I’ve been missing gathering with women. I’ve been missing it more than I knew.
You see, for most of Willow Creek Huntley’s existence, we’ve had ongoing, soul-filling, mid-sized daytime and nighttime women’s Bible studies. We’ve had a regular rhythm of all-are-welcome, you-are-welcome women’s events. Now, due to some significant facility challenges, those days are (temporarily) behind us. We’ve had far fewer opportunities to gather. We are officially “making do.”
So, on March 10 & 11—when 50 or so Willow Creek Huntley women were warmly welcomed into West Ridge Community Church’s IF:Gathering—it was a balm for many of our weary, wondering, disconnected souls.
Who knew? God knew.
We sat around tables—Huntley tables dispersed between “other” tables. Huntley women welcoming “other” women (and, of course, the reverse). We sat with women we didn’t know, had never met. I kept remembering those familiar words from Matthew 25: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Yes. We were welcomed—each and every one of us moving from strangers to sisters.
Together, we listened; we shared; we wept; we laughed; we opened our hearts. From 20- to 80-something, we gathered. We listened to women speak, women from 20- to 80-something, women of different races, different backgrounds, different passions, different gifts. Different, yet we were together in the same faith and in the same hope. My heart rested in God and in His true community and wondered: What would it be like to be able to do this—again? And again and again and again? To have a church home that would make it possible, like that, again?
I felt it deeply there: I miss gathering with women like this. Something beautiful and powerful happens when women gather—safe, loved, hearts and minds open. There is no “other.” There are no “others.” We are all at home in Christ.
There, I came to see: one danger in not gathering is that we forget that. We begin to feel alone. We begin to feel “other.” We begin to forget that we are one in Christ, that we do belong—to Christ and to each other.
IF:Gatherings, large and small, seek to answer the question: “If God is real, then what?” For me, one of the truest, most heartfelt answers to that question comes out of Galatians 3:28. If God is real, then what He says is true: “There is no longer [division]. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We are all one. All. Every one. One. Sisters who belong.
I feel that truth deeply: we belong. Single. Married. Mothers. Childless. Young. Old. Working or not. Extroverted. Introverted. Whatever race. Whatever wiring. Whatever background. Whatever.
Some of us have been told that we are too much—too loud, too quiet, too opinionated, too smart, too bold, too curvy, too young, too old, too intense, too tough, too bossy, too tender, too sensitive, too conservative, too liberal, too ethnic, too white, too passionate, too deep, too feeling, too anything.
Some of us have been told that we are not enough—not gifted enough, not clever enough, not cool enough, not ambitious enough, not rich enough, not skinny enough, not cerebral enough, not strong enough, not educated enough, not loud enough, not showy enough, not good enough, not spiritual enough, not wife or mother or friend enough.
We’ve believed lies. Jesus always stretches the circle wider. Jesus always sets another place at the table. Jesus always includes. And we always belong to Him. Home or no home, we always belong. We are named. We are loved. We belong to the family of God.
Women of Willow Creek Huntley, look at the expanded version of our “Home” verses:
That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.
Ephesians 2:19–22 (MSG)
I believe these words. I believe we all belong. My prayer is that we would remember to whisper to one another, every now and then, intentionally, at the right time: you belong here. Even without a room to gather, there’s room for you. There’s room for all of us. We are part of the temple in which God is at home. We’re part of something that’s bigger than each one of us but that needs each one of us. My prayer is that we would always, always, always be sisters—that we would hold hands, faces, secrets, space for each other, that we would love consistently and ferociously. My prayer is that we would look for similarities before differences, that we would assume only the best, that we would lift each other up in prayer and in life.
And, yes, that we would have places to gather—even as we are permanent-home-less right now.
Mark your calendars. Ladies, we will be gathering on June 9, July 15, and August 18. These large gatherings can accommodate all of us (and our friends). We also have ongoing and newly-forming small groups that welcome you.
If God is real, then what? Then you belong. Here. Now. Always. Come.