I’ve heard this in the media a lot lately, and last night as I sat slightly uncomfortable in a huge gathering of women, I felt it.
I don’t identify as a woman.
As hard as I have tried over the years, especially in high school, and as much as I may want it to be different, I just don’t feel it. I don’t. I don’t guess I’ve ever identified as a woman.
A couple of weeks ago I sat in church and they announced an upcoming Women’s Conference. The video made it look very appealing, but there was that large part of me that was like, “nah. I’m good.”
See, I’m not really a joiner, especially where women are concerned. I don’t fit in, I never have, and many years ago I stopped trying. I just wasn’t like them. I couldn’t get into the whole “girls’ night out,” and I didn’t trust ladies any further than I could throw them. Which isn’t far. Because even if they’re little, I’m really weak. But I digress. The point is, well, I’m going to be very honest here. I don’t like females.
Ok, I love being a woman. I love having daughters. But somewhere between being the new kid in third grade and being the butt of a bully’s angst in high school, I decided I could take it or leave it where female friendships were concerned. Actually, leave it. Definitely leave it.
The thing is, God has really been dealing with me. He’s been teaching me new things over the past couple of years, stretching me, and taking me to new levels of trust with Him. Selling all my possessions and moving my family of five 800 miles away from all our extended family and friends? No problem. Taking on a job with zero insurance or paid time off? Easy peasy. That same travel position having no security of employment and income or knowledge of where the next job would come from? Bring it on! But stepping out of my turtle shell of introversion? I’m sure that wasn’t the voice of God.
So when I heard about the Women’s Conference I was of two minds. One said, go, but the other said hide.
“Oh, man. I work a shift at the hospital that day. Too bad,” I thought, with little upset.
But dang it. Still that feeling nagged me to go.
“Okay, God,” I prayed. “I’ll try and see if I can get off work. If you really want me to go, make it work.”
I challenged Him, and of course, He challenged me right back. I got the day off easily, no matter how much I told my boss, “I know this is last minute, so it’s ok if you can’t…”
Despite my dislike of most women, because let’s be honest, we’ve all lived through our own version of the Mean Girls movie, I do have a handful of trusted women in my life. It just so happened that most of them were my immediate family, and the rest were a thousand miles away. Undeterred, I went ahead to the conference alone, the Holy Spirit my plus one, and I asked God to use it for my growth.
Immediately upon arriving I realized there were women everywhere. I didn’t know any of them and I really didn’t like crowds, but I checked in with a smile and went to find a seat. I found a back row with a few open spots, settled into one, then was kindly asked to move over so a group of friends could sit next to their friends. I moved into the one empty seat, directly behind a large column blocking my view of the stage. I got up quickly and repeated this same sidestep seat swap another time before finally finding a vacant spot where a group of women were kind enough to let me linger.
At that moment I felt so alone in that big crowd. I watched women laughing and socializing with one another. I smiled brightly, watching, waiting, hoping for someone I could try and engage, but still I felt like an outsider. I had always felt that way. I had never fit in. I had always been the weirdo, the one other women talked about when I walked away. It had taken me years, decades even, to stop trying to fit in. I had finally, at forty, come to a place in my life where I was happy with how God made me, I wasn’t going to try and change for anyone, and I didn’t care what anyone thought! Ha. I felt peace with me. So why was God upsetting the balance?! Why push me to (I shudder) hang out with others.
The preacher was no better! He had said something six months or so ago that started this thorn in my side. It’s like he had been staring straight at me when he said God wanted us loving others, building relationships, and stepping out of our comfort zone. He deflated my balloon of intimate introversion, going so far as to say it wasn’t of God. Well, crap.
Next thing I knew God kept building on that, putting desires in me to join Outreach teams and small groups. All things that were outside of my wheelhouse. My safety net, my equally shy and shut-in spouse, he was no help. In an out of character for him fashion, he readily agreed to my suggestions of “getting involved.”
As I sat in that church last night, my wounded flesh wanted to scream, “I don’t belong here!” That bullied, flat-chested, anorexic teenager in me wanted to dwell on having no one to sit by or being ignored and pushed aside.
Instead I spoke in a whisper, “not today, satan.”
Y’all, I’ve never identified as a woman in that, I’m not like most. I have been hurt, and I’ve been pushed into my warm cocoon. I’ve made my circle so small that it no longer has room for God to work in my life the things He needs to work. So, He’s been calling me out of my circle of safety. He’s been calling me to step out and (gulp) make friends. Female ones! I’ve never identified as a woman in that I haven’t been able to enjoy or relate to the value of female friendships that other women seem to revel in. I feel God calling me to different ministries, but it seems you have to actually be around other people for that to work. Sigh.
It’s comical sometimes the things God can do to bring you where He wants you to be. Especially when you ask Him for it. He can make a borderline hoarder (I’m talking about myself, by the way) sell all their stuff, and take a scared girl (in a forty-two year old body) out of her shell. So, I’m open to that.
I haven’t ever been able to identify as a woman (not like other women, anyway), and even now it’s hard for me. But I see God moving. I see Him changing my heart. I see Him chiseling away the walls I’ve built. So last night I may have sat on the sidewalk alone, eating my nachos, praying someone would come talk to me, but I also made my way over to a group of ladies I knew, carrying a dessert, and starting a conversation like a bonafide normal person. I even hugged a few women and signed up for a ladies group.
I haven’t always been able to identify as a woman, but I do know that I’m God’s girl. And I’m starting to see all the sisters before me that He’s placing in my path.