Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More Alike Than Different

You might have guessed that I'm writing today about my experience at the Christian Working Woman's  23rd Annual Weekend Getaway that I attended over the weekend. I spent two days with about 350 other women...worshipping Jesus, ministering to one another, and soaking in everything my little brain could contain from the long list of excellent speakers. And if I could sum up all that I learned into one sentence, it would be this: We are more alike than different.

I was first stuck by the diversity of woman that attended. I had the privilege of volunteering at the registration table so I literally saw just about every woman who attended the retreat. You would not believe the range of cities, skin colors, ages and even warmth I felt and saw from each woman as she checked in. Some women came by themselves...amazing. And some came with their whole church it seemed! And I would even say that there was a variety of reasons why these women came -- some to "redeem their story" as the theme inspired. Some came to hold the hand of a girlfriend who had a broken heart. Some came because they come every year and didn't want to miss out on what God was working up in this Itasca hotel! And I’m sure there was even a few that came even though they didn’t want to.

Soon after everyone was checked in and ushered into the ball room, something happened. What seemed like a huge pool of different women from all over the map (both geographically and spiritually), there was instant connectivity. Although some were more quick to leave their "label" in the lobby, most everyone followed suit by the end of night one. I feel like I watched the differences of these women melt away and our similarities rose to the surface. An unusual spirit of safeness was offered from the beginning of the program. I attest this to Mary and her incredible staff for trusting the Holy Spirit to come and bless these women, but I also give credit to the ladies. They trusted and believed that God would meet them at this retreat and with great expectation waited for Him. It didn’t take long.

It was incredibly refreshing to witness so many women unpack their baggage throughout the weekend and surrender their unmet needs, or deep wounds, or unanswered prayers straight into the hands of God. And I saw so many women do this together! I watched one woman, probably in her 70s, wrap her arms around the waist of a newer Christian (probably in her 20s) and love her so deeply. As I watched, I wept -- I was thinking that God was literally using the body of this older woman to hug the younger woman. It was a picture I will never forget. Healing was taking place in the heart and soul of this new Christian and she had the love and support of a sister to take each scary step with her. Talk about differences melting away. In that moment, they were more alike than ever as they worshipped and experienced God in the exact moment.

You may remember a few weeks ago I shared my testimony on video for Mary (Share Your Story). It was for this retreat – I was one of several videos that played throughout the weekend. I was so nervous as the video played! I just aired all my secrets to a room full of strangers! But I bet you can guess what happened…throughout the rest of the day and weekend, woman after woman came up to me and said “thank you.” “Thank you for sharing the part about this…” “Thanks for being honest about this….” “I could relate to this…thanks for making me feel like I’m not the only one.” But here’s the coolest part of these grateful women: they were all so different! They were different in the sense that some were 20 or 30 years older than me! Some were not married or didn’t have children. Some came from an entirely different background than me. But yet again, we were alike because we all have struggles, we all have insecurities, and we all have secrets. And even bigger than that, we all believe God can in fact, redeem our story.

And one more story. A young woman came at the last minute, by herself, and for the first time. Leaving her kids and husband at home, she knew she needed a weekend away to wrestle with God. Life has been tough lately and things were not going according to plan. I chatted with her a few times throughout the retreat and each time we talked, I saw restored light in her face. Not only was Jesus blessing her with His faithfulness and sovereignty, He was using other women to come along side her to offer support in difficult times. She told me she met women she never knew and maybe never would have if she hadn't let herself be open to someone new...someone different. It is when we get past the differences, past the preconceived notions, that our alikeness bonds us. She was ministered at the core of her soul because she is a sister, not by what community she goes to on Sunday mornings. And I can assure you she blessed those who blessed her! It reminds me of Psalm 34:3, "Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together."

Oh I could go on and on! But hopefully I made my point. And I’m now more inspired than ever to ensure our church resembles the culture that was exposed at this retreat: we have the freedom to leave our labels in the lobby!  We are so much more alike than different then we even know and I pray we embrace this truth so that we experience the fullness of the body as God intended for us. Amen?

Have a blessed week!

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