The trees on the left live in our front yard in North Carolina, as seen yesterday morning from our front porch. The trees on the right live in Fort Lauderdale, right outside my hotel window. I’m currently in South Florida for my last trip of the year, one I’ve been looking forward to for many months now – not necessarily because it’s my last, but because it’s here, among women I’ve been praying for for many months. It’s an honor to serve them and worth every bit of nervous twitching before I get up to speak.
Sometimes it’s hard to be with women, isn’t it? Growing up, people would have said that I make friends easily. My sister remembers a teacher telling my parents after we moved from Iowa to South Carolina that I make friends quickly with other girls because I was always complimenting them. (eye-roll) could I be any more annoying with my “I like your shirt!” and “Your hair is so pretty!” Sheesh.
In my defense, I don’t exactly remember doing that, but it sounds like something I would do so I believe it. Having friends was important to me. But that was back when the word ‘friend’ meant someone you’re comfortable sitting with at lunch or someone who will walk with you to the bathroom so you don’t have to go alone.
All that counts when you’re in seventh grade. But now that I’m grown, friend means something more than that.
When we consider the spiritual transformation of our lives, it often means being stretched beyond what comes natural and leaning hard into what is supernatural, those things that come from God. Learning to move toward community is often one of those unnatural-turned-supernatural things for me.
Nothing causes me to face my own humanity, frailty, and weakness than when I am in communion with others. Nothing causes me to see myself as I really am, to admit I’m not as great as I think, or to face my perceived entitlements than when I am in the midst of other people. I am easy to live with in a room by myself. But I don’t want to live in a room by myself. Except for when I do.
When I walk into a room filled with women, I recognize in myself a tendency to ignore what God thinks of them and obsess over what they are thinking of me. Oh, dear.
I once heard Shauna Niequist say, “With people, you can connect or you can compare but you can’t do both.” And I think of Jesus’ mother, Mary, and John the Baptist’s mother, Elizabeth. These two women could have compared and competed with one another in all the ugliest kinds of ways – You’re too young! You were chosen to carry Messiah?! Why not me? or You’re too old! Why couldn’t God have given me someone my own age to relate with?
But they didn’t do any of that. Instead of competing, these women connected. Instead of trading fear, they traded praise.
May it be the same for us.