I slapped on a name tag and stepped into the bustling banquet room filled with women in ministry.
Tables were beautifully decorated. Cloth napkins were stuffed into glass goblets. Carefully designed centerpieces and real dishes crowded round tables. The entire scene was beautiful, but all I could think about was leaving.
Why don’t I want to be here? I asked myself. I’d been invited to a special dinner and I knew I should go. I mean, I was already there. All I had to do was walk up to a group of chatting women and say, “Hi,” or pick a seat, plop myself down and wait for someone to join my table.
Instead, I turned, pretended to look for someone outside of the banquet hall, and escaped through the side door.
I know–it’s a weird story to share. Why am I sharing it? I’m sharing this story because it reveals some things from which many women suffer. I walked out of that banquet hall because I didn’t feel good enough to be there. All I could do as I scanned the room was compare myself to the other women. My brain swirled with negative self-talk. They don’t understand you. They don’t like you. You can’t even be yourself around these people, so why even try? Now that I reflect back on the situation, I have strong doubts any of it was true. At the time, however, I allowed my fears to take over and missed out on what turned out to be a super special event. If I had it to do all over again I would have made a different choice and stayed.
How can you get through those times when you’re debilitated with fear and self-doubt and choose to isolate yourself? It can happen anywhere–at the grocery store when you duck behind a tower of chili cans instead of talking to that person, at a party when you leave early because your pajamas are calling, even at church when you busy yourself with every task except socializing.
I’d like to share two reasons why we may isolate ourselves rather than connect during times like these and offer Bible verses to replace those negative viewpoints that get in the way.
We don’t like what we see in the mirror
I didn’t feel good about myself the day I left the banquet hall. I’d been trying to lose weight and had been unsuccessful. I also had the feeling these women didn’t understand or respect my ministry focus–which probably wasn’t even true. My thinking was the real stumbling block that night.
What I needed was a brain-check. What did I know about how God saw me? What did I know about how God was using me? This is what I should have been dwelling on instead of my doubts. I should have had the following verse at the forefront of my mind.
The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17 ESV
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had anybody exult over me with loud singing. Can you even imagine it? What kind of abandon would it take to sing over someone with a loud voice? That is how much God loves us! Not only is he so crazy about us that he raises his voice in joy, but he will save us from all of our struggles.
Will you listen to his song? Will you allow him to work in you?
We long for what they have
Jealousy takes many forms.
I don’t think of myself as a person who spends much time being envious, but maybe I’m not being honest with myself. When faced with a crowd full of women, I always see things they have that I don’t. She weighs less than me. She owns her own home. She has experienced more success than me. In comparing myself to these women, I am practicing jealousy. Envy never leads anywhere good. Instead of envy, we can dwell on what we have been given. We can take joy in the journey God has us on where our success isn’t even the end goal he has in mind. God wants us to understand his love along with–not apart from–all the saints.
…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV
God longs to fill us. When jealousy dwells inside us it takes up space. We must allow God to fill us and stop worrying about everyone else!
We want to protect ourselves
Maybe you don’t agree with my assessment of why we may isolate ourselves from others so far. “You don’t get it. They hurt me,” you may say. The things they said, the things they did–I’ll never open myself up to that kind of “fellowship” again.
But I do get it. At our first church plant I was the oldest woman there. I wasn’t included. It turned out one of the families led secret meetings in which they discussed all of John’s and my shortcomings. I was hurt and shut myself off to fellowship with women for quite a while after that. But a life of isolation is not what God has in store for us. This is not where the story ends. There is more. There is redemption. There is a kind of fellowship steeped in the heart of God. We must pray for that kind of community. We must contribute to that kind of community. If we are avoiding it, then there is no way for us to make a difference and offer that kind of connection to other women who are desperately in need of it, just like us. Consider the following verse…
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14
In Christian community we have something in common. The Holy Spirit. As a result, we can have deep fellowship with one another because there is one who knows all of us and connects us in a mysterious way. Will you open yourself up to Christian fellowship again? Will you join the mess of being in each others’ lives where joy and mistakes abound?
The next time you find yourself leaning toward isolation rather than connection, dwell on God’s promises. Look to God rather than the mirror. Look to God rather than the crowds. He is mighty to save. He sings over you with a loud voice. He longs to fill you with his spirit.
Will you allow him to do all these things? I hope you will. I hope I will too.
Lord please renew our hearts and minds. Fill us with your spirit. Allow us to hear your loud song of joy over us. Allow us to dwell on your goodness in the journey rather than worrying about what others think of us. We acknowledge we are not perfect, but ask that you would change us and make us more like you. Please help us to connect with other women and enjoy the rich community that is from you.
Photo by Brandon Kawamura