An emotional high is no match for reality.
Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the Women of Joy conference in San Antonio. My husband was gracious enough to let me go, leaving him home with our three angel/monsters for three days and two nights. In short, I'm glad I went. But not for the reasons you might think.
Getting away with a group of ladies is always an adventure. Two of my very best friends went, so much fun was had exploring the (haunted) hotel at night, scaring strangers at stop lights with Halloween masks, and discovering just how many practical uses there are for a ShamWow (sorry, that's an inside joke I will not be explaining). These are the things I think of when I hear Christians described as stuffy and uptight. If that is your impression, you're hanging around the wrong Christians. As much as I'd like to go on and on about our impious shenanigans, that's not the purpose of my post today.
This was my first women-only conference to attend. I will be totally honest with you, I did not expect to find expository preaching or to be challenged on a deep theological level. I anticipated the overall tone of the messages to be encouraging, and they were. Max Lucado blessed my socks off on Friday evening, Karen Kingsbury had me in tears Saturday morning, and Anita Renfroe gave me a thorough liver cleansing. Their words were powerful, their messages uplifting, and my heart was blessed by it all. I don't want what follows to take away from that. I am thankful for these people and the words they spoke, and I recognize that for a lot of women what was spoken was exactly what they were needing at that point in their lives. But, I needed more.
As I reflect on my experience there are several issues that I'm left pondering. First, I want to know why we as women of God settle for marshmallows and milk when we should be craving the meat of God's Word. Where is the women-only conference that says, "Forget the hand-holding. Stop starring into each other's eyes and sending positive thoughts and energy into your Sister-Friend. Skip the merchandise tables with all the rhinestones and Proverbs 31 memorabilia. Just stop it!"
Where is the women-only conference that says, "We're going to encourage you, and we're going to uplift you, but not by targeting your emotions. Instead, we're going to equip you with the Word of God, so even after the emotional high wears off—and you're back in the midst of reality, and life begins to suck again, and you remember why you were so desperate for those three days away, and you begin to forget all of the sweet mantras you learned, and the 'new you' begins to give way to the ugly, angry, 'old you', and you forget how determined you were to be a better mom, a better wife, a better daughter, and all you want to do is lock your bedroom door, bury your head in your pillow, and scream profanities at the top of your lungs—you will have the tools you need to press on."
That is the slogan I want to see on a women's conference flyer! That is what I need! Stamp some flowers and rhinestones on the cover, and throw in a little mushiness, we are women after all, but please, oh please, don't stop there. I want to go deeper. Beyond the quick fix and the temporary motivation. Because an emotional high is no match for reality. Scripture is. When you're back in the real world and all hell breaks loose, emotions retreat.
Scripture slams up against the gates of hell and shouts, "Bring it!"
I wish I could stop here, and not risk crossing the line with my next grievance, but I cannot. I want to paint a picture in your minds, so bear with me.
Imagine a gathering of Christian men. They have come together to learn and worship. The band begins to play. The lights dim. And out walks an attractive woman with a microphone. She welcomes the audience, who in return cheers for her. She begins to sing, and hundreds of men turn to their friends beside them and comment on her. Nothing crude or sexual. They say things like, "She's a doll!" And as the songs change and she breaks into vocal runs, the men cheer louder. The mood begins to shift from reverent, to flirtatious.
I would be willing to bet that most of us would be uncomfortable with this situation. Not because the men are being blatantly inappropriate, but because their focus is so terribly misplaced. This woman, by no fault of her own, has become a distraction. A dangerous distraction.
I saw this same situation in reverse play out this weekend in San Antonio. Now, I am not faulting the worship leader, he was wonderful and I am sure his heart and motive were pure. I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is an unsuspecting man that doesn't realize that women can be just as bad as men when it comes to eye candy.
You heard me.
My initial thoughts are that a conference that is geared specifically toward women should take it a step further and have women come in to lead worship as well. As I write that out it seems kind of silly. I mean, we are grown women, we should be able to handle having an attractive man on stage and still be capable of praising the Lord. Absolutely, we should. But we have to keep in mind that while God is pursuing us, so is Satan. Don't think for a second that 4,000 women gathering in the name of Jesus is going to escape Satan's notice. He will be there, with bells on, and with his wicked heart set on distracting each and every woman there. His arsenal is full of distracting tactics.
He could use guilt: How could you leave your family for three days?
He could use insecurity: Did you notice you're the only woman in your group that doesn't have a close friend here?
He could use worry: Your boss did not look happy when you took off work today to come to this.
He could use lust: Wow, when was the last time you saw a Christian man who looked like that?!
He could use comparison: Don't you wish your husband was more like that?
Friends, we have got to learn to guard against temptation. I know you think you're strong, but your human strength is no match for the enemy. I'm sorry. We are weak, fleshly, depraved people. We're not told to exercise our Christian muscles by inching closer and closer to temptation, and testing our limits. No! We are told to flee!
Turn and run. Turn and run. Turn and run!
This bothered me. I wanted to pull this guy aside and let him know that while he was on stage worshiping, 4,000 women were giggling like school girls. I'm only slightly exaggerating. It was weird.
I want to wrap this up on a high note, because regardless of how this may come across I truly enjoyed this conference. I intend my criticisms to be constructive, and I will pass them along to the organizers of Women of Joy. We need feedback, and not just positive, there's no room for growth if all we ever hear is how great we're doing. No, we need to hear how we can improve and stretch. There is one thing about this weekend that I would not have changed for anything.
Oh, Pam Tebow. This woman stepped on my toes, melted my heart, and inspired me, all within an hour's time. I was hungry, and she fed me. With Scripture. I was bummed, and she encouraged me. With Scripture. I was proud, and she rebuked me. With Scripture. I was tired, and she motivated me. With Scripture. I was complacent, and she challenged me. With Scripture. I was needy, and she blessed me. With Scripture.
It was this that I needed more of. To all of you who are big fans of women's ministry and rhinestones, and think I'm terribly close minded and harsh, please pray about that. Know that my heart here is not critical, but concerned. I love my Sisters in Christ, even the super cheesy Kumbaya ones. I love them. And my desire is not to condemn or mock, but just to challenge all of you.
Ladies, don't settle for anything less than a passionate, genuine, deep relationship with our Lord. Being a woman does not mean you can't be theologically minded. It does not mean you can't question and search and challenge traditional thought. It does not! We can. But we can also get so caught up in emotion that we miss the good stuff. Be aware of your weakness, and dig, Sisters. Dig deep.