I spent the weekend with a group of Christian women writers at a retreat in Chicago, IL. At the beginning of the retreat on Friday morning, we were asked to set our intentions for the weekend by identifying the specific thing(s) that we expected to receive from our time together or what words we hoped to hear from God. I simply set my intentions to listen. I looked forward to a weekend of being in one location with limited noise, no responsibly, and pulling away from the distractions of the internet and social media. I also looked forward to reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. I wanted to see the faces of these women and hear their stories…what was God speaking to their hearts? What was their spiritual condition? What did they need? What did they expect from our writing community?
So I listened. I also talked a lot, but I mostly listened to what was said and not said and what was bubbling under the surfaces in the hearts of these, God’s daughters. As I reflected on the weekend with my husband in the car ride from the airport on yesterday evening, I was reminded of the diversity of our writing community and how that diversity was indeed a good thing. From the weekend retreat, I was reminded of our times of celebration and encouragement, of the tears and disappointments. I was reminded of the stories where God’s daughters were vulnerable and cried out for justice, help, love, and safety. I was reminded of the privilege that I have to love them, sometimes with a word, a smile, a prayer, by offering an ear to listen, by silencing the lies of the devil, by affirming the truth of God’s Words. I was reminded of the simple gift of “presence” that we offered by showing up. “Showing up” for another person communicates that you are important to me and we need each other.
Since many of the women in attendance are called to the public ministry of writing, there were several occasions where we discussed the shameful ways that Christians sometimes respond to each other and publicly destroy the reputations of our sisters or brothers because of disagreements on nonessential theological points. Let me be clear, I believe that theology and our biblical convictions are extremely important. Paul wrote, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind (Rom. 14:5)” concerning the convictions of our faith. Therefore, I hold to the teachings of Paul in Romans Chapter 14 which says that we should hold fast to our faith, affirm our beliefs with God, and not pass judgment on our brothers or sisters because they believe differently. Likewise, we are commanded to love our brothers and sisters. We should not put a stumbling block in the way of our sister or brother by sinning with our lips, leading them astray, or failing to love them well. Paul encourages us to “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification (Rom. 14:19).”
So when we are making the choice to love, to live out the gospel in a diverse community, and to mentor others who are at different stages in their spiritual journey, we really must ask ourselves, “Is it more important for me to be right or to remain in relationship?”
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2013