I zipped my suitcase tight with everything I needed for the weekend but forgot one thing. I looked at my husband and confessed, “I can’t remember why I signed up for this.” Why was I flying across the country to spend several days at a conference with Christian women? Hadn’t I learned my lesson?
Some of my favorite memories are with women circled around God’s Word — studying, learning, and growing together. Some of my most painful memories, however, also involve circles of women. We’re a funny breed, with great potential in either direction.
Standing at the airport’s curb, I wanted to climb back into our minivan, drive home, and forget this crazy notion of flying thousands of miles to meet women I didn’t even know. But then, while holding my suitcase on the airport curb with taxis whizzing past us, I remembered why I signed up to attend.
I’d withdrawn from the church I’d been serving in. My small group had splintered and left everyone bleeding or nursing a grudge. I preferred the company of bloggers after that. Bloggers are tiny thumbnail pictures with people on the other side of a screen. If anything happens to get crossways, you can turn off your computer and go about your day.
But God’s voice continued to penetrate my heart: Trust Me. Love others.
So with a prayer and a plane ticket, I flew across the country to meet some women in person — to bridge the distance between our computers.
For three days I listened to speakers and observed women doing life and ministry together, both on stage and off. I witnessed women in ministry — not women in misery. They weren’t in competition with each other; rather, they were serving one another. They were for each other.
My heart began to heal that weekend as God restored my deep desire to see women transformed by His Word. Yes, bad experiences between women can, and likely will, happen. When it’s bad, it’s really bad. But when it’s good, it’s really good. And what I want more than anything is for women to come together and experience the beauty that comes from women ministering to women.
I want to build bridges in the kingdom. Bridges between women. And bridges between churches. Because God has already created the greatest Bridge of all through His Son, Jesus, who bridges the gap between God and us.
After that weekend conference, I found myself investing in women, more and more, in an online ministry context, which wasn’t a bad thing at all. But the more time I spent at my computer, the less time I spent in my local community. So I asked God to show me what I should do. Should I log off forever? Or keep going like it’s no big deal?
When I prayed, a picture came to mind of an ash tree on our street that had been completely uprooted during a windstorm. The tree’s anchor hadn’t held.
It’s a good picture of our local and online lives. The leafy, visible portion of the tree is like our online life and the root system our local life.
The height and health of our online reach will mirror how deeply we’re connected to our local community and invested in our local church.
As wonderful as online connections can be, we still need to be intentional about planting our roots deep in our local community and our home church.
The image of that tree has become my analogy for ministry — to be globally minded while also locally grounded. Not everyone will feel called to a “global” kind of ministry. And that’s okay. But every believer is called to be an ambassador for Christ wherever they call home (2 Corinthians 5:20), which is why it’s so important for us as believers to be rooted in the community we live in, serving our families and neighborhoods and local churches.
I recently visited the Descanso Gardens near Pasadena. There’s a section called the Oak Forest because massive oaks stand next to each other, with their foliage so thick the sun can’t reach the earth. While strolling beneath their shade, Isaiah’s words came to mind: “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3).
I imagined the roots beneath my feet, mingled together deep underground. Unlike the ash tree on my street that had fallen during a storm, these oaks were still standing, and they were standing together.
That’s the picture Isaiah gave — God’s people, standing together and standing strong. Together, we can become oaks of righteousness, serving one another in our neighborhoods and our churches.
This is an excerpt from Deeper Waters by Denise J. Hughes.
The height and health of our online reach will mirror how deeply we’re connected to our local community and invested in our local church. -@DeniseJHughes: Click To Tweet