A number of weeks ago, my pastor's wife and I were having a visit, and she shared an idea with me. It was her belief that the usual social gatherings for women are not always a place for us to really get to know one another. She proposed that she, I, and two other women gather four times over the summer to share with each other how we came to faith, and to share some spiritual markers in our lives. Each of us would be given an opportunity to share, and on the others, we would listen. My pastor's wife shared the first week, and invited us to ask questions. The first week was wonderful. The discussion we had was deep, loving, and God-honouring. It was far and away better than any "women's gathering" I'd ever been to. We discussed theology in action.
Yesterday, was my turn, and in between the time of the first meeting and yesterday, I pondered what to share. When we are given the opportunity to share about our lives, we begin to look back and we realize just how much there is. It forces us to see that God has been active in our lives in a myraid of ways in the little moments when we weren't even paying attention.
All of these women know me. One of them, has been my friend for 19 years, and she really knows me. And after I shared, she said that she learned something new about me. The other woman there, I've known for 19 years as well, and through our discussions, I am learning more about her. I'm getting to know my pastor's wife better, and coming to her love her more. I think the best friendships develop at a relaxed pace. Sometimes the worst friendship experiences I have had are the ones where early in the friendships, we shared too much.
These gatherings are a place where we feel safe, and that is what comes from honesty within the Body of Christ. I don't mean that we tell more information than is necessary. We aren't sharing things that our husbands would rather we not. There is no husband bashing, but there is discussion about marriage. We are not confessing lurid details about our sin, but there is simply a recognition that we are struggling with it daily, as will always be the case in these mortal bodies. There is not revelation of details that would shock, but there is a willingness on all of our parts to reveal that we are weak, that we need the Lord. All four of us have dealt with the challenges of marriage, struggles with teenagers, family issues, and two of us have dealt with the death of a child. One of us has dealt with the death of a husband.
I don't think transparency is about the details we reveal. Rather, it's the willingness to be honest while maintining discretion, and a willingness to accept who we are before God and in Christ. It's a willingness to learn from others. I think true transparency will begin with humility and it will be discreet. It's a recognition that none of us has arrived, and when we begin to think we have, we are in serious trouble.
When I was in eighth grade, I was bullied, and that was a huge watershed in my life. I shared that with my friends. Even as I spoke, I realized how much of an effect that has had on me. For many years, being the tomboy I was, I put my nose in the air regarding female friendships. Who needed them? I'm beginning to value them so much, and I think it's because this summer I have been developing good friendships that begin with the common bond of Christ. In addition to these ladies, another friend and I are growing in our friendship as we study a book together.
Friendships with women can develop in many contexts. Some of us like to shop, make crafts, or sit and chat over a nice meal, but these friendships I've been involved in over the summer, I believe, are the best way to develop friendships: small, intimate groups with women who love the Lord, and desire to grow in him. It's a small group with a different kind of focus, and I am so grateful to my pastor's wife for gathering us together.