Originally Posted on Joy Comes in the Morning
I attended a Women’s Conference today. Something I have not done in a very long time. I’ll admit it, I hate things like that. Women’s teas and fru-fru fancy dinners and the like, I usually avoid them like the plague. As an introvert by nature just even the word “small-talk” makes me break out in hives and sitting at a table with a bunch of women I don’t know can be pretty excruciating for me.
But today, my husband made me go, I mean, um, he encouraged me to go. And since we are attending a new church I thought maybe it would be a good chance to meet some new people, even though (ack!) that meant I would need to engage in “small talk”. As it happens, I got there late, and ended up sitting with someone I already knew at an almost empty table, so, phew! I can handle this, right? Just listen to the speaker, who will dish out some platitudes about being a good Christian wife and bam, I’m headed home to my family.
What I experienced today was very raw and very real, and honestly I feel, life changing for me. The guest speaker was so honest about herself, her own sins and struggles, that frankly it was pretty shocking. Very rarely do I feel that a speaker or pastor truly lets their walls crash down to allow you to see who they are at their very core.
And after she spoke, a few women from the church bravely sat on the stage and shared some of the most shocking, and gut-wrenching stories I’ve heard in a long while. Stories of bitterness, stories of heartbreak, stories of lost infants, of abortion, of infidelity. I sat there listening to these women let themselves vulnerable and broken open and I felt my own thick walls cracking.
And as the fissure widened and my heart broke open, I realized that this is what the Church is meant to be. My heart was breaking for their sorrows and I was rejoicing in their victories. There were no judgments, there was no pretense, there was no worrying about how cute we looked because we all had red, swollen eyes and mascara trails, there was no small-talk, because after such bravery shallow platitudes would just be ridiculous.
And it was then that I had an image of the Kingdom in my mind. For someday we will all know each other, and be known intimately, there will be no judgments, no barriers between us and no small-talk (yay!). The Body of Christ will be fully and eternally connected, in Spirit and in Truth.
But we, as the Church, have the privilege of being representatives of the Kingdom right here, right now. Since all of us have garbage that we try and hide, from our friends, from our spouses, sometimes we even think we can hide it from God…What would it look like, if we all stopped playing church and were just honest with each other about our “stuff”? What if our pastors and small group leaders and Sunday School teachers and worship leaders and everyone just quit pretending to have it all together and allowed themselves to be vulnerable and real?
I wonder if, instead of young people fleeing organized churches in droves, they would see that even those more mature in the faith don’t have it all together? I wonder if those on the fringes of society would not see Christians as “hypocrites” but as honest and flawed redeemed people? I wonder if the thousands of denominations that we have broken the Body into over minor theological differences would melt away, and we would see each other as Sisters and Brothers, instead of the enemy?
I am certain that if every single one of us in that room had taken a turn on the stage, we would have seen that each of us is hurting over something and is struggling with sin. There should be no judgments between Sisters, only holding each other up and bearing one another’s burdens.
How does this play out? Do we all need to stand in front of a room of a hundred women and spill our guts? (Introverts run!) No, but can we stop pretending with our own friends? Can we say what is actually going on in our hearts in order to allow others the same freedom? I am certainly challenged to start doing so, to be honest with myself about my own struggles and speak the ugly truth, so that others are allowed to do the same.
At the end of the sessions today, we were told to stand in two lines and then each one of us took a turn walking down the center, with our eyes closed and arms out-palms up, and listen as everyone whispered words of love, affirmation, and encouragement in our ears. I only knew two women in the whole place, but all of those Sisters whispered words directly from the Father’s heart to mine: You are accepted, You are loved, You are beautiful, You are forgiven—words that my parched soul desperately needed to hear today.
And I feel that I need to pass on those words to you, Sisters out there in the blogosphere:
You are ACCEPTED, You are LOVED, You are BEAUTIFUL, You are FORGIVEN.
Let those words wash over you, let the Holy Spirit etch them on your heart, say them out loud to yourself again and again until you believe them. Then go be the Church, be honest with another Sister, let her be honest with you, and then pass that encouragement on to her as well.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. Ephesians 4:25