I sat on the back row, my mind a scramble over words that wouldn't line up neatly. My emotions were on edge and the tears wanted to well in my eyes for no apparent reason though I fought them desperately, wondering how in the world I would get anything out past the lump in my throat? My eyes wandered over the backs of heads in front of me, we were a mixed bunch for sure -- white hair here, young, youthful faces there, tired, mom faces sprinkled throughout, middle-aged ones with streaks of grey.... there were stylish women and staid, old style women and every stripe in between. Two things we shared in common: we were all women, and we all had a story.
Actually, underneath it all we were more alike than different. Behind the styles and the hair colors, beneath the stages of life and the varied backgrounds, beyond the outside and under the surface we were really not so very different at all. All of us had struggles, many of them the same ones! Maybe they came out in different ways, maybe they showed different faces, but mostly there was no new struggle amongst the lot of us.
Our men gathered in their own rows in the basement, and as the evening progressed and we heard them dismissing well before we had made our way through the stories, I wished to be a mouse and observe the differences. Somehow I doubt there were quite as many tears in the basement but I doubt there were quite as many laughs either, and I'm pretty sure it's safe to guess there weren't quite as many struggles and raw feelings shared either.
We women have a lot of struggles. Let's just be honest, we do. More than our men. (Argue with me if you like but you might as well admit it!) And we carry this unreasonable fear with us that probably nobody else struggles quite in the same way I do. We put up our fronts, and we dress in our "Sunday-go-to-meetin" clothes and we try to pretend we've got it together because it sure seems like everybody else does! If you would ask us we would say, "Oh, no! I know everyone has their struggles. I know nobody is perfect." But still, our actions prove the fact that we seem to carry a secret fear that they might be!
I sat in the rows last night, and I opened my mouth and spoke - my insides a bundle of nerves and my voice all quavery and my eyes teary. My words were jumbled and I said things I hadn't planned to say and I was more than happy to have my turn behind me. But I learned from those rows of women! I identified with the moms struggling with parenting and the ones fighting to find a balance amongst all the voices of social media and the young girl who just started dating. I found security in the words of the older women who have been in my shoes and are now in challanging stages of their own. I found comfort in the expressions of another's grief; wisdom from the mom's with children older than mine. And I wondered, why do we dread this? Do we dread sitting down and having a good heart to heart talk with our best friends? What would happen if we sat in these rows more often and took the time to bare our hearts? What if we all became best friends? What would happen with a church full of best friends??
Knowing women, too often might end up being more detrimental then upbuilding, but still....it made me think. We need to hear each other's hearts. Many of our preconceived ideas, our pride and our fears, our secret jealousy and comparisons, could be put aside if we were given more chances to see past exteriors and into hearts. Or, maybe it's a personal choice. Maybe it would happen if we would each choose to allow others to see past our own exteriors more often!
I'm glad I sat amongst those rows last night. Glad each woman showed up with their nerves and their weaknesses, glad that we opened our mouths even though not a one of us would have claimed to feel prepared. Life is messy. We live in a broken, hurting world. While we are here, we need each other. We need to cry together, laugh together, hurt together, rejoice together, share together, as we hold hands and encourage each other onward. And, when the glorious day of our Home Going arrives, I hope to be amongst those same rows of women as we all receive the promise of Malachi 4:2 "But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. (No more broken world, Halleluia!!) And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture." NLT