Brave On was a safe space for my heart to rest and to shift. Who knew there could be a place with (gasp) a bunch of Christian women that also carried the adjective “safe”?!
I entered this big Red Tent feeling battle weary. A cross-country move from the desert to the rainforest had left me aching with deep grief and lonely to my core. I could count on one hand the number of hugs I had received in the last two months. Beyond that, I have baggage about Christian women, and the spaces where they congregate. We are not talking about Southwest’s fly free with two, but some serious baggage here, sisters. Plus, I don’t like shopping. A thrift store maybe, if I have a need for something; but not a flair for fashion kind of joy in the hunt.
On day zero and counting, there was a reception in a mall. I nearly bolted. On day one, boutiques were set up in the foyer. And I was in a church, big church, with a foyer. I felt alone.
It felt safer to judge. From my tower, I could see how things should have been structured differently to create safe space. I analyzed the food, and the clear bias toward coffee. It was too white, too rich, too surface. The music seemed familiar to everyone but me. I felt safer, sort of; and alone.
On day two, cracks began to appear in my resolve. Becky Allender’s tenderness softened me. Determined to preserve my fragile sense of safety, I strengthened the fortress. I swore on the phone at lunch, eating alone; smiling between at a passer-by. I felt less safe and more alone.
After lunch I made a choice to dive in. The first speaker back was a Texan. I don’t have baggage around Texas; Michigan roots my clan on both sides. In spite of myself, I cracked wide open. Jen Hatmaker said: “Sometimes a season doesn’t have to be bad for it to be done. It’s just over.” I felt tears, hot and unbidden, coming up. Yes. So much yes. These 40 years in the desert, thirty investing in one precious distressed neighborhood…done. Then she began to talk about the itty bitty committee. There was a cleaned up version, but the Texas remix rang true: “the itty bitty bull-s@#t committee”. These are the voices in your head who have lots of opinions about that new choice or risk you are about to take.
The walls crumbled. With tears, I began to fill pages of my journal with all the things the itty bitties had to say about this move for our family, which flowed from my decision to apply to grad school. Often, the voices carried a face and a name of real people who freely offered opinions thinly veiled as questions or concerns. An aha came: when I am 56 I will be, God willing, done with grad school, and a doctorate in midwifery. In four years, I will be 56 if I don’t apply. Either way, I am 56.
The itty bitties ran screaming down the hall, tripping over each other in their haste to leave.
I looked around the table in the dim light at these women, strangers to me all but one. I felt a kinship with them.
Somehow, we had come to this place, from Colorado and Indiana, Michigan and New England, Texas and Oregon. And we were here.
And that was enough.
We had come into the Tent. As women. To rest, to be replenished, to honor our moons and our mysteries. And this crazy big church was bold enough to host. That seems like a good starting point to me.
The itty bitties were quiet, and my heart was soft and open. The words and music fell like rain to this parched desert-girl’s heart. And just like that, it was done. I said goodbye with warm hugs to women who had been strangers 24 hours before.
I got on the plane, bound not for PHX but this new “home” called PDX. As I walked out of the airport, I was greeted by cool moisture instead of the old familiar “open the oven door” blast of heat. And there was my family, with hugs from my kids and my soul mate.
And it was enough to make me say these bold words….
”it’s good to be home”.
“How was Brave On?” they asked.
“Really good, actually…”
Funny enough, the itty bitties agreed.
Joanna Wilder is a midwife, a mama, and a keeper of her-story. She has a passion for community development, and walking with women. She is learning how much she doesn’t know. Read more of her writing here.