I returned yesterday afternoon from a beautiful retreat center nestled in the lovely village of Montecito. I found out about the retreat from the professor of one of my courses at Fuller, and signed up for various reasons, not knowing what to really expect. To my delight, however, the lovely leader, Kristen, came into our class the day before the retreat to briefly speak. She was a total kick in the pants, even a kindred spirit. It was for this and several other reasons that I was embarrassed and shocked when one of my peers in the class was so condescending to her. Here was an intelligent, articulate and studied woman trying to make a point, and when she paused to gather her thoughts, he raised his hand and offered “can I finish your thought?” and proceeded to tell her in essence, that she should have children because they are “healing” (see her blog where she recounts the incident with more detail). There are enough things wrong with what went down in that moment that I could rant out a whole other post that would probably not glorify God nor do anyone any good. So I’ll get back to my point.
Like I said, I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect at a retreat focusing on the issues involved in women’s sexuality and what we could really address in less than 48 hours together. I have been part of two or three Bible studies that attempted to address this topic, and often it took weeks before participants were willing to be honest about their self image, the things that had hurt them, or past experiences. I was surprised at the speed at which the leaders took our topic to the heart of the matter, rapidly creating an atmosphere of trust and even blunt honesty that I wish could happen just as quickly and gently at all women’s retreats. I was blown away at the number of women I could think of that I wished could have been there to participate. NOT because I could think of a list of women who were troubled, or needed fixing, but simply women who’d been hurt, or neglected, or believed a cruel word said to them. Women who still experience guilt or shame over some aspect of their body, appearance or femininity.
This retreat wasn’t a quick fix. In fact, I left holding onto permission from Christ that I am not some broken woman who needs to be sent off to be fixed–as if there is a one-stop-shop Jiffylube womanhood mechanic that can wipe my memory, lipo my belly, and do my hair and makeup in an afternoon. Sure, there’s some tender spots that Jesus and I can work on. Some grace I need to accept. This is something I think so many women need to recognize about themselves.