The more I worked with the poor, the more I ran into the law. I didn’t know how the legal system worked. I had never been in a courtroom or event met a lawyer. Thus, I didn’t know how to advise battered and abused women or the homeless people that attended my church how to get the help they needed when “the law” seemed to be an obstacle. And looking at the bigger picture, I wasn’t sure which law reforms to support in order to bring justice to those most in need. My ignorance was frustrating.
“What about going to law school?” my husband suggested. No way! First of all, law school is too hard; I could never pass a bar exam. More fundamentally, being a lawyer was against my religion. Seriously, lawyers are unscrupulous. As zealous advocates, they have to lie and be willing to hurt others. I had seen those movies in which a lawyer tears apart a rape victim on the stand, dragging up her past, making her the villain. That was not me. I was too gentle, too kind, too shy.
I was never one to speak up in class. Standing in front of people made every part of my being tremble. My mouth would become as dry as a desert. A friend of mine invited me to “preach” at his church one Sunday morning. He convinced me that his small congregation needed to hear a woman preach. “Only by seeing a woman in the pulpit will they begin to realize that gender does not matter,” he argued. They needed to know that God can speak through anyone, and I could help break through the prejudices standing in the way.
I agreed to do it. After all, it would be good for me too. One bible story gave me reassurance: When Moses believed that God was calling him to be his mouthpiece to the Israelites, he replied, “But my Lord, never in my life have I been a man of eloquence, either before or since you have spoken to your servant. I am a slow speaker and not able to speak well” (Exodus 4:10). But God’s call was relentless and, I told myself, “Look at the good that Moses did!”
God may be able to speak through anyone, but I am not sure her message got through the day I preached to a small congregation in rural Kentucky. I didn’t keep a copy of the sermon, but I recollect that it had to do with something about the feminine side of God. I still feel embarrassed for those people in the congregation, who were extremely gracious. How they must have suffered through that sermon. I certainly did.
So, no, I could never be a lawyer.