By: Ashley Davidson
Stereotypes. I have been very curious about the stereotypes surrounding women’s ministries and conferences in the church setting. So I started asking around. The various responses really increased my curiosity as to why is there so much hesitation among women in this generation to accept an invitation. My heart aches for women of all ages to be a part of these opportunities, or at the very least to give them a chance. So why have I grown to love something that so many other women seem to shy away from?
My road with women is not a perfect one, in fact far from it. In middle school I so desperately wanted to be a boy. I thought girls were boring, gossips, mean, and I did not relate to their passions or interests. In high school I learned what a girl was “supposed to be like.” Sadly, my womanhood was being shaped by everyone else’s expectations of me, and it became easy to play the part. I could be manipulative, gossip, or get attention when I thought I deserved it. I had some close friends, but we hurt each other frequently. We were self-involved, pursing our own interest, even if it cost the others pain or humiliation.
College was different, I finally found myself truly loving other women in solid friendships. I saw trust become achievable, and I saw relationships that were built on women looking out for one another.
Once out of college, friendships became challenging again. The first obstacle was figuring out how or where to meet other people, next came attempting to construct companionship from scratch with maybe nothing in common. It was so much work, and time was not a commodity I had much of. I bounced around with jobs, churches, cities, and even states looking for community.
If something didn’t seem to fit right away I assumed I wasn’t in the right place. I felt more like an outcast when I looked around with everyone getting married or at least dating someone, while others were having kids or climbing up the ladder in a corporate company they loved, and I was just lost wondering why I did not have my life figured out.
During those years I never attempted to join a women’s ministry. I don’t even think I gave it any thought; the solid “that’s not for me” stood firm in my heart. Now as I look back at my past and my identity, I know I didn’t trust women, always felt judged or that I didn’t belong, and ultimately didn’t think God had anything for me in a ministry like that. Plus I wanted a husband, there are no men in a women’s ministry so it was a waste of my time.
Some of you have similar stories. Most of you have been sinned against by other women, have been judged at times, or even risked joining some kind of group in the past or went to a conference and you swore you would never do it again. Others of you are sick of the overemotional, dramatic scenes you have seen play out with a crowd of estrogen. You don’t want to waste your time with some female speaker you don’t really know who is going to talk about the same ol' topics…how to be a “good” wife and mom. Still others of you have been the evaluator, not welcoming the women who don’t fit your mold of what Christian culture has told you. Several are too prideful to allow women a chance; taking a position that you won’t ever be a part of a ministry or go to a conference that is led by women because you already know what its about. I write these things not out of condemnation, but because I have thought them all at different points in my life. None of us are innocent in this, including me. I’ll be the first to admit I have sinned against women and vice versa.
So I ask God all the time, how do we shift this? How do we build something new that is based on Jesus and the bible? How do we create a place where women love and serve each other? Can we all really forgive and trust again? What is the point?
Over and over in my heart God says, “you can’t, but I can.” So I fight to believe Him. I get to watch Him move amongst these ladies. I have witnessed a divided city come together and worship next to each other. Group and discussion time is based on the bible not gossip or drama. Women do have the gift of teaching and the Holy Spirit reveals truth of the scriptures so we are able to teach it to each other.
Generations are integrating; the older are engaging the younger. Women are hungry for Jesus and we can learn about him more through each other in ways that we can’t on our own or with a group of men. Not because men are better or worse, they are just different. God created us male and female Women have so much more in common than we realize when we look at each other through the lens of our true identity as image bearers of God.
Is it perfect and free of sin? Absolutely not; that kind of gathering will only happen in heaven, BUT Christ died for our sin and has given us a clean slate so that we can start new. We can all chose to lay down the stereotypes and open our hearts to what God might want to show us at a women’s bible study or even at a conference.
What if we were women who gave our expectations and assumptions to God? If we were willing to trust Him in something outside of our comfort zone, to sacrifice time to study the bible and hear what other women have learned, to encourage one another and pray for each other. The world doesn’t believe Christians can do this, but hasn’t Jesus called us to?
Can we finally move past the exterior and see one another’s hearts?
Let us be a generation that loves Jesus more than ourselves and strives toward a life that imitates His.