I’m kind of a scaredy cat. Except that I have a really good game face.
I make all kinds of plans to do things that scare me, for the simple fact that curling up at home isn’t always good for me. And it was that exact kind of plan I made as I attended a women’s retreat this past weekend that was being led by a friend I deeply respected and loved. I’d forced myself. I bought a plane ticket to a state I’d never been. I was going to be hitching rides with people I’d never met before. And I was seriously nervous, because—spoiler—I’m not great at making girlfriends.
The closer the retreat drew, the more reasons I came up with as to why I should just cancel. My friend would be crazy busy and probably wouldn’t even notice if I wasn’t there. I’d just gone through the roughest two years of my life. Only recently (at the urging of a sweet friend), I’d begun to come back out of hiding to participate in my community once again. It was hard to be around any people at all because of the way some had reacted toward me when my marriage fell apart. I’d become a recluse of sorts, and quite honestly, I liked it that way.
But, just as I’d pushed myself out into the world again, I had an aching (and by aching I mean painful and nauseous) feeling that God wanted me to put myself into this very large group of Christian women and ease into getting to know them. Honestly, I don’t like these kinds of things. At. All.
But, I forced myself. Thinking I could do it just once more, for my friend.
Then something amazing happened.
From the very beginning, every woman I met at this retreat was loving and gracious. I heard others comment more than once at how unbelievably kind and considerate this group of women were. I made myself talk to people. And add to conversations. And even share my story.
And can I just tell you something? We have a BIG God, girls.
The kind that leads you toward exactly what you need even when you are kicking and screaming away from it. Even when you are hiding under the bed to avoid it. Even when you are looking for every excuse under the sun not to accept it.
I sat around the lunch table one afternoon at the retreat and began to answer a question someone asked me. I can’t even remember who. And before I knew it, I’d spilled the beans. The ugly, stinky, what I felt like were disgusting beans that had become my life.
Then, I prepared for what I knew was coming: the reprimand.
Because in the previous two years, there wasn’t a single time I shared that in Christian circles without one person rising to the surface who made it clear that they couldn’t accept what I’d done by getting divorced. And in my mind, implying that God couldn’t either.
My face was so flushed, I could feel it burning. I literally held onto my chair. And then, the most beautiful thing happened…
They leaned in closer. They gathered with me. They cried. They asked about my children. I could see the genuine love and concern in their eyes. Without a single hint of anything else. And the kicker? They actually thanked me for giving them insight into what single motherhood looks like.
They thanked me.
At the end of my story, they offered to pray for me. The same girl who’d sat in church begging God to send godly women into my life, with none surfacing that would stick around the mess I was walking. We gathered hands, as I wept. Praying for me. For my children. For my ex.
It was a deeply healing experience that I know without a doubt God wanted for me. To show me that His church, while not perfect, is still full of people who love as He’s asked them to. With people who are able to look beyond the biases some hold, and see the person behind them. With people who genuinely want to help those whom God has brought before them.
And it was breathtaking. And beautiful. And unbelievable to this girl who hides from such things.
It made me rethink the pain I’ve experienced in the church. And begin to sort through the kindnesses and the unkindnesses. It made me want to look deeper into why single moms leave so often. And find a way to help the church understand what’s going on. And it made me want to tell all of you that your bad experience is not what God asked His people to do for you. That He wanted so much more, and wants you to rediscover that truth. To give His people another opportunity to show you where His heart really is in your loss. To show you that His people still care. That you matter to them.
And, most especially, to Him.
If only you’ll give them one more chance to show you.