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.
He is so good at lessons, isn't He? Even though I really don't like that no one talked to you! But, I believe God has reasons for everything and you will use it to spread His love!!
Miss you my friend.
Isn't it exciting — and comforting — to know that God is going to use our experiences? Blessings to you, Melinda, as you apply what you learned!
I know that feeling of being the outsider all too well. To work in His field, He has paths He needs to take us.
If I had been there, I might have been the other girl alone, as I usually am. I hope I would have been encouraging and have spoken to you!
It just so happens that I'm praying for you and lifting you and your family up. (It just so happens that our God is a great and mighty God!)
I love you, gIRL!
taht's a HUGE lesson! thanks for sharing!
Wow. What a lesson.
Love you and love your heart!
Wow… this makes my heart sad for so many reasons. Like you, I don't usually allow people their silence around me. I force myself in, usually with grace and enough interest to engage in further discussion. But there are times, when I've sat on the sidelines, wondering if anyone noticed me, etc. As a pastor's wife I spend a lot of my week alone, never getting calls or invites to anywhere, and for the most part,I'm OK with that, but I do long for intimacy with friends that I haven't found for a while.
I pray your new church soon sees the value of you and what you can bring to the table of their lives. Why do our churches sometimes get so stuffy and resigned to groups? It's exhausting just thinking about it, much less "being" it. We have to work hard to isolate people, but some of us do it so well.
I hope to never be that person. In fact, I want to be the one that knows more about you in 5 minutes than most people don't learn in an hour of conversation. I can do it…
try me. That being said, I also want to be known… to be considered… to be asked… to be listened to.
I'm just a relational gal!
Awesome, Melinda. Great lesson. Isn't God good at knowing just how to further our ministry? ajust how to cause us tobe more effective in our minstry?
This is my first time to your site, I saw your comment on Elaine's site. Liked the fact that you SAW Jesus this wekend and wanted to read more.
Thanks for your insight. I used to be one of them ~ I call them 'wall flowers'. I hugged the wall while everyone else engaged in conversation. I was engaged in my own isolation, but I saw so much from that wall…that I'm now considered a 'watchman' on the wall. God has enlarged my spiritual eyes as a result of my humble isolation – pressed against that wall.
Isolation isn't all bad. Like you, I may have never learned to walk in His gift of discernment had He not pressed me against that wall.
Keep growing closer to Jesus
Thank God you shared your lesson, because it's now a lesson for all of us. Isn't that just His way?
I pray with the others that He'll either lead you on, or fortify you where you're at. You will make a difference. You already have.
It's hard being that girl. I'm that girl so often at women's ministry type events that I've kind of quit going to the big events. And when I do go specifically to hear a teacher, I just look at it as a date with my God. I'm glad there was a lesson there for you though.
This was such a good word, my friend. Truly, I have a love/hate relationship with experiences like that. They're good, but on the other hand, just hard.
You amaze me! I cannot wait to hug your neck so very soon.
Oh, how easily we fall into that "girlfriend" trap that excludes new people, quiet people, different people.
Lord, help us to remember this story!