NU Oregon Blog



Katherine’s teacher and principal met with her parents to explain that their child needed more intellectual stimulation than their school could provide. The staff at the school had taken up a collection to help the family relocate to a place where Katherine would be challenged and coached, where her gifts in mathematics could mature.

“In all my years of teaching,” the teacher said, “I’ve never seen a mind like hers. You have to see what she will become.”

That moment in the movie Hidden Figures tells the story of a brilliant woman who, as a young girl, needed to move to a new environment in order to thrive. She had a gift that was evident from childhood, but it needed the right air to breathe, the right challenges and instruction, in order to take wings. The teachers in her school knew it. They had to find a way to convince her parents.

“You have to see what she will become.”

My heart leapt when I heard those words the first time I watched the movie. The film is about three African American women who made the mission of NASA possible through their mathematics work in the racist and male-dominated culture and structures of the 1960s American South.

Now, watching the movie for the fifth or sixth time, my heart still leaps.

“You have to see what she will become.”

Every child should get a chance to see what she or he will become. A child’s potential can be stifled in many ways, and the potential of girls has been capped or otherwise wasted in many ways throughout history. Pick a country, a culture, a period in time, and there have been ways that girls have been uniquely limited.

I do not believe that is God’s heart or plan for humans, regardless of gender.

I believe that the Holy Spirit gifts those who follow Jesus with what we Pentecostals call “spiritual gifts.” In Scripture, those gifts are never referenced with any regard to gender. There are, however, instructions that each one of us should use well the gifts that the Holy Spirit is giving us, and use them to benefit others who follow Jesus. We are interconnected, and God has provided what we need for growth and maturity and effectiveness—for that abundant life that Jesus said He came to give. God provides this abundant life through the immanent presence of the Holy Spirit and through the gifts the Spirit gives each person. We need the Spirit. We need each other. We need all the gifts, in all the people, in order to experience that abundance of life.

This means that children, and all humans who follow Jesus (because we are now talking about Christians), must be provided the environment and support they need to develop those gifts into skills. To mature in character and service. To become what glorifies God the most. To discover and fulfill God’s calling. You and I need the space and support to continue becoming all God designed us to be.

Some people wonder why I have spent so much money and time and effort to earn advanced degrees or why I have invested so much of my life in ministry and Christian higher education. Some wonder why my research focuses on women in leadership and on calling development. I research because I believe I am called to tell the story of women who lead in Christian higher education and other organizations of Christians, and calling is part of women’s leadership journeys (Dahlvig & Longman, 2014). I believe that God’s calling
is part of the evidence that God has designed people to grow into something, to become something. I tell the stories of people as they become who God created them to be. I help others discover what God is doing in people’s lives and in organizations, so that we can better participate in what He is doing. I tell these stories so we can facilitate the development of more stories.

I work with Christian university students to foster the development of their calling, so they can live out their own stories.

I research, lead, and educate to help others understand their strengths,* because God has called me to this service.

And I cannot wait to see what they become.

*This is a reference
to CliftonStrengths© from Gallup. For more information, visit

This article referenced: Dahlvig, J., & Longman, K. A.
(2014). Contributors to women’s
leadership development in Christian higher education: A model and emerging
theory. Journal of Research on Christian Education, 23(1), 5-28.