In praise of women of grace, humour and courage
Some of you might have wondered what the FHE contributor team are like as people. Though some of you got to meet them up close and personal at the inaugural FHE conference (and yes, that is a thinly disguised plug for the next one!).
Let me let you in on a secret: they are all amazing. Some of us even think Jen Barker, the founder, has a special gift for finding amazing women.
How do I know this? Well, some of them I knew before they became FHE contributors. But others I have come to know through the FHE contributor Facebook group, and then online friendships developed from that. Yes, there is a group. This started as an efficient way to ask for submissions and discuss article ideas. It has become so much more than that.
I want to tell you about it, firstly because these women and this group deserve praise. But also because we often hear negative things about female friendships and friendship groups. There are lots of unhelpful words we hear used: bitchy, catty, catfight, mean girls. There is this idea that women have to compete with each other and tear each other down. Of course, we have all seen it happen. Women, like men, are human. Human beings often fail to be loving.
The FHE contributors group provides an example for me of a better way. Some of the contributors are more active in this group than others, due to life circumstances and personality, and that’s ok. Some of us, on the other hand, are on Facebook way too much (hands up from me!) and spend quite a bit of time in the group.
This is what we use it for:
These amazing women have normal lives. And that means they have struggles and worries and griefs and miracles going on in them. This group has provided a place of trust for sharing these and receiving the ministry of prayer. I have certainly seen Ephesians 6:18 lived out in this group (perseverance in prayer for God’s people).
There can be pressure to look like you have all the answers. This group has a wonderful vulnerability as women of different ages and experiences share their challenges and ask for advice. Often this is for our ministries: our speaking, writing, teaching and caring. The blessing of this group is passed on to the other ministries of these women.
Quite often as you ask for prayer and advice, one of the things you really want is some support from people who understand. Sometimes we don’t have answers, but just love. Just love? Love is never just love. This is Christ’s love shared among us. We rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15)
It might seem from the outside that the FHE contributors are confident women. They are truly gifted. But like many women, we have received discouragement from so many sources. We too can find it hard to believe that what we are doing, and what we have to say, is worthwhile. This group encourages each other, and more than that, amplifies each other’s voices. I’m reminded yet again of another couple of verses about our relationship with each other as God’s people: 1 Thess 5: 10-11 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
All of the above have created a place of trust. And so we have become a place where we can discuss the issues on our hearts openly. We also don’t always agree. We come from different backgrounds and this provides one of the strengths of FHE. In respectful disagreement, we arrive at better understanding.
To circle back to that original purpose, we do still use the group to discuss article ideas. But it is more than just an efficient tool. We dream big together for God. We let our hearts be moved together by the Holy Spirit. As an example, the focus we have had on addressing domestic violence has come about through a deep compassion and desire for change shared by the group.
I started by saying this is a group of amazing women. They are. But I know lots of amazing women outside the group too. Women are incredible. Every day we battle systems that work against us. But so many women do this with grace and humour and courage. How much stronger are we in doing this, if we do it together? This then is my call to us as sisters in Christ. Reject those unhelpful words about female friendship. Put aside competition. Stop listening to the discouragement. Let’s dream big for God together.
In alphabetical order, Megan is a daughter, friend, mother, pastor, teacher, twin and wife. These relationships and roles are central to her sense of self, all of the relationships informed by her relationship with God. She is currently doing a PhD in theology, and is wondering why she wasn't warned off by her experience of two previous honours theses (one in literature and another in theology). She longs to live a grace filled life and asks for your grace with her in her repeated failure. You could also call her fickle and unfocused in her pursuits but she would rather you call her a renaissance woman.