Rising to the Occasion
Earlier this year I attended a retreat called “RISE UP” with a few other women from our church. I knew nothing about the retreat, the people organizing it or what to expect. Most of my traveling companions were relative strangers at the time.
It was an unusual retreat, a format atypical of most women’s retreats. No singing or cute ice-breaker games. It was instantly intense and filled with personal stories from a wide variety of accomplished women that included writers, public speakers, social advocates, artists, photographers, bloggers, therapists and the like.
Many came with great expectations…I had come with a toothbrush and travel-sized paste.
Many had traveled by plane, coming great distances to attend, some even from overseas! They arrived with impressive resumes, powerful and emotional testimonies, hearts heavy with world issues and theological wisdom to share. Many came with great expectations, hopes and dreams, all with prayers unspoken but ready to burst forth for our broken world. I had come with a toothbrush and travel-sized paste.
Perhaps foolishly, I had seen this weekend as an opportunity to make some new friends, sip hot coffee without interruption, enjoy some great fellowship and share a few laughs and get some much needed time out of my house. As I looked around that room at those women with their impressive labels and causes and hearts full of purpose I can honestly say the only thing “rising up” in me was panic. I was less than 24 hours into a four-day retreat and already I was looking for the exits. I was feeling grossly under qualified.
It’s funny how moments of discomfort so often are the harbingers of growth. Over the course of the rest of the weekend, I heard many of these women’s personal stories. Wives who had lost husbands, women caring for aging parents, survivors of abuse, women raising other people’s babies, Mother’s whose pregnancies outnumbered the children in their arms, wives who carried their faith alone, women who did their best never feeling like it was enough, women who lamented the world their children would inherit, women with anxiety, women in ministry who’s voices were being silenced because of their gender. Souls stripped down, hearts lain bare we became sisters, all the same.
Our hurts were no different and neither were the hopes as we stood and shared what our prayers were for this world…” no child would go hungry”, “every person would be valued”, “everyone would know God’s love”, “everyone would have access to clean water and medicine”… and on and on.
Before departing on our last morning we stood in a circle. Our two, beautiful Indigenous Sisters who had shared their hurts, hearts, hopes and their culture invited us one by one to come forward and be blanketed with a scarf. Each scarf placed around our shoulders serving as a reminder of His love that envelops, strengthens and unites us as family. 100 women, all in a circle, each one different, each one the same, and each one being called to rise.
My ego is often my worst enemy, feeding me lies about worth and keeping me from stepping fully into the life God has gifted me. It is not about my station in life. I am called, daily, to rise to the occasion–to spread light where there is darkness, to show grace and mercy and to do all things in love. That is what rising up means to me.
Christine, Meaghan, Dayna, Jenn, & Carmen at RISE UP, SISTER 2016