For the second year in a row, and the fourth time overall, we've spent a week at an Evangelical sports camp. I really enjoy having the week off from cooking: we get to eat every single meal in the cafeteria of the college where the event is hosted. There is a morning children's program for my kids and optional afternoon activities, chapel each night, and then adult social time after that.
There's also a study for the female spouses of the coaches working the camp.
That's the part I tend to struggle with the most. Most, if not all, women's events I have ever attended I have not really enjoyed. This is probably along the same lines as the reason I rarely enjoy Sunday School or small group type stuff anymore--they just don't have the depth that I am interested in or need. Last summer, I didn't attend the women's study. I wanted some time alone to write and I am glad I did that. This year, I did attend it, with a little trepidation. Last year's study was one that I read afterwards, and I thought the book that was used was badly written/edited and could actually be very concerning if it was followed the way it was written. I sent an email to the leader of the study and expressed my concerns, she wrote back, I wrote back again. It was a cordial conversation but we obviously disagreed and I wasn't too sure I would be welcomed back again this year.
But I was.
And more than being welcomed, it turns out that people appreciated my being there. On our last day of the study, we wrote some affirmations for each of the women in the group, and when I got mine back, I was surprised to read some of them because it's not really how I see myself (which should be good evidence that our perceptions of ourselves can get really skewed):
- I admire you very much in how honest you are and how true to the Word you are!
- Thanks for sharing your wisdom.
- Thank you--your sharing and encouragement has been such a gift to us.
- Thank you for being so real.
- You remind me to exercise my gifts and be who God created me to be. Thanks for granting me permission. Inspirational, you are.
- I so appreciate your heart and security in knowing who you are.
- Thank you for sharing your passion and wisdom.
- I have been blessed by your knowledge and insightful contributions this week. Thank you!!
This surprised me because of my comments when we were talking about self-worth. When the question about what we often base worth on, I said that we often base a person's worth on his or her gender, and I also commented later that we put certain people or "levels" of faith as we perceive them up on pedestals. The other bold/honest comment I made was that we idolize marriage and motherhood and too often women are discouraged from being and doing anything else and are taught that is all they are made to do, and their passions for anything else are snuffed out. I didn't think that would go over well at all but it seemed as if there was some agreement in the room, and when I got my affirmation sheet back and saw the comments, I realized that maybe, people have similar thoughts and are too afraid to voice them--I know that I have been afraid in the past, and even was a little fearful to do so this week.
What I learned is that I need to do it more often (and so I did--and wrote an entire page on the back of the evaluation sheet with some concerns I had about one particular event during the week). There are too many people out there who feel as if they are the only one thinking something. I know, because I often feel this way. It never occurred to me that I need to be the one to take that first step and help others see that they are not alone. This will be an adjustment for me; it is stepping out of my comfort zone. But in a way, it ties back into my theme for the year of "Alive". If I am only living in the safe and predictable areas, then am I truly living? I don't think so.
In Deuteronomy 31, Moses is telling the people that they are going to cross into the Promised Land...but without him. He encourages them to "Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the LORD your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6). Too often, I have lived in fear of being bold. It is not really my nature to be that way and who knows what the reasons are for it; I'm sure there are many. But I'm going to try to remember this verse when I want to speak up about something and feel myself pulling back from doing so because I'm afraid of the reaction of others or what they will think about me. Being bold must, of course, be tempered with wisdom and caution too; it's not just recklessly saying or doing something because I feel like it. It would seem that this is the next part of the journey of faith that God has me on, and if so, I can only trust that He'll guide me through it.