By Grace Mark
I used to hate ladies retreats.
The first Maranatha ladies retreat I went to, the speaker mentioned cancer and how people who you absolutely assumed would be there for you weren’t, while people who you never even considered were totally there for you. I wanted to hide under my chair and cover my face. I felt like she was exposing my wounds to the whole room, as if everyone was staring at me, though I was sitting at the back of the room.
A couple of years later, I found myself at a home ladies Bible study on biblical womanhood. I think most of us felt very defensive before we even looked at the material.
After I aired my scars, past frustrations and all my fears of what I thought the material might say, after I felt heard by the other women and discovered that they had similar fears, I began to see that perhaps the material really had stuck to the Bible and not added too much cultural stuff. And so, I finally began to engage the material. It turned out to be more biblical and less awful than I had expected.
Fears of Fitting In
One thing I’ve come to realize over the past few years at Maranatha is that when I walk into my fears, rather than run from them, and open myself up to people I think might hurt or harm or shame me, that instead the Lord uses them to minister to me.
1. Come to the ladies retreat. People may surprise you. He may use His people to work some healing in you.
As a young widow and single mom, I know what it’s like to feel like you don’t fit in with everyone. But maybe we all don’t fit in. Maybe we all want to hide. Here’s a challenge though: Take a chance and come out to the open. Take off your band-aid and expose your wounds. As you step out in faith, see if God will meet you there and put His arms around you through His people.
2. How does the Holy Spirit want to use you and your unique experiences? How does the Holy Spirit want to use others in your life?
Like a blog I recently read about going to church when you don’t feel like it, maybe there are people you can serve at the retreat. Maybe everyone needs your uniqueness.
Walking on Common Ground
On the outside maybe no one looks like you, but at the core of who we are, we have the deepest things in common—at least three ways come to mind:
We are all made in the image of God.
We are all sinners.
Though on the outside it may have different expressions, at the heart of it, we all have similar struggles (1 COR 10:13).
And if you are a Christian, we have this in common:
4. We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us.
Let’s learn from each other. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt and be willing to tell our stories, too. The Enemy wants us to feel fear, to make us believe we are alone and to hide in our shame. But when we open up to one another, we find that we are all struggling with the same things and that we are not actually alone.
Finally, come to the retreat for the teaching. You may find that God uses it to encourage as well as to challenge you exactly in the ways you are longing to hear.
To sum up, there are two main benefits to MGC’s ladies retreats:
The teaching. I along with many of the women there were so blessed and challenged by Jody Ware’s messages on contentment last year. You may find that this year’s messages are not only as encouraging and challenging but they may also be just what the Holy Spirit has for you and what you need to hear right now.
The fellowship. It is a concentrated time to bond with and get to know your fellow sisters in Christ.
This week, the ladies of Maranatha Grace Church will spend a weekend away at the Solid Rock Day Camp in West Milford, NJ. Come with us. As you take a step of faith and open yourself up to the preaching of God’s Word and open yourself up to the other ladies, you may find yourself so relieved afterwards that you didn’t miss it.