When You Learn to Risk Again (On Women & Faith)

 {By Laurie Wallin}

 

For a long time I avoided women’s fellowships. You know, those gatherings where you know you can’t walk in with your issues? Where you have to be put together, and check your real life at the door? And you have to be able to cook. And care about decorating. And you knew that if you erred and showed up in workout clothes without makeup and asked for prayer for the same struggle more than one week in a row? Watch out! You’d just be asking for a look somewhere on the continuum between blank stare, syrupy pity, and outright judgment.

 

Nope. Women gatherings weren’t my thing for a long time. Until two years ago, a women invited me to coffee to talk.

 

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That piqued my interest, so I showed up at the coffee shop to meet her and two other women who sought a different kind of fellowship with women. The kind in which people came as they were, came hungry for God, and left knowing they’d both felt God near and experienced the tangible love of other women.

 

From that night, our conversations went to email. We talked about the situations that had hurt each of us in relationships with women at church over the years. We asked each other what would make a women’s fellowship, meaningful and life giving? We prayed for God’s fresh vision for the women of our community. And, honestly, we prayed that our gatherings would be a completely new thing, since I wasn’t the only person who’d summarily rejected women’s fellowship on the basis of feeling like an outcast, a less-than, and a woman with a messy life.

 

Over the coming 3 months, we discussed how to kick off a gathering, how we’d convey the heart and purpose of it as a whole.

 

That fall, two years ago now, I not only showed up for the kickoff, I led the meeting.

 

The message that night came from Isaiah 43:19, which says:

 

“Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

 

I asked this question of the group: Might we take the risk to embrace this new thing and live it… together?

 

This is the rest of the message given that first night:

 

You may think youre the only person in this room whos facing xyz, the shame of that, the insecurity of that struggle has stripped you of life and left you in a wasteland lately… or maybe for a long while. But you are NOT alone.

 

So lets be real. Let’s not pretend its all ok, girls. Its not. I can vouch for that. But it is amazing, stretching, glorious and life-giving. All things work toward good. And they work faster when someones here to help you carry the load.

 

When you get here and you feel like you have to put on your smile, stop at the door and ask God to help you be who you are, to be honest about life—the divine and crazy alike.

 

Lets choose to be supportive… to be women who listen to it all, love through it all, and who take each othershands and grow a little closer to God in it all.

 

I have a few girlfriends I trust implicitly with my craziness… with me. They are the kind I can call up and complain about my life with, and they smile, nod, listen intently, let me process, pray for me, then tell me to go get back on the horse and do what Im meant to do. Theyve earned the right to give me advice by walking through the deserts with me year after year.

 

We may not have this comfort level here yet. So lets get to earning that place in each others lives!

 

Lets commit not to give advice unless someone asks. The longer we encourage, pray for, laugh with, and eat chocolate with this group of gals, the more we earn the right to speak in to each others lives.

 

Before the “you should do xyz” comes to the lips, lets commit to saying, “how can I support you?” or “may I pray with you?” instead.

 

And beyond it all, lets be courageous.

 

Like Eleanor Roosevelt challenged people in her famous quote: “Do one thing that scares you every day.” Im challenging us to do that here, too.

 

What do you think? Who’s in?

 

You know what? Not only did everyone stay and choose this version of fellowship, they brought their friends. They brought their moms and aunts and daughters.

 

Two years later, we aren’t just a women’s fellowship, we’re community. We’re sisters. I hear it every week from one or another of the women—this refrain that has replaced the isolation and jadedness many of us had experienced in women’s ministry previously—“I’ve never felt this loved before, this cared for before, like I mattered to people in the church like this.”

 

Friends, that’s why we take the risk to try again. Because it’s not the end yet. As long as we have breath in our lungs, God can redeem our experiences and bring healing to our hearts.

 

What experience have you written off as a reason never to risk in that area again? What step might you take to open the door—just a crack—to God’s healing and restoration?

_________________________________________________

 

Laurie Wallin headshotLaurie Wallin strives every day to live out her message to people: that no matter the challenge, in Jesus they can find joy and confidence. She is mom to four girls, two of them foster/adopted with medical, developmental and mental health special needs. Laurie is also a speaker, Certified Life Coach and, in an unexpected twist of God’s design, the Director of Growth and Impact Ministries at Carmel Mountain Church in San Diego. Her books, Why Your Weirdness Is Wonderful and Get Your Joy Back, help readers find their way back to joy in their own inner landscape, and in families like hers with special needs children. You can find Laurie at her website (LaurieWallin.com) and on Facebook (Living Power Life Coaching) and Twitter (@mylivingpower). Laurie, her husband and their four daughters make their home in San Diego, California.

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2 Comments on “When You Learn to Risk Again (On Women & Faith)

  1. This is so good! I recently asked to be a part of something and was rejected – unqualified. It still hurts. Makes me never want to try again, but my request was sincere. I just have to trust that even when I’m told no, God has something better in mind for me. You encourage me to keep risking.

    • Paula, just taking a moment to share your loss here is a risk, and I’m glad you took it. I have no trite promises to give you about what God’s plan might be, but I pray that you’d have the courage to jump in when the door opens!

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