Women in Need: Am I Bridging the Gap in the Church?

This week I am doing a book study with my bible study group of mother’s. Once a term I bring to them a chapter of a good book I have read, we read it, go through some questions and discuss the challenges and encouragement the author poses. The book I have chosen this term is By Design: God’s Distinctive Calling for Women by Susan Hunt, a book that encourages women to thrive as the helpers that God has made us to be.
The chapter I have picked for us to read through is a challenge to women to be helpers and advocates for women in, and out of, the Church. Susan Hunt describes how God has given women enormous ministry opportunities within the church. She points out how male leadership sometimes fail women {and most of the time, unintentionally} because of the differences between men and women. These differences are beautiful and necessary, but there can still be a divide. This is where women step in and bridge the gap for the other women in crisis. Part of our helper design isn’t just to be helpers to our husbands or our male ministers/pastors, but to other women, who need us to help others hear their story and be understood.
This book was very challenging, but especially this chapter {hence why I’m choosing it for our book study!}. Immediately, I am looking at myself and asking, “Am I a woman who can come alongside another woman? Am I growing as a helper/defender for other women? Am I bridging the gap for women in need to our male leadership who want to shepherd well, but sometimes don’t know how?” 

And, I feel like the most difficult question to ask myself is, am I a woman whom other women feel they can approach when in desperate need?

This question squares me in the face. I cannot turn away from it. If I am a true lover of Jesus, then I am a true lover of His people. It must be my bent then, to be a woman that other women feel like they can come to – no matter the crisis. Susan explains,

“In this chapter I want to talk about the least recognisable of the wounded – those sitting in the pews next to us. Women who have been raped, battered, abandoned, or abused, or who have caused their own pain by having an abortion, an affair, a struggle with lesbianism, or involvement of a cult, usually think that church is the most unsafe place for them to share their hurt because they think their scars are unacceptable among such ‘respectable’ people.”

Do we really know the women in our church? Is that single woman who has been attending church for a year able to share with you her past of a broken home, abuse, and wayward behaviour? Is the wife and mother, with a kind husband and great kids, able to be vulnerable with you about her struggles with pornography? 

“‘Last night at church I invited a single mother to go out for dessert. As we sat and talked, she told me that she has an adult child ‘out there somewhere,’ and that she has had two abortions since then. And all this happened since she has been a Christian. Her tears were dripping on the table, and I know she carries around incredible guilt. I told her what you said about church being a safe place to come and share our struggles. She admitted that she doesn’t feel safe at church. She thinks people would reject if they really knew her.'”

…If they really knew her. Oh, my heart breaks for women who feel that way.
If there is one place on earth that we can be truly known for who we are and accepted as we are, it ought to be the Church. The whole point of us being together is because we all desperately need saving and not one of us are exempt from that. But somewhere along the line we seem to become – or appear to be – “respectable” people that would be too shocked to care, to understand, to be safe. 
But as Susan says,

“If the Church is going to act redemptively, we must be honest about who we are – not respectable people but redeemed people, not flawless people but forgiven people.”

Some crises are really blunt. The longer we are joined with Christ the purer and less worldly we become, and so some of the acts of this world can be confronting and scary. We feel overwhelmed about how to help or what to say. But that is okay. The point is if are we authentic enough nthat, even if such crises are not familiar to us, our own need for Jesus enables us to be open so that women in need feel safe, welcomed and addressed with grace and truth.
God has been just taking the surgical scalpel to my heart as I have bee reading and re-reading this chapter in preparation for our study. He’s been revealing pride, “respectability”, fear of daunting sins… But He has also been cultivating in me a heart and a passion for creating women in the Church who are willing and able to be safe places for other women in need. It is a movement we desperately need in our world today. And, as always with movements, it starts with one person – you.
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5 thoughts on “Women in Need: Am I Bridging the Gap in the Church?

  1. I feel it, too. But I think there are many women out there who are too frightened to come to church because they think we wouldn't understand, or would be too shocked. Most of the time it's a misconception, but we do need to continually address ourselves so that we can be there for women of the well, just as Jesus was.

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