Women, Worship and My Comfort

I waited in the parking lot until the last possible minute before being late. I walked in and realized I did not look anything like the other people there.

Here’s the thing, looks are deceiving. They lie to us and give us false perceptions, assumptions based purely on what our eyes are confronted with, and not the truth of a heart and mind.

This past Sunday I had the absolute privilege to sit among a body of fellow believers in a small country church just south of where I live, mere minutes from my front door. I was greeted and welcomed with the most loving smiles and sentiments, handshakes and hugs (and y’all know I’m not a hugger). It was an outpouring of gladness to see someone there to worship the same God they do on that Sunday. The only difference to be seen? The color of skin. (and the fact I had chosen not to put panty hose on…a fact I am sure my grandmother in heaven had a fit about).

But what wasn’t seen was the heart. Can I tell you that my heart needed to be there Sunday? In a house of worship where people weren’t worried what it would look like to praise Him, to shout and lift hands high as the Spirit was felt among us. The word brought from a female on the platform was truly challenging and affirming, reminding me to look and discern with not only a Christ-centered mind but also the female perspective.

Because y’all, the woman at the well? That story we hear so often in the church…the script was flipped and put from her point of view, from the dangers of gossip to the Stranger who became the Changer of her heart and life. I mean, c’mon…that was a good Word given to her to then give to all of us. I appreciated so much the recognition of women in the congregation (me and my friend included) for their Women’s Day. As the service ended, person after person came up to greet us, talk with us, invite us to coffee in the fellowship hall right then.

It struck me as I left that my worries over the stares or whispers, were purely driven by  my own ego, my own self and the comfort I like to live in. What I was met with was the hands and feet of God’s children, my brothers and sisters in Christ happily asking me to join them in giving back praise to our God. When our eyes and hearts are on God, they aren’t on our environment, or our surroundings. They aren’t concerned with how we’ll look to others but how we are bringing the glory to God as is due.

It comes down to focusing on the state of our hearts than the state of how little others are thinking about us. When we right our heart and mind in Christ, we find that the opinions (or lack thereof) of others and ourselves seem to matter a whole lot less. And we find when we take our eyes off of others, we too draw nearer to God in worship, giving Him the attention and praise He deserves and not ourselves.

The Hurt and the Healing

“There will always be someone willing to hurt you, put you down, gossip about you, belittle your accomplishments and judge your soul. It is a fact that we all must face. However, if you realize that God is a best friend that stands beside you when others cast stones you will never be afraid, never feel worthless and never feel alone.”-Shannon Adler

For the longest time I struggled with this idea that there are people, people who call themselves Christians even, who are intent upon putting others down or intentionally hurting someone. I wrestled so deeply with that reality where people, with directed intentionality, desired to judge you and who you are with no cause.

In the midst of that wrestling I lost the part where God is with me in it. He sits with me, He walks with me, He even cries with me. He weeps for us in our brokenness and hurt, in our pain and suffering. He is the one who proclaims our worth, not the words of someone else and especially not the lies they choose to tell for their own sake.

The words spoken by others may have a “here-and-now” effect on a life but they will not affect my eternity, nor do they nullify who or what God says I am. It would be so easy to step into the martyr role or the hurt role, turning it into my own version of judgement, throwing my own words out with entitled belittlement. But the same One who sits beside me in the hurt is the same One who reminds me to forgive, to show grace and mercy, and to love like He does.

Oooh it’s hard friends. It’s so very hard in the stillness to give forgiveness and love when you want to gossip instead because you know they did about you. It is so much easier to throw out insults instead of showing love. It’s also alot harder to choose to say nothing at all while saying a silent prayer for them and for yourself. Dwelling in it and on it will only bring about a divisive heart and mind. Choosing to get in the fray of it will most certainly lead to further hurt and brokenness.

Instead, even when it is hard, choose grace. Choose the mind of Christ. Choose to love like Christ. Forgive. And continue the journey with Him.