the female staff employed at the time are no longer with the organization. Some were laid off; others actively sought other employment or major transition that took them elsewhere. The organization continues today under new, all-male leadership.
Having stayed in touch with many of the women now gone, I have yet to hear one look back with regret that they are no longer there. Some employed at the time had higher hopes to be valued and respected as a viable change agent with wisdom, leadership graces, and worthy of trust.
Here’s the key, though. No label nor title – either end of the spectrum – is a true identifier of a woman’s worth. Only the Lord Jesus has earned that right and privilege.
Today, as each one’s face comes before my mind’s eye, I can mentally recount how the Lord opened up other doors and led down different paths of His choosing. As Ishshah’s Story team member, Pat Joyce, told me after reading and relating with the draft of this post, “The good thing is that every time I had to leave the nest, or got kicked out, the Lord had something for me that I would not have done if I had stayed.”
Each one that walked out those office doors for the last time has a similar testimony. The Lord met them with next steps as they took their box of belongings and heart of love for God with them.
They might have been seen absconding with parts of the water cooler too. 🙂