When was the church not able to support you? How did it fail to serve you or allow you to serve? When were your needs not met?
Mim, single woman – “When the family was together I always got the couch. I was the odd person.” Mim recently had a group of singles over to her home. One shared that after she broke up with a boyfriend, another married woman in the church sat her down and said, “Do you realize this might have been your only chance to get married?” People assume that you need to be with a guy to be happy. A possible response to the question might be, “Do you realize I may have just missed my perfect chance for a terrible marriage?”
Dot, married with no children – “This was not a church setting, but it could have been. I was expressing to someone that even though I haven’t been able to have children, I never felt like it was the only thing that I needed to fulfill me. There was silence on the other end of the line like she just could not understand. That hurt.”
Sabrina, stay-at-home-mom – There are many young mothers in the church who feel hurt by comments that give us an idea about expectations for young families.
Louella, widow to Naomi – “My pastor told me that pastors’ wives find it hard to have close friends in the church.”
Naomi, stay-at-home-mom – “As a pastor’s wife, none of my relationships should make others feel excluded.”
Carla, career woman – “I want you to accept me for what I have been called to do. I don’t mind telling you what I do, but I don’t want to be portrayed as superwoman. I don’t want to be on anyone’s pedestal. I can’t live up to that. I want someone to say ‘That must be hard,’ but just know that that is what you have been called to do. Recognition that if that is what I have been called to do, God is walking beside me caring for me, because that is what I am to do.”
Elnora, divorced – “[It hurt] when people didn’t know what to do with a divorced woman. The most hurtful things people would say were when my marriage was failing and they made me feel like I should be a better wife, or as a single mom, people thinking that I didn’t know how to control my kids.”
Martha, widow – As pastor’s wife, “people would see me sitting alone on the bench with my kids while Wesley was preaching, and after would make the comment ‘My, she has her hands full.’”
Naomi, stay-at-home-mom – “Many times I felt like I could be a circus, entertaining people behind me.”
Lynette, facilitator – “We have to remember: this is the cup I am to drink. Many of the things you have said have touched me deeply.” Words carry a lot of power in the church and in relationships. Rumors can spread. Words cannot be gathered. “I have had to say that it is okay. So what? If it is not true, just live your life. I have been a people-pleaser forever. So, one way to stop being that…. I have hope. I am trying to do the kinds of things that are not just about my pain. I want to support others.”
The following conversation is part of the panel’s discussion of how to respond to these hurts.
Mim, single woman – “We need to give each other grace, but I think it is okay for us to say it like it is, so people know that what they have said is perceived as hurt. Sometimes we can hurt people by remaining silent about the hurt.”
Carla, career mom – “Broadening our worldview is important. We need to have honest communication with each other. Can we be brave enough to ask questions and find out about the dividing walls? It takes a lot of courage to do that because you are putting yourself out there and you have to face what you may have said to hurt someone.”
Phyllis, support staff – “When you educate women you are helping others from your sphere.”