For this week’s Life:Unmasked, I’m featuring an anonymous guest post I received a couple of weeks ago. It is one of the most bare pieces of writing I’ve read in awhile. I have the deepest respect for this woman, awed that in spite of the deep pain she carries, she hasn’t surrendered to bitterness or thrown in the towel. These are all her words. I hope you’ll encourage her with your own in the comments. (The linky for Life:Unmasked is at the end of the post.)

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“Did I tell you I’m asking Brad to submit some writing samples?”, he said as he sauntered out of the closet, eyes fully engaged with his smartphone and only half-heartedly trying to make conversation with me.

“Which Brad, and writing samples for what?”, I asked with probably a little too much zeal. My interest was piqued, and I felt my adrenaline begin to rush.

woman ashamed

Was this the moment I’ve been waiting for? Were there really openings at the dream company we had packed up our family and moved 800 miles for my husband to work for? Were my secret dreams of someday getting to work there too about to come true? Were they actually hiring for what my college diploma proclaims I have been trained to do–to WRITE? To children, of which I have four? About the Bible, which I love and have been a life-long student of?

“Oh, Brad from our old church. We’re looking for some more male writers, we already have soooo many women.”

Message received.

A surge of billious responses lurched to my lips, which I pressed firmly closed to muzzle the hurt, as well as to help quell the flow of tears that were threatening to spill out of my eyes. Again.

My husband had no idea what his words had just broken, yet again, in this nine-second interchange.

I’m a writer. I have a degree. I’ve been a teacher and taught other people how to write. I’ve blogged. I’ve been paid to write. I’ve edited. I’ve volunteered my writing. I think in Helvetica. Yet, I don’t think my husband sees me as a writer. And it hurts beyond explanation.

This wound picks at the scab of a similar scar that was inflicted on me by another supposedly safe and sacred relationship, that of my church.

10 years ago, I sat in an interview for a new leadership position in our church called Servant Development. I couldn’t have written a job description that would have been more perfect for me at that time.

But as I was sitting in the interview basking in the glow of how uncannily well-suited my unique personality, skills and strengths were to this position, I was asked to explain how I line up with I Timothy 3:1-7. I opened my Bible, read through the qualifications and commented to each one how I either am or am not that person

After I finished, my interviewer then asked me to read verse two again, out loud, and to make sure that I fit all the criteria.

“An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,”…

My breath whooshed out as the realization sunk in. Despite being in a completely faithful marriage where we were one husband and one wife fully committed to each other, I was the “one wife” in this verse and not “the husband”. I stammered,  “Oh, …I’m not a man.”, and my interviewer morosely shook his head in agreement.

I don’t remember any more of the interview. There probably was not much more. It was over.

Message received.

I was so embarrassed and ashamed that I scuttled out of the building as quickly as possible with tears stinging my eyes. The interviewer had purposely led me to the realization that my gender was the disqualifying factor for this position. I felt patronized by the fact that he had made me say it out loud. This intentional entrapment shook me to the core. And something in me fractured in that moment.

I don’t understand why the church didn’t bother to state that they would only be considering men for this position, and why they went through the time and trouble to call me in for an interview when I clearly was not even going to be considered as a viable candidate.

10 years later, I have still not gotten over this hurt from the big “C” church. I think I am still in shock that the church, and not “the world”, would be the institution that would tell me that my gender would disallow me from doing what I was made to do.

All I really told my husband, who was finishing up seminary and had been newly hired by this very same church, was that I wasn’t right for the position. And although he patted me on the back offering condolences that things hadn’t worked out, I sensed some relief on his part. For half a decade, we had worked and ministered side-by-side, but all of a sudden it seemed like post-seminary he wanted to do his own thing and work somewhere apart from me. And my tiny fissure of doubt and lack of self-confidence silently widened into a crevice.

There are days when I literally encourage my spouse to live his dreams and embolden him to do what he’s good at through my gritted teeth masked in a smile. When on the inside I feel sunken in and empty, suffocating in the shroud of my perceived gender handicap and my complete lack of confidence in myself.

I try to cover up how painful it is for me to hear that his company–a Christian ministry– is hiring gender-specific writers. That my own husband did not speak up and mention that he’s married to writer–regardless of the fact that my gender doesn’t align with what they think they need. That instead of asking me to submit writing samples, he’s elatedly running down the list of the guy friends and acquaintances he’s soliciting. It slays me that he didn’t champion me for something that comes as naturally to me as breathing. And that he, of all people, wouldn’t understand that writing is genderless. That writing to children about the Word of God is for all people, just like the message of salvation is meant for all people and can be conveyed BY all people.

The worry and fear and doubt and all the questions are coming back harder, faster, and painfully deeper than ever. And like a typical girl, when I’m all by myself and no one will know about it, I sit down and have a gut-wrenching cry about it all. Again.

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Link up your life:unmasked post here (make sure it’s the direct link to the post, not just the general one to your blog). I just ask two things — link back to this post so people can find Life:Unmasked and join in if they want, and visit/comment on 2-3 of the other posts in the linky.