Sisters in Christ – Part 6

April 10, 2013
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From Fear to Trust

In my previous post I suggested that our tendency to judge each other is one barrier against close relationships with our Christian sisters.

We also, sometimes, inadvertently come off as disapproving or condemning, even though it’s the furthest thing from our minds. Communicating love and acceptance to other women, especially women who are wounded and hurting, takes conscientious effort.

In that post I shared some statements from Christian women about what it would take to have closer relationships with the women in their church. Here are some examples:

If I wasn’t fearful of their judgment—not measuring up. 

If they were real and able to be trusted….If I weren’t afraid for them to see the real me. 

If I felt like I could trust them. … I don’t want to be judged, nor do I want to be felt sorry for….just to share and [to receive] genuine compassion. 

I want to make clear from the start here that I very much appreciate the honesty of these ladies in sharing what they feel. Too few of us can be this honest unless we are answering an anonymous survey.  As I write this post, I have no intention of communicating disapproval or condemnation of these women or any woman who shares their feelings. My heart aches for them. I have been them. I am only attempting to offer some ideas for moving forward in our relationships.

I see three important words in these statements that represent key issues to consider:

Fear

Judgment

Trust 

Fear

According to the dictionary, fear is an emotion caused by a belief that someone or something is likely to cause pain.

If you fear a woman’s judgment, what kind of pain do you believe it will cause you? Disapproval? Rejection? Confirmation that you are unlovable?

Sometimes I have been afraid of losing credibility or the privilege of teaching in my church. No, let me be more honest: I have been afraid of losing my reputation as a wise and respected mature Christian, an image I have carefully nurtured for decades now.

Fear is crippling. Fear shapes our behavior. Fear can turn us into liars who misrepresent, if only by our silence, who we really are or what we really believe. I speak from experience.

Jesus came to show us that we don’t need to fear him, or God. His kindness and compassion to women in every kind of situation shows us that there is nothing we can do—short of becoming merciless legalists—to deter his grace and mercy (see also Romans 8).

He also modeled a life lived for God but without fear of the judgments of his family, religious community, or culture. Can I point out that even though Jesus was living a perfect life before God, he was still condemned by his spiritual brothers?

The bottom line is this: We cannot control what others believe about us. We can only choose to believe that God, in his infinite grace, loves us and is FOR us.

The power to judge our acceptability belongs solely to God, and we should never surrender that right to another human being. God’s judgment of us is the only one that matters.

Judgment

As I am testing my own wings of greater transparency, I am learning that my Christian sisters are much more gracious than I gave them credit for. Why have I always assumed that women would judge me harshly? Why do you? I am sure the answer differs from woman to woman. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Evidence. We have seen women judging other women, and it’s not pretty.
  • We are judgmental, and we assume everyone thinks like we do.
  • We don’t totally approve of or accept ourselves, so how can we expect others to?
  • We grew up in a home where everything we did was commented on and belittled, so naturally, we expect that behavior from everyone.
  • We have never seen models of women being real and transparent about their faults and problems and being unconditionally accepted by other women.
  • We are not totally confident about God’s approval of us, so we are looking for confirmation in other women.

Yes, some women are judgmental. Probably all women succumb to this behavior sometimes. More often than not, though, I suspect we are ALL holding back, fearful that no one else in the room would find us acceptable if they only know about ___(fill in your failure here)________.

How sad, when you think about it. I can’t imagine that this is the kind of sisterhood the Jesus of the Gospels sacrificed his life to establish.

What if I started looking across the room and thinking, “That woman is probably afraid I’m judging her. How can I best communicate to her my love and acceptance?”  Wouldn’t that change our dynamic?

Here’s a little reminder to myself:

– Your different lifestyle choices do not equal condemnation of my lifestyle choices.

– Your different understandings of God and scripture do not equal censure of my understandings of God and scripture.

– Your different gifts and ministries do not equal judgment of my gifts and ministries.

– Your different tastes and preferences do not equal disapproval of my tastes and preferences.

Trust

I want to be real and honest as I seek to follow Jesus, but I haven’t always been. In the past I have even made this assertion to women:

Because of the grace of God, we have
Nothing to prove.
Nothing to lose.
Nothing to hide.

I realize now that even though I have long believed it—that if God is FOR me, no one else’s estimation of me matters—the truth has been slow to move from my head to my heart.

Let me invite you to try something with me. Let’s step out and TRUST each other a little more. We need each other. We have a responsibility to each other as sisters in Christ. Stick your toe in the water by assuming that the other ladies at church are just as insecure, overwhelmed, embarrassed, clueless, and generally flawed as you are.

Obviously, as we begin let down our guard, we must use discretion about who can be trusted with confidential information. In general, though, test the water and try being more honest about who you are and who you have been. Many Christian women understand that they are saved only by the grace of God, and they believe the same thing about you.

Lee Merrill wrote a lovely post on her blog called “Real Starts Now.” I encourage you to consider her thoughts. Then, I invite you to take the plunge. Take your grace with you, because we will all fail to be perfect images of Jesus, but take the plunge anyway. God is your Refuge. Your sisters are your support.

You will be amazed at how your honesty with other women will strengthen your bonds. Women will come to you saying, “I’m going through the same thing. I’m so glad you had the courage to say it out loud.”

As imperfect sisters, let’s join hands and help each other fight this good fight together.

… If God is for us, who can be against us?… Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 8:31-34)

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment… (I Peter 4:18)

2 responses to “Sisters in Christ – Part 6”

  1. Lisa Perry Bowling says:

    It is always amazing that God continually provides us with what we need exactly when we need it. And this is no exception. This is a beautifully written piece from someone with a beautiful heart for her sisters in Christ. And I know all too well the enormous spiritual journey that has been traveled. May God continue to bless you. Lisa Perry Bowling

  2. LynnBell says:

    Lisa, how wonderful to hear from you! Thank you for your kind words, my friend.

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