The Royal Wedding has gone viral. Estimates of 2 billion spectators are being bandied about. Every possible detail of pomp and ceremony is milked for the sake of media interest… royal protocol, royal traditions, comparisons to previous royal weddings, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, and, above all, Princess Catherine’s wedding dress and all the fashion and glamor associated with being the bride. From what I’ve gathered so far, apparently everyone is delighted with her poise and her choice of gown. Comparisons to Princess Grace Kelly abound. Fashion editors are predicting a return to more demure bridal fashions in the wake of Kate’s conservative choice.
I’m reasonably interested in fashion even at 56. I enjoyed the visual sumptuousness of the royal wedding, the dignified and regal music, and all the hoopla. It’s fun to be included in a party, even if only vicariously.
My guess, though, is that the moment that touched me the most deeply is one that the broadcasters glossed over and probably no one else will bother to blog about. That was the moment when 1900 guests at Westminster Abbey and hundreds of thousands on the streets of London joined their voices and sang “God Save Our Gracious Queen.” And, for a moment, there was a cameo shot of the Queen, her head modestly bowed, not singing, of course, and beside her, her husband, Prince Philip, head held high, singing. Petitioning God to bless his queenly wife’s glorious reign. It was an astonishing moment for me, a Christian, a woman, someone who has struggled mightily to understand my role as a woman in my church and in Christ’s kingdom. Someone who has spent most of her adult life thinking, writing, praying, wondering whether she’s allowed to lead and how to do so without alienating or offending other brothers and sisters in the Lord. A lifetime of inner conflict and doubt about reconciling leadership and service.
I could do worse than look to the Queen. Wikipedia tells me that not only is she the Queen of England, she is the figurehead of the 54-member Commonwealth of Nations. And she’s not just a titular ruler. Those in the know consistently commend her work ethic. She reads and studies and remains an active and informed head of state. At 85, it doesn’t appear that she intends to give up her reign anytime soon. Plans for her Diamond Jubilee, 2012, are already in the works.
As the British monarch, she is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and has openly expressed her Christian faith in the public square: “To many of us, our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.”
Queen Elizabeth is a living role-model for Princess Catherine and for middle-aged women like me and for young girls who are watching this fairy-tale event dreaming of their own wedding day. Her royal example is instructive: Be more than a figure or even a figurehead. Put duty first. Take your calling seriously and expect the men in your life to be supportive. Demand much of yourself, even into your old age.
There’s another queen I could look to, of course. Queen Esther. A woman who, like Diana or Kate, undoubtedly experienced the heady influence of blushing beauty and power of stylish femininity, but who chose a wiser, greater leadership in service of her God and her people. A woman of epic daring and courage who demanded much of herself.
Today, I seek to lead patiently in my church, to act as a quiet standard-bearer for women in a congregation where women are not yet able to serve in ecclesiastical office. I consider myself, maybe not a queen, but an ambassador. 🙂 And I encourage all women, you ordinary women like me, to be royal ambassadors for Christ. Ambassadors for the Savior who calls you to serve him and to serve your people, too. Yes, your people. Even those who might misunderstand or spurn your leadership and service. Your church, your family, your community. For who knows who might be watching? Who knows but that you are an example to someone? Who knows but that you have come to such a position for such a time as this?