There are just some days where God taps you on the shoulder and says “School is in session.” Yesterday was one of those for me.

My day began with a list of things that needed to be done before heading out for Florida to see my daughter and meet her boyfriend (and father of our coming granddaughter) for the first time. I had received an earlier text from a friend who works for a large Christian company. She was scheduled to be in town for a sold-out event, and while she knew I was going to be gone for the event itself, she was arriving a day early and asked if it would be possible to see me. I had some time in the afternoon before attending my first women’s ministry gathering at my new church, so we worked out the details to meet.

When I got to her hotel room, I could tell she had already done three days worth of work, even though she’d only been on the ground for four hours! But she hugged my neck fiercely, turned her phone on silent and sat to face me, with her warm and welcoming expression. I was her sole focus for the next hour and a half. She asked me questions, allowed me to talk, and gave wise and thoughtful counsel. Then she put her arms around me and stormed the heavens on my behalf…leaving herself only 15 minutes to get ready before she had to leave to take her entire crew to dinner. Walking out filled, renewed, and thanking God for her, I got in my car and headed off to church.

I had been looking forward to this, my first women’s event at church, for some time. I’ve missed being a part of a church and having those in-my-neighborhood, day-in, day-out, relationships with other women. I wasn’t nervous about it, as I’ve never had a problem putting myself “out there” or “working a room.” But, the moment I set foot in the door, I felt ill-at-ease. Before I go any further, please know this: what I’m about to say is not a bad reflection on this church! I love it there! But there were some important things I believe God wanted me to experience, thus my story.

At first I pushed the odd feeling aside and began introducing myself as I normally would. However, it seemed I couldn’t really engage anyone past a perfunctory hello. I was somewhat taken aback, when I very suddenly felt God impress on my spirit, “Be that girl.”

My response? “What girl, God?”

“That girl. The one who isn’t good at talking. The one who is frozen in her seat. See what it feels like to be in her stylish but ill-fitting shoes.”

So began one of the most uncomfortable evenings I’ve spent in, well, maybe my WHOLE LIFE.

No one talked to me. We sat, side-by-side, in the sanctuary, all looking straight ahead, which didn’t promote conversation. When the speaker asked us to turn to our neighbor and repeat words of friendship (yes, the topic was on friendship!!), no one turned to me. I sat alone the entire evening, watching, as they migrated during a break to their groups of well-worn relationships and laughed together over their inside jokes, all the while leaving me feeling completely invisible!

After fleeing the building as fast as possible at the end (mentioning to God, all the while, that I didn’t enjoy the evening one iota), I thought about the events of the day, and the fact that God has called me into women’s ministry. I thought about gIRL™, and the desire for INclusive, and real, God-founded relationships that God has placed in both Mary’s and my heart. In one single day, I experienced both the purest form of inclusive ministry and the stark reality of exclusive ministry. He showed me the startling contrast between selfless sacrifice in our relationships and well-meaning events that feed the flock, but do little to reach out and expand it.

Through this unique classroom lesson, God gave me the personal experience of something I’ve known all along, but would likely never have felt for myself without His intervention. It has confirmed some things that He’s been showing us about gIRL™, certainly, but I believe that its imprint on me will affect my personal relationships and ministry in a very real way, from here on out. I hope you’ll take this lesson, as well, fleshing it out in your own churches, ministries and friendships as you realize the importance of being selfless, sacrificial, and inclusive in all we do.

**In case you are wondering, I am NOT soured on the women’s ministry at my new church! God was gracious enough to show me that it was a lesson for me; I’ll either find it a completely different experience next time, or start modeling some of what He’s shown me to affect positive change.