My heart sank when I walked in the room.
It was the first night of new Wednesday classes at church. My class … a women’s Bible study on forgiveness. (Insert big WOW here for – nothing like a big topic, right?!)
The book we are following, The Unburdened Heart by Suzanne Eller, is simply amazing. She does a great job of writing so that no matter what your story is, you can relate to the thoughts and feelings expressed in the book. I can’t say enough good things about it. So for the past few weeks, I’ve been so excited about how God is going to work in the lives of the women who come to this class, myself included. I can’t wait to see how he works and the amazing things he will do.
As excited as I was to start this journey, I was filled with anxiety and fear. I had spent the whole day fretting over praying out loud. A few weeks back, I shared a little here about how God was working on me with prayer. Surely I could tackle this praying out loud thing, right? I was going to do it this semester in class – I would take the reign and pray for the women in my class. After all, God has been preparing me for this. Still, I was afraid, nervous, anxious.
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Instead, I walked in with nerves raging and quickly noticed an unfamiliar couple sitting in the room – a man and a woman. Immediately, my heart dropped. My class was suppose to be only women. In my head, there was simply no room for a man. We were facing some really big topics, the possibility of deep, intimate conversations, some that simply wouldn’t be possible with a man in the room. Without asking him to leave, I gently warned him that the class would probably be all women and that he may feel uncomfortable as well as the women who attended and hinted that he might want to consider a different class. In most ways, you could say I handle the situation fine but the outcome was not at all what I had hoped for.
The couple left. Not just left my class … they left the church. If I had to guess, I’d say they left angry. Angry that they had made the effort to come. Angry that they needed my class and didn’t feel welcomed. Even though my intentions were right, they left angry.
What was suppose to be a light and fun evening quickly started off totally wrong. I managed to somehow pull myself together enough to get things going. The class went on, women came, women opened up, we passed the tissue box around on the first night! It was great and I am absolutely looking forward to the next 11 weeks with this wonderful group of ladies, getting to know them and seeing God working in their lives.
Why did I share the story above? Well…if you’ve read many of my recent posts, you know that God is really teaching me. Sometimes, lessons are pretty hard to learn. Sometimes we have to make mistakes to learn from them. It’s like riding a bike, sometimes we have to fall before we learn to ride.
This morning, as I’m sitting in the Sunday service, listening to our pastor talk about the man that was born blind that Jesus healed, my thoughts went elsewhere and I thought about the couple from Wednesday night. Sitting there in church, I kept thinking about what I could have done differently. Did I really handle it the way I should have?
The answer was simple – it was NO!
I did not do anything wrong by the way I addressed this couple but that doesn’t mean I did it right either. Perhaps instead of standing across the room and going on and on about how uncomfortable he and everyone else would be, instead of suggesting he go elsewhere, perhaps I could have first of all introduced myself. I did not even introduce myself. Here was the this couple I had never met before, in my class, and I didn’t even take the time to welcome them or introduce myself. Secondly, I could have gone over to them and after introducing myself, I could have leaned in close to inform them that this was really suppose to be a women’s class, however, they were welcome to be there if they choose. Basically, I could have shown them kindness and acceptance, even if it went against the rules I had placed on the class.
Proverbs 21:13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.
Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
The thing is, we have encounters like this every day. God is trying to speak to us and teach us new things every day. I am so thankful that through this, I learned a very valuable lesson. I learned to be still, to take the time to acknowledge people, to welcome them, to show them kindness. I learned not to be so quick to react. I learned that even when a choice seems right, that doesn’t make it the best choice.
How many times has God tried to teach me something and I failed to see? How many times have I turned away from his lessons?
While I am so sad that this couple left and the weight is heavy knowing that I am the reason they left, I walk away thankful that through this difficult situation, God is teaching me and that I am able to see it, able to learn from it and hopefully it will prepare me to handle situations better in the future. Let my mistake be your lesson!
And while you’re here, can I ask you to pray for me? You see, because I allowed anxiety and fear take over, we failed to pray at all Wednesday night. I did ask the class to keep the couple that left in their prayers, but I failed to pray for our class and I didn’t even take the time to ask someone else to pray. I allowed fear to get in the way and that’s not what I want. I know God has been preparing me for this and I know that it’s not about me, it’s about him. Please pray for me, that he will use me and give me the words of prayer that my class needs.