I wasn’t able to go to church on Sunday because of work, but I was able to listen to most of the sermon from home. And our elder was talking about the family of God and how those relationships should look like in the church. He came from 1 Timothy 5:1-2:
“Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father, and the younger men as brethern, the elder women as mothers, the younger as sisters, in all purity.”
Listening to this message, I thought a lot about treating fellow young women as sisters in the body, and I just wanted to be real about where I am with this.
I asked my husband if he thought being sisterly was hard for me because I never had sisters growing up, and we went through an extensive conversation about that. But I know that this is still an area I really really REALLY struggle in. Growing up with my brothers, my female cousins hated to get sweaty or dirty outside. They didn’t like to get hurt at all, physically or emotionally. They hated to be teased. And quite frankly, I found them to be extremely boring. For me, having fun was being really loud, getting a little dirty, not being proper at all, cracking jokes on everyone, and being able to have jokes cracked on you. To have fun, looking back now, I guess I felt that you had to have a thick skin. Going through school I had a few female friends….none remained too long though. But mostly, I was really cool with the guys because I was so easy going. By this point, girls were trying to impress the guys, and I really didn’t care. So, I tended to be a bit of an odd-ball (from the girl’s perspective) but fun to be around (from the guy’s perspective).
Now for college, I attended an all women’s college in Atlanta. In my mind, the experience is still a bit surreal, but I really enjoyed every moment being there. It was terribly difficult for me to build relationships with all of the women that I was living with. By this point, girls were either trying to look cute for guys, praying diligently to get married, decided to focus solely on their academics and future careers, or just wanted to date and have fun. Obviously, I found myself to be a bit of an odd-ball, yet again. Now over those four years, I did develop relationships with six women particularly, and even upon graduating, I knew that maintaining the relationships was going to be terribly difficult. The difficulty came, not in the basic actions of keeping up with one another, but it came from the fact that I knew that I was different from them. From all of our interactions, I didn’t think the way they did. I didn’t reason the way they did. I didn’t act the way they did. And for some reason, I had these friendships that I knew I wasn’t being authentically myself. Yet, I wanted to try and keep those relationships. Sadly, within about a year to a year and a half, most of those relationships dissipated for various reasons, mainly miscommunication and misunderstanding.
Now at this point in my life, I have moved to Colorado from Atlanta. While in Atlanta I was able to develop relationships with two different women that I was surprised to have and maintain. It was actually the first time (maybe the second) that I had relationships where I was authentically myself and was accepted for who I was. This was also the first time that I had relationships where I was able to accept other women for who they were (dressy, fashionable, cute, etc) and not feel intimidated or forced to fit their image. It was great, and I am glad that I have those relationships today.
In fact, it was these relationships that I think helped prepare me for the relationships that I am currently building with women in my church here in Colorado. I am not going to tell you that it is easy, because it definitely isn’t. I still think that I am a bit of an odd-ball here, mainly because my background is so different than everyone else. The best example came in mid-December when all the women got together to do a cookie exchange. My first thought was, “a cookie exchange??? Why do we need to exchange cookies???” When I found I that I had to make 8 dozen of whatever I was making, I was completely shocked! I thought to myself “who’s going to eat all these cookies? And why in the world do I need to make so many?” But, my husband was really encouraging…(honestly, he was like, make the sacrifice). So, I sucked it up and decided to start baking. The day of the exchange was soooo stressful! First, my car was acting up, and I found out the oxygen sensor had to be replaced. Second, my rice krispies treats were not working out, and I had to make something completely different. Third, a snowstorm hit that very evening. I remember the entire time I told my husband that I preferred to stay at home, but he kept encouraging me to go. When I was getting ready to go, I remembered that I was told to bring a teacup with me. And I stopped to think….WHO OWNS A TEACUP??? I was sooo frustrated because it didn’t make any sense to me, and I didn’t own one. So I grabbed a coffee mug, threw it in my purse, drove through the snow storm to go to the cookie exchange. And on the way, I was really praying to the Lord 1) to make it there safely, but 2) I really wanted the Lord to work on my heart, to put me in the right spirit and mind to be a reflection of Him, no matter how I felt. And in the end, I did have a nice time.
I cannot ignore the fact that this is really an area that I struggle with. I love hanging out with women, sometimes, but other times, it really takes a lot for me. Right now, the difficulty is that I am surrounded by a bunch of fabulous women at my church that I think are individually amazing in their own right. I feel like I should be one of the number with them, completely engaged in every single thing or conversation…in my mind it wouldn’t be right any other way. Yet, I have to be truthful with myself and admit that I don’t have that zeal and diligence all the time. I’m seeing the importance of it more and more, but I also see my weakness in this area too. It reminds me of my devotion to God. When I am aware of it, I am completely dedicated to it. But if I get the least bit lax with it, I can easily slide away.
And maybe, just maybe, that is the point. The way that we exercise our devotion to the Lord should be like the way that we exercise our devotion to His body. I mean, can I be devoted to the Head of the body and ignore the rest? That would be like me doing arm curls everyday, but neglecting the rest of my body….it’s worthless! So, I guess the challenge for me is to be more devoted to the body, to be more devoted to my fellow sisters in Christ. And I know that part of that is being myself, but it is also learning how to be more sisterly, more loving, more caring, more intentional with a pure heart. I figure that I probably won’t master this within a few months time, but in making myself aware of it, I can at least submit myself to the Lord and humbly learn how to do it in a way that pleases Him.