“...and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.” - John 4:6
I have to admit I ignored the announcement the first couple of times I heard it.
Attend a women’s retreat? I don’t think so.
Quite honestly, it’s hard for me to be in large groups of women. Even small ones for that matter sometimes.
Conversations often turn to comparison or unwanted advice giving. I was content hiding in my pew each week. Didn’t really need to meet other women or interact or even take a chance of being hurt. I also feared a scenario similar to this post. I would need a t-shirt to say I survived, right?
I don’t remember how I finally talked myself into going. I think it was the theme of the day retreat: rest. Or Jeff may have gently suggested I go. Either way, I figured I could slip into the back of the room and quickly out again before the event ended. I thought that maybe I’d at least get something out of the speaker.
Turns out I was right about one thing: I did get a lot out of the speaker. In fact, I still have my notes from that day.
But I was in for a surprise when it came to the women. They were present. Truly present to God and to one another. The day was set up in a way that we were encouraged to be patient with one another and allow each person to be who they are where they are.
I had never, ever heard of such a thing. I may have taken notes on that aspect too.
From that day on, I quickly checked the announcements at church hoping for more of these retreats. I needed them. My soul longed for them. I actually wanted to be with these women.
I learned from them. They didn’t just talk at me. They had no desire to control me, or shove me into a mold of their own image, or prove they should be respected. They simply sat and listened. They told funny stories about raising children. They helped me feel not so alone. They made me feel as if I could make it as a wife and mother.
I don’t think that was their agenda. That’s just what came out of those times. There was room for me there. Room for my passions and my questions. For my need to be alone and my need to process.
Over the years, through these retreats and through other times together, these women have become my mentors and spiritual mothers. They’ve become my friends.
They are the women who pray for me, write me, text me. They checked in with me regularly when I was away last year. They believe in me and in my calling. They are the ones who say, “I hold hope for you” when I just can’t hold it for myself.
I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t be the woman I am to day without the influence of these women. And they are women of all ages. They are mothers, grandmothers, and singles. The women who told stories about their children are retirement age. They offer me so much, and I hope I’m offering them something from my life too.
We talk about women and ministry. They are reading books like Half the Church because they never stop learning. They believe in women leading out of their gifts and callings. They've traveled around the world to use their own.
They long for grace because they grew up in faith communities like the one I grew up in. They know Jesus in a way I can only hope to know Him when I’m twice my age. I want these women around me!
I’m grateful I went that Saturday in June. I was tired. I needed rest. I had no idea refreshment would come in the form of an incredible circle of women. I had no idea that God would use this group of women, who were tired and thirsty and longing in their own way, to touch my heart so deeply.