January 8, 2013
I love hot tea. And hot tea always reminds me of Betty.
About sixteen years ago, I think it was on Tuesday evenings, five of us young women would sit around Betty's oval shaped kitchen table for Bible study. Warm tea was always waiting for us, in a lovely porcelain teapot, sometimes adorned by a knitted tea cozy. Our small teacups sat before us ready for tea.
Betty's house was quiet except for us in the kitchen. Her husband was usually either still out at the office or someplace else in the house. Their two adult children had long left home.
I was fortunate to find Betty's Bible study. My church was big, and at the time Bible Studies and Small Groups were organized based on your lifestyle. Whatever group you fit into based on your age, marital status and such, pretty much determined much of what you were involved in at the church. If you were single, you went to the Singles Bible study, if you were married with young kids, you attended the Married with Kids Bible study and so on.
Feeling limited in the Singles group, I eventually ventured outside that group to find something more compatible with what God was doing in me and my life at the time. I discovered a Sunday morning Bible Study at the church, with adults of varying ages and marital statuses. Someone there told me about Betty's Bible study.
One of the things I most cherished about Betty was her authenticity. She and I met for breakfast a few times outside of the study. I remember her sharing with me that when she no longer had the energy to keep up with her husband, she made the decision to no longer accompany him when he traveled on short term mission trips with the church. For her to say, "Honey, I can't" was a courageous thing.
Christian women think they must do and be everything, especially when it comes to church ministry and even more when it's something their husband is a part of.
Not only was it courageous but when she shared it, I remember thinking how unusual it was for her, a seasoned Christian mentor and leader, to share a personal side of herself that way. I admired her for doing so.
Betty also shared that growing up in the church had not been easy for her, and that the church could be downright cruel at times. As an adult she had to work through her relationship with God and learn to see him as a loving God, not the punisher she'd learned to believe He was.
Betty was the first "open" Imperfect Christian Woman that I had met. Imperfect in the sense that she was not afraid to be real and reveal her flaws. All the other women leaders I'd seen or met had never done that. I got the impression that they were nearly perfect. Betty had no idea how her authenticity made an impact on me.
Like Betty, I also grew up seeing God as a punisher rather than a loving Father. Because of Betty I realized I needed to begin to understand God in the right way. And much later as a wife, I remembered Betty when I had to tell my husband, "Honey, I can't" when he wanted us to be in a ministry together that God had not called me to.
Betty was in her 60's at the time. She grew up in an era where women did not share their flaws or even admit having them. It wasn't the proper (or pretty) thing to do.
It was an honor to be in Betty's company. Through her, God was implanting in me the need to be my real, Imperfect self. I had spent practically my entire life in a tug of war between my Imperfect self and the Perfect outward facade that started when I was a young girl. I continued to spend many more years in that tug-of-war, but Betty watered the Imperfect seed that I am now attempting to live out.
I knew that Betty was quietly unique and outside the box. Her husband had a prominent career and was one of the church founders. I'd never seen her on the church stage. But I know she made an impact on all of the women who came across her path and sat at her kitchen table.
The wonderful thing about the Bible study was that even though Betty was our mentor, she valued our voices and what we had to say. It wasn't a robotic study where we simply went around the table answering question #1, #2, #3 and #4. Nor was it a one-woman monologue while we sat as passive listeners.
Sometimes we got off the study a bit and would ask Betty about other Christian related matters. We once had questions about women's roles in the church, and Scriptures that we didn't understand. One of those Scriptures being "a woman must be silent in the church."
"But I don't want to be quiet," one woman blurted.
As we all laughed there was comfort in knowing we were in a safe place where we could share, be open with one another and learn from someone who had gone before us.
I share this story to say that when we are transparent and share our Imperfect selves, we let others know that it's okay for them to be real too. We let them know that a relationship with Christ is not about perfection. When we are openly Imperfect, God can do His best work in us. We need more leaders like Betty in the church...Unafraid of being Imperfect...Passing on the stamp of approval to be real.