Have you ever looked around and wondered, how did I get here? Not in a bad way, but in a way that makes you stop and just say, “Wow, thank you, Jesus.” I did the other day.
To give you a little back story on this. In September 2016 it will be exactly two years since I sent the first e-mail to sign up for a Tuesday night Bible study with Thistlebend. My dear sister-in-law first mentioned this study when we were visiting my father-in-law and playing around with the kiddos on the golf course. I know I may be telling you simple details, but it was a moment I will never forget. I even remember it being on a Sunday afternoon. It was hot out. I was thinking about how much I didn’t like to hang out at a golf course (I despised it, actually). My husband and I had just got done arguing. When I look back on this time I am not surprised that I never knew and was blind to the following things about myself:
A. I wasn’t really walking with the Lord (even though I grew up in church my whole life).
B. My life didn’t reflect a walk with the Lord (even though I was going to church and trying to do good).
C. I needed to change (even though I don’t think even my sister-in-law knew just how little hope I had left at the time in my walk with Christ).
I remember feeling so prideful while she was telling me about Thistlebend. “Like, she must think I don’t know a thing about Jesus.” I was so silly. But immediately I didn’t want her to think that I took this so personally. So I responded with, “Yes, I know I need some more Jesus, girl!” I was trying to play off how embarrassed I was that maybe she could see that I was not doing so hot in my walk with the Lord. It was my attempt hiding my serious response with some funny response to her.
I was at such a crossroads of bitterness in my life with God that I didn’t want anyone to really know how bad off I was when it came to my faith. I didn’t want her to think that she had somehow put me on the spot, but I was ashamed and maybe my lack of faith was starting to show. During this time in my life, I felt wounded in some way. I didn’t even feel connected to Him. But there was this battle on the inside because I knew feeling this way wasn’t right. So, when she invited me I didn’t want to say, “No! I am mad and bitter at God right now.” I wanted to save face. But while part of me wanted to stay mad at the Lord, the other part of me wanted to see what it was all about.
During this conversation she said something that stuck with me. Something I even say now when I talk about this ministry. She said it was about, “Learning how to practically apply the Bible to your everyday life…” For some reason this statement was like a light bulb. This is what I had been missing. I think now, it was the Holy Spirit. But what if I am too far gone, I thought? I felt lost. I was hurting. But I was also curious.
Here is the best part! When she said it was a group of women ONLY who met on Tuesday nights, I wanted to curl up in a ball and say, “Oh, you know what? I have a prior obligation.” Seriously, you mean to tell me that I would have to share my life with other women? Uhm… No thanks, I’ll pass. But, I was torn because part of me wanted to see how they would help me apply the Bible to day to-day life. I was wanting to see how they said to practically walk it out. The other half of me was angry about my relationship with God. And I didn’t want to reveal that to and be transparent with women who I thought (for a number of reasons) were going to judge me. Let’s just say I grew up with the phrase, “What goes on in my house, stays in my house.” So I wasn’t so keen on sharing any of my struggles with these other women. It pretty much boiled down to the fact that I thought no one could relate to me. I was in this place in my life where I was super bitter.
That next morning, despite myself, I said out loud, “Why not?” What is the worse that could happen? My sister-in-law warned me that it was work, it wouldn’t be what I was use to, and it would require my time. I semi took this as a challenge as well. My pride, as you can see, was a major issue. I sent the e-mail. They were so nice to me, but leading up to this first Bible Study I began to have anxiety about it all. I could not believe what I was doing. I don’t know about you, but I always use to get along with men a lot better, or so I told myself (which is illogical and inappropriate now that I am married). I always thought that women were so judgmental.
But I never knew what true Christ-like fellowship with other women would be like. So I had nothing to base this new experience off of. I never placed myself on the path of change before. I mean I had only one best friend that was a girl. We went dancing all the time, partied a lot, and now she had a baby. She had different beliefs. I was married and heavily struggling in my beliefs. So I am sure the Lord knew it was time for me to step out on what little bitty faith that I had left.
When I look back on all this I see that my pride came with fear. Fear that I would be judged. Fear that I would not be able to make friends without doing something like partying or drinking. Fear that I would have to actually maintain possible friendships with people and be held accountable. Fear that I wouldn’t be able to hide anymore. I will be the first to tell you, I don’t like being held accountable because that means I have to be open. When you are open, you have to let people in, and when you do this they see you for who you truly are. When people see you for who you truly are, there is a vulnerability that makes me feel weak. I hate feeling weak. But through the years I have learned that pride and fear kept me from asking the Lord to sort through my mess. Fear kept me from asking Him to break away those parts of me. The fear of everything being stripped away from me by the Creator was terrifying.
The first night came, and it is still a joke my sister-in-law and I laugh about to this day. That night I was so scared. I was feeling so small. I was so nervous that I began to sweat. Yes, ladies you read that right! No lie, I was sweating and I was nervously laughing with her about it all. I had my preconceived notions, and I met some ladies that were outwardly everything I expected. Well put together and seemingly perfect. But through these last two years these women have shattered every notion. God has used so many of the woman in this ministry to break my every assumption about the typical “Christian” woman. I have gone from thinking about different individuals that first night, “She is going to be mean; she seems too perfect; she is going to judge” to calling them personal friends. God was so gracious to me. He was so gentle with me and allowed me in these two years to grow and work in the garden of my heart. Never, never, never in a million years would I have believed it if you had told me that I would be meeting once every other week with them, seeing them every Tuesday, and grabbing coffee, or fellowshipping with them at dinner. I would have thought you had the wrong girl. I didn’t know it was something I ever needed or wanted. I never thought I would be thanking the Lord for blessing me with Christ-centered fellowship with women.
The other day I was at the baby shower of one of my dearest girlfriends. I remember standing in the kitchen at the baby shower and when I looked up I saw these faces that I thought I would never share in such memories with. In that very room were some women God had especially used to grow me. There were areas I didn’t want fixed, and areas of my life that I didn’t know needed work. After leaving her baby shower I began to cry in the car on the way home. I didn’t think being friends would be possible.
I once thought being transparent meant being open about areas that should not be open to others. Who would have thought that being transparent is freeing but that it also brings healing? Even though I struggle to be fully open on some days, I would have never thought that I would pray for more of it. I was just telling the same sweet friend recently: “I never just want to be in a state where I have a false sense of spiritually anymore. I never want to think that I know what is best for me. Or what would/would not work for me. This transparency is a true struggle at times, but if that means staying humble, and if it helps one person then to God be the glory.”
I didn’t think I could have women in my life whom I would come to love and walk arm in arm with on this walk with Christ. We hinder ourselves at times by being so guarded. We see time with other Christian women as an opportunity to compare, to compete, or to freely give ourselves a pass to not be honest with one another because of shame, pride, or fear. I am so guilty of this. But from the things I didn’t think possible to the things that are yet to be, He has His hand in this all. I believe that.
This week there was a verse I saw that reminded me of God’s sovereign reign in our lives and how He knows all things and works them all out. From before being born into this world, until my death. This Scripture is a reminder of that. It is a reminder that He knows all I need and when I need it. It is okay that we don’t know everything there is about life or what God has planned for it. It is enough to simply trust that His timing is perfect. To simply trust that He is guiding in the work that is your heart. And when the time comes each little blessing is like a flower that will show you the beauty of who He is, and what He will reveal about himself in this.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time…” (Eccl. 3:11).
All for His Glory