Create an Open Space to Experience Life Together

By Melissa McCreery

If I’m being really honest with myself — something I try to do from time to time — sometimes I don’t like women very much. Now I know what you’re all thinking. Um, but aren’t you a woman? Yes, I am. And while I like myself just fine (more or less) and I like my friends and my mom and a number of other amazing beauties in my life, I just don’t love women as a whole— the group of them.

And I know for a fact I’m not alone. Yes, I’m looking at you. You, who always has a very convenient reason to not attend the yearly (or heaven forbid monthly) women’s event at your church. You, who would rather go with the guys to the baseball game than your second Mary Kay party of the year.

All too often, us women do a far better job of tearing each other down than building each other up. We compare ourselves to each other and beat ourselves up if we come up short. We judge ourselves based on how we measure up to our Pinterest selves — (come on, you know you do!) We can be too harsh and too quick to judge (ourselves as much as others). Rather than celebrating in each other’s successes and triumphs, we notice every stumble and flaw.

I’m know I’m guilty of this.

So imagine my surprise when I felt God tugging — in his still and sure way— on my heart, and convicting me about my love/hate relationship with my gender. I’ve since found myself repeatedly drawn to women, so many of whom are leading voices in Kingdom work.

God created women in his image — So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27). We— each of us — have a specific role to fill in this world. One centered on the unique gifts and passions God gave us. One focused on love and leadership and service and affirmation. While our specific callings and passions may vary, in order to fulfill our calling well we need a community of women (and men) to support, encourage and affirm us. We need churches and ministries that do the same.

I’m incredibly fortunate and beyond blessed to be able to travel around the world for my job, and can I tell you something I’ve noticed? While there are many universal characteristics of women all around the world (there’s a reason Maybelline is sold in more than 129 countries worldwide) I think those of us in the United States have a few things to learn from our peers around the world, who have overcome the isolation and fear of transparency and built beautiful, safe open spaces for honesty and collaboration.

On a recent trip to Jerusalem, I met a group of women who were members of The Parent’s Circle — an organization for Palestinians and Israelis who have lost a direct member of their family to the conflict permeating the Holy Land. As I sat across from these women, I couldn’t even begin to imagine walking in their shoes. Israeli women who have lost their sons, daughters and husbands at the hands of Palestinians were cooking, working, sharing, and laughing (yes, laughing!) alongside Palestinian women who had lost their sons, daughters, and husbands at the hands of the Israelis. Together, they are working to create an open space to dialogue about the conflict in the region and to promote peacemaking efforts. Together, they are loving one another and loving their communities. Together, they are living life.

I can say the same of the women of Musalaha — non-profit organization that seeks to promote reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, as demonstrated in the life and teaching of Jesus.

I can say the same of the women I met in Phnom Penh, Cambodia who were survivors of sex trafficking and chose to face their demons and work alongside other women to share their experiences and to rehabilitate young girls just recently rescued from that life.

Can I say the same of myself?

Can you say the same of yourself and your community?

I think in many cases I can. I’m optimistic and encouraged by gatherings such as The Well Conference, Kilns College, and others around the world that are creating space for women (and men) to grow and flourish.

And if these women around the world can come together in community and in Christ— through some of the most horrific circumstances, I have hope that we can bridge the divide between mothers and those of us who are not; between stay-at-home moms and mothers who work outside the home; between democrats and republicans; between those with means and those struggling to pay their bills; between Christians and non-Christians.

If a self proclaimed “Avoider of Women” such as myself can be transformed and inspired by women around the world, and prodded to share in this crazy journey with others, then there is hope for all of us.

Women, let’s embrace the open spaces in our lives that allow us to be honest and brave and compassionate. Let’s collaborate and grow and learn together.

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Categories: Innovation & Leadership,Justice & Culture

Melissa McCreery earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science from University of Southern California and her Master’s Degree in Higher Education from Harvard University. She has experiences as an admissions coordinator, communications liaison and academic researcher. Currently she is the Executive Vice President of Kilns College in Bend, Oregon.

Theology and Culture