Last weekend, my church hosted a ladies’ conference. I went to it unsure of what it was all about. The preview posts about it on social media were not really clear about what the program would include. It ended up being a good conference put together and done entirely by women from our church. Some sang, some spoke, some greeted and were part of the planning team.
The very best parts for me were probably the very hardest, most emotional and gut-wrenching parts for the speakers. They told of their personal battles, hardest life struggles, and how things had changed for them due to their faith in God. For me, that is the most special thing ever. You see, for ages, I’ve known that the deepest, most profound, most powerful, closest friendships and ministries in my life have come from one thing: authenticity.
Being real, exposing the dirt and owning it, being true and honest to real life, living through hard, ugly, messy, horrible stuff WITH someone has created a closeness and intimacy with friends that can’t compare to ANYTHING else.
I don’t ‘do’ fake. It just doesn’t even compute in my brain. I don’t respond to plastic smiles and masks. I hate cheesy, gimmicky junk (in the church or elsewhere). When someone presents a “we have it all together” front, I almost immediately shut down, my eyes glaze over and I struggle to find any way to connect. I am a relational person and, to me, relationships are built on real life stuff. I think that’s part of why I am such an introvert. There is so much fake garbage in this world, too many hokey ice-breaker games, too many people trying to make small talk and force superficial friendships. I just can’t do it. I need REAL, authentic, genuine... or I would prefer to just walk away.
So this weekend, hearing about REAL stuff moved me. These are my people. This is the reality of what church means to me. Suffering, pain and heartache being shared with other believers is what drives me to the heart of God over and over. Once upon a time, Larry and I were in full-time ministry. “Doing life” with those people meant so, so, so much more to us than a pot luck lunch or going to a Sunday School class and sitting next to someone every week.
But to my friends who are outside the Church, I really do mean these speakers spoke of REAL stuff. Among the ladies who spoke and shared the struggles they’ve battled, there was an abortion, walking through childhood cancer and the pain that brings, the death of several children, abusive relationships, addiction, prison, loss of custody of kids due to personal choices and a devastating divorce after 40 years of marriage. This is hard, hard stuff. For these ladies, it was stuff that drove these ladies in one direction—deeper into their faith. I know they could’ve chosen a different direction, but they chose the peace His grace brings.
So, if you have an image of “church ladies” sitting around and knitting while we gossip about Sister Sue and Brother Fred, think again. Surrounding each other, holding each other up, supporting each other through the most God-awful circumstances of life...THAT is what being a “church lady” is about to me.