Football, Karaoke, and Belonging

Women's Retreat Last weekend was fantastic. The City Pres women’s retreat was held at Quartz Mountain and I think it’s fair to say it was epic. Before I lose all my male readers, let me just say, “football.” We spontaneously played football. With a shoe.

Of course, the shenanigans (and there were many, many shenanigans) were broken up by thoughtful, moving discussions on vulnerability, friendship, hospitality, and hope. Stories of rescue were told. Tears were shed. The gospel was proclaimed. Prayers were lifted up and music was made. (Lots of music. Impromptu karaoke, anyone?)

I’ve never even heard of a retreat like this, let alone experienced it. The words that were spoken were deeply healing. Bonds of friendship and sisterhood were forged and strengthened. It was so, so good.

Because I’m still floating on the cloud of this retreat I’ve been telling everyone about it. When I described it to my mom, she almost looked wistful for a moment. The idea that we can be in community like this, that the kingdom really could be breaking through right now, right here – it is what we want but don’t dare to hope for.

I’ll be frank – my experiences with women’s ministries at other places in the past have not been like this. That is not to say they were all negative; I still cherish many of those memories. But there is a level of radical honesty being practiced at City Pres that is unique in my personal experience.

This level of honesty is terrifying. And those of us trying to embrace it will tell you that, right up front. It is so scary to let other people know who we are and what we have done (and incidentally those are two different things.) But the payoff is nothing short of total freedom. It is unspeakably freeing to let go of the sin that entangles us, to say it out loud, to admit our struggles, to face those demons of judgment and rejection.

One of those places of deep hurt within me is friendship with other women. It’s a lesson I learned early on, in elementary school, when the other girls told me point blank I would never fit in. Naturally I have spent a lot of time over the past 25+ years alternately trying to prove them wrong and trying not to care that they were right. It may seem like a small problem in the grand scheme of things, but it is a hurt and a fear that I have allowed to poison many relationships. After a while it becomes exhausting to keep everyone at arm’s length.

So last weekend was huge for me. God used the hurting, healing, singing, funny, crazy women of City Pres to make it clear that I do, in fact, belong here. God did not use a cookie cutter when He made us; it is precisely our uniqueness, our weirdness, our differences that make the body of Christ so very believable and beautiful…. and totally worth dancing.

alison