Trust. As social as we are, most women don’t have it. Our childhood bestie finds new friends in middle school. The boy of our dreams is snagged by a homeroom hussy. When we’re grown, and live by our own rules, our own frailties taunt us. It seems everyone else has glossy hair and the perfect life, while frizz takes over our hair, home and hearts. We put on a smile and “fake it ‘til we make it.” When we finally open up, we encounter blank stares.
Maybe there’s a reason Girl and Gorilla are near-homonyms. That’s how it feels, growing up. But girls aren’t actually city-stomping, building crushing monsters. Let’s examine this trust thing.
Girls are complex. We are human 3-D printers, equipped to create tiny memory-building, emotion-expressing, 5-senses-using baby brains. With that kind of chemistry inside us, it’s impossible to remain calm, cool and collected all the time. We crave an environment where we can be real without being disrespected, vulnerable but safe.
Girls want to connect. Community helps us live longer. We share health and cooking tips. When we feel safe, we share stories about our lives and get confirmation that we’re not alone. We compare ourselves too, and that is both helpful and harmful. Observing others gives us great ideas and motivation to curb our excesses. If we use our observations for self-improvement, that’s good. If we use them for self-criticism or pride, we perpetuate mistrust. If that girl is better than I, I can’t let her know my kid is failing math, or that I’m not married because I can’t keep a relationship going. If she’s worse than I, she won’t trust me not to judge her.
Do guys go through this stuff? I know a lot of guys with zero male friends, so it seems the problem with trust might cloud both gender pools. Speak up, guys, if you’d like to share your own experiences.
Recently, I went on the City Church ladies’ retreat at New Life Ranch in Colcord, OK. I knew one person. I volunteered to carpool, so by the time I arrived, I knew two people. I won’t lie. I’m great at presenting, but awkward at conversing sometimes. I smile way too much. I do this stupid laugh when I’m totally not making a joke. I talk about me. I want to connect with people, and I’ve lived a lot, so when someone tells a personal story, I share a similar story. I know that must be off-putting. Saturday morning, I sat at breakfast alone. I relived my Friday night dorkiness and decided that’s why I’m a writer. I talked to God (silently, of course) and listened to two little boys at the next table planning ways to gross people out, using ketchup packets for blood. They made me grin. I prayed, “Lord, I enjoy You and I don’t mind being alone, but it would be nice to have some other people here.” In under two minutes, five ladies sat down to eat with me. We introduced ourselves, and I told about visiting my daughter for the first time this year. The conversation took off. One girl was adopted, one had adopted a baby, another was a foster mom, one had given up on having kids and then got pregnant, and the other was just friendly. Apparently, talking about myself isn’t always bad.
Over the course of the weekend, foster mom disclosed that this was her first assignment and she’s had the kids three years. She loves them, but having a family which is indefinitely temporary gets tough. Another girl asked for prayer for infertility, and adoptive mom admitted she still longs to give birth. A few other ladies shared struggles, and we all responded with compassion and support. What made 30 women decide to trust one another enough to bare their souls?
We chose to spend time with people we didn’t know well, and we had fun. Kayaking was peaceful. The bungee swing was hilarious. The horses we rode through the woods had the munchies and no sense of personal space, which got us laughing. At night around the fire, nobody counted how many s’mores we ate. While people find it easier to try new things away from home, I don’t think that’s what inspired us to connect so deeply.
Not all retreats have the same impact, but the good ones promote two main ideas which foster a sense of trust and safe vulnerability.
A focus on connecting with God. As Christians, we believe God is good. We believe He loves the people He’s created more than we could love our very own children or mates. We believe God is merciful. He poured His essence into the body of a baby who experienced human life, so we would believe God understands us. In Jesus’ death, we’re shown our potential for doing horrible things. We’re shown the depth of God’s determination to forgive us and teach us the right way. We believe Jesus came back from the dead so He could comfort his friends and send them out to carry His hope to the world, because His work isn’t finished yet. We believe the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us (Romans 8:11).
The impact of this belief is life-changing, but a life of time-clocks and dishes can consume our minds until our spirits take a back seat. A retreat takes us away from our responsibilities and distractions. It begins by offering space for attendees to become aware of God’s presence through group worship. Once we’re focused on the Creator of all good things, we begin to connect to His love for us. God gave us unique fingerprints, differing talents and ways of thinking. He sees us as individuals. When our hearts sense the way He looks at us, we stop comparing ourselves and find comfort and wholeness in our own identities. Once God has our attention, we can hand Him the struggles from home. When we’re elbow-deep in worry, we make a mess of things. When we center ourselves on God, faith grows and things fall into place.
Finding distance from the distractions of home, and focus through group worship, we open ourselves to companionship with our Maker. A good retreat allows solo time. At New Life Ranch, every cabin has a chair overlooking the lake. There’s a peaceful chapel with great acoustics which reminds me of the church where my grandparents used to take me as a kid. There’s also a prayer room overlooking the water. The prayer room is small and quiet, with a journal in which guests may write their prayers. Walking trails beckon, and the signposts display scriptures. In every place, God says, “Come, enjoy My presence.”
Being loved and eternal makes it easier to be authentic.
Goodness and mercy. When we experience God’s goodness and mercy, we want to reciprocate. We want to offer those things to others. Sometimes we have to be prompted, not because we’re selfish but because we’re shy. The leaders of the City Church retreat set the precedent on the first night. After worship, they gave us space to find a moment with God. Then they asked us to raise our hands if we needed prayer. Love and support surrounded the ladies with their hands up. They didn’t have to share their requests. God knows what they need, but He asks us to pray because everything is better together. The next morning, we prayed for each other again, this time more specifically. As women, we like to offer help in the form of advice, but first we just offered prayer, hugs, and unity.
Human beings want to connect with each other. It’s healthy and makes life more enjoyable. We need to connect in the right order, though. If we start by trusting in people, insecurity makes us volatile. We’re destined to be let down. When we first place our trust in the One who made us and knows where we’re going, we can be generous with ourselves. Instead of being volatile and insecure, we present trust as a gift. God’s got us, so we nurture an environment where vulnerability is safe and healing happens.
New Life Ranch is awesome, but you don’t have to go on a retreat to find your spiritual focus. If you haven’t met Jesus, I’d love to pray with you. If you have, then make time to nurture your spirit every day. Click here if you’d like a copy of my free guide to taking Spirit Breaks.
I’m loving this worship playlist. You might enjoy it as well.