Written by Holly Madden, LeadHer Local Director. Connect with Holly on FacebookInstagram or Twitter.

I am flawed. My story is imperfect. There are times when I am graceless, emotional, and passionate. I am a woman who is called, passionate, and driven to make a difference in my community, in my church, and in the world. Yet, I have spent too much of my life apologizing. I daily must fight the expectation put on me by culture to hide who I am called to be and pretend to fit into a box.  

Let this blog serve as a proclamation for women everywhere that though expectations may scream at us to conform, we will not hide who we are called to be. We will be a part of changing this world, and we will do it out loud.

On our LeadHer Local Teaching Video this month, Christie Love and Mindy Stewart shared a critical leadership principle that leaders don’t pursue a platform for their voice, but leaders do steward the platform they’ve been given to glorify God’s name to all the earth. Throughout Scripture, we see stories of men and women who did not seek out a personal platform for personal gain, but what we see is men and women who were given platforms and instead of shying away from the responsibility, they used their voice and actions to change the course of history.

Esther is often a favorite Bible story, but it’s not often that the impossibility of her circumstances are recognized. Esther was not a woman who actively pursued a role in royalty. Speaking from a platform of the King was an impossible opportunity for any Jew, but especially for a Jewish woman. According to many biblical scholars, Persian royalty were only allowed to marry within a handful of the most powerful Persian families. These commentaries narrate that Esther was unqualified in every area: her age, her nationality, her status as an orphan, and her gender. But Esther was given a platform. God orchestrated events in which Esther was selected to become the wife of the King based on looks alone (Esther 2:15-17) . Imagine, being given a platform that was not earned based on your callings, gifts, or talents, but based only on your physical appearance. I can’t even begin to fathom how unqualified Esther must have felt as an orphaned Jewish teenage girl, but God had bigger plans.

Esther’s legacy is one of courage as she became the single representative for the entire remnant of God’s people who were living in Persia. She risked losing her life by speaking up for a people already sentenced to die (Esther 7:1-4). It is unlikely that Esther would have ever been given the honor of seeing the impact her voice made. As queen to a Persian King, her interactions with her people were limited. Esther’s voice was not heard by the Jews, but God worked through her and used her voice to save them. That was not the pursuit of fame but the stewardship of a God-given opportunity.

We will all be presented with a platform at one point or another. Whether the audience compares to the entire nation of Israel that stood receiving the 10 commandments from Moses, or an audience of 1, we will be called to speak, to act, or to serve in a way that brings God glory. It will take courage, it will require risk, and it will require us to step out of the shadows and to shine. We cannot hide who we are called to be.

From an early age, we are taught how to behave and act in society. We find ourselves being placed into boxes with parameters on age, knowledge, and skill. At 5 or 6,we start kindergarten. Once we take our SAT’s, complete the necessary high school requirements and are presented a diploma, we become eligible for college application. Choir, band, drama, and sports are filled with individuals who have met the requirements of skills and passion in order to participate. We acknowledge that participation often comes with specific requirements, but somewhere along the lines, we become too comfortable with boxes. We allow the very things that once qualified us, our gender, age, or skill level, to become the very thing that limits us.

I’m not old enough to accept a formal leadership role.

-I’m too old to start anything new.

-I’m not good enough.

-I don’t have a degree.

-But I’m a woman.

Milestones bring opportunities for victories. But victories can become a milestone if we choose to change our perspective. I’ve been guilty of allowing expectations to cause me to feel the need to apologize or to hide who I am. But I have had too many conversations with women who feel called to lead, to preach, to sing, to start a business, to go to school, to adopt a child, or to make difference to believe that the expectations are always right.

You are gifted. You are called. You will be used by God to make a significant difference in this world. Do not apologize for the things that make you stand out.