Last night I attended my church women’s group. We meet once a month, share our prayer requests, then open the floor for any and all topics we want to discuss. Of the three times I have gone, prayer requests lasted the longest and basically was the update of our lives. Each woman has a change to be heard, encouraged, and challenged. Just knowing someone else has gone through your struggle and successfully come out the other side brings hope and so much peace. Growing up in church culture taught me transparency truly is a gift to yourself and to others…but when you’ve been out of practice for three years, experiencing it again is like one big exhale. I’m thankful for these women who listen without judgement. They are full of love for Jesus and will not to offer up platitudes or corrective behavior techniques, but kindness and understanding.
I have attended so many women’s groups that end up devolving into bragging about your life, family, spiritual walk, etc. Women secretly judging each other and ranking themselves in some crazy spiritual hierarchy of who knows what.
“God has just blessed us so much, I mean, we closed on the seven bedroom house we wanted, and Billy got in to Texas A&M, Sam made the football team, and Milly just finished her dance recital and her team won! I just feel so close to Jesus right now and just finished leading my second Bible study of the year.”
Another group was so scared of truly showing themselves that they put on a facade of perfection. No real struggles or spiritual doubts.
“John and I did have an argument this morning, but after praying about it, I feel so much better.”
“Things at work are hard, but I’m just so thankful that I can do my devotional at lunch time. It really grounds me during the day and keeps my eyes on Jesus.”
Maybe it sounds like I’m being judgmental of these women…maybe I am. It’s just super tiring to be a member of a group that refuses, or is so afraid, to be themselves. When did it become a thing to hide in christian community? Is the church yet another place where we have to put on a brave face and look like we have it all together? Shouldn’t church be the first place we run when we are falling apart? When we have doubts or questions that scare us? When we don’t want to be fixed, but listened to? A place to go and just be with someone else who is flesh and blood who gets how hard this life can be sometimes?
Without authentic, transparent, honest, community the church will be ineffective. We will lose such richness to our faith. The only way I have made it this far in my faith journey is because God forced me into deep, authentic relationships with His church body. We need each other. Let’s stop the crazy and start to love one another well.
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
I Corinthians 13:1-7