Squeals of delight encompassed the room as we bounced ideas around for our next women’s ministry event. What social event were we planning this time and how big was our budget? We also had hoped someone brought a Bundt cake so we could treat ourselves while we planned the details to treating ourselves. How fun this women’s ministry was and how lovely we all were. Social club? Well the name says women’s ministry, so I was sure this is what we were doing, especially because they said so.
Yet, the same 50 women came to every luncheon, fall retreat, and every annual women’s tea. The same 50 women attended cookie exchanges, ornament exchanges, and spring teas. Even after several years of rising attendance, the same 50 women enjoyed the spring retreat, Christian concert and summer bible study.
One day I woke up and realized we were simply ministering to each other; shining our lights back and forth onto one another and then again onto ourselves. A collective display of God’s love expressed outward could so easily have blinded the eyes of our community, but instead our social-club, women’s ministry bubble, limited His exposure.
Over time I watched women come and go, unnoticed; ministries birthed and quickly aborted by those who govern the bubble. Bible studies became cliques, where a broken-hearted woman could not just sign up for the broken-hearted community group, as there were exclusions that may disqualify her.
I am ashamed of myself for allowing this religious bubble to mislead me into believing what ministering really looked like, how it was done and to whom the rights of ministering were given. I am embarrassed that I allowed this bubble to shape my faith and influence my beliefs of women who minister.
I wish I had known my Father better. I wish I had really known his heart, back then. Maybe we all could have stood to know his heart a bit better, maybe then we would have expressed it in less selfish ways.
His heart loves us regardless of the show we put on; His heart never closes its door on us; His heart does not plug its ears when we speak and it will never ignore our knockings.
His love is not exclusive, it is all inclusive.
His heart is to make room for all to share their stories of His goodness, yet we continue to sift out who we think is worthy, who we think is ready, or who we know and like the best. How lucky He is to have us working on His behalf; disqualifying and skimming away all we believe are unworthy.
His heart lets us speak freely, but we do not know how to let others do the same. We quickly retreat, or we grow silent when confronted. We cannot even hear one another’s heart when it is spoken to us because we are too busy processing how it is making us feel.
His heart desires unity and He delights in communication; we have grown sharp at the manipulation of the silent treatment. He blesses the action of peacemaking and we bless the art of passivity.
Bubbles and glass ceilings were not put in place by my Father and they can be broken. We have also been given the spirit of courage and power to pick up our mat and move ourselves out from under them.
It is our right and also our responsibility.
Slide to the left, scooch to the right; whichever side you shimmy to you may just find a wide-open space that will allow your faith to grow BIGGER, WIDER AND WILDER.
There is fresh air in the wide-open spaces; possibilities are unlimited and opportunities are vast. There is spaciousness here. Your lungs fill to maximum capacity and your legs move you farther than you ever could have moved them before. You see, it’s cramped in that bubble.
Our Father watches in delight as our eyes grow big like saucers, witnessing things we never knew existed; feeling like a child full of wonder. Then, as we look back at Him in a gasp of the awesomeness of it all, our words fail to release the full expression of what we are experiencing and He looks at us – eyes wide with excitement – saying,
“I know! This is what it is to be free, my love. Jump as high as you like, dive as deep as you wish. I love every movement you make. Sing as loud as you want, shout for joy if you desire. I love the sound of your voice.”
This is when you know you can never go back to what you had before. You may try, but you will notice how dimly lit it is in the bubble and how quiet and reserved you are expected to be. You will become fully aware of the staleness of the air inside, so different from the freshness you inhaled while walking in the wide-open spaces.
Your ears hear the hopelessness so frequently spoken here, then trapped within the walls and ceiling; never able to fully be released or forgotten. You see it now, played out in marriages, relationships, stress and of course, division.
You will think to yourself, how did I not see this before?
As a child we are fed. A good-hearted child gladly receives the nurture and provision they are given. Our hearts have been grateful and obedient, but never allowed to fully mature; never encouraged to discern. As we mature, we discover His pure love and our hearts crave it more and more. When we know His love, we can more easily spot an imposter.
We start to investigate the heart to reveal the truth. We know this much:
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. – 2 Corinthians 3:17
And the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23
Are you seeing these characteristics in your faith community? Think about it.
His love for us is so great, so wide and so deep. I know you know that song. You may have sung it a thousand times, like I have. I challenge you with this: are you giving God the space to deliver His love to you in just as equal proportions or are you living under the bubble of religion, where both the receipt and expression of His love is limited?
Yes, God’s presence still resides in the small, cramped and narrow spaces, but He wants to give you so much more.
Tell me how I can help you or share this with someone who needs to hear it today.