A continuation of my experiences in Nicaragua and as usual I do not know how to tell my story with an economy of words…
Just as I had done on Monday night, I took questions after each of the Tuesday night sessions of our women’s conference. I wish I could remember all that the ladies asked me; I do remember them asking how long I’d taught women, how to best discipline a child when the husband isn’t engaged in the discipline process, and whether I had copies of my notes to give them. That last question drew a great deal of embarrassment on my part; I really intended to have some handouts translated for them but in the craziness that marked the week prior to my leaving for Nicaragua, well, I never got around to it. I felt terrible. And rightfully so.
I was also asked about women’s roles and whether the wife really had to submit to her husband. My answer: yes, she does. As I attempted to explain and defend Biblical womanhood, asserting that though men and women were equal they had differing and complementary roles, I was met with some skepticism and the usual circumstantial “what if…” sorts of questions. Additionally, some of the ladies at the conference wanted to know if I taught men (no) and why I did not. Some asked about divorce and remarriage and the Biblical grounds for each.
Intense stuff. I loved it though because 1) it meant they realized God’s Word is intended to be lived out and obeyed in every area of our lives and 2) it showed me that a woman’s concern for her husband and children is universal. We’re all women; we all love our families; we all want to be good stewards of our roles as wives and moms.
Given the complexity and sheer number of questions I was getting concerning divorce and remarriage and given my lack of preparedness to adequately give a complete explanation, I emailed my husband that night asking him to see if our family pastor could email me his notes from a series of Sunday School lessons he recently taught on that very subject. My plan was to take our second session on Wednesday night and teach on God’s design for marriage and what the Bible had to say about divorce and remarriage.
Interestingly enough, when our pastor sent me the notes he told me that Eric, our team leader teaching the men’s and pastor’s conferences, had emailed him asking for the same notes! Turns out this issue was of number one priority to the pastors meeting with Eric and David. Eric planned to address it Wednesday morning when they met with the area pastors.
Turns out it was number one priority to their wives on Wednesday morning as well. Julie presented a wonderful crash course in evangelism after which Amy and I again asked the ladies what was on their minds and hearts. I think we were both unprepared for the intensity of the women’s concerns! They honestly wanted to know how God’s Word addressed a specific situation concerning a couple in their church; yet with so many women talking at once, and through a translator at that, Amy and I were both confused and uneasy about making a definitive statement regarding what may or may not be the correct course of action.
I deflected as much as I could–I hadn’t read through my pastor’s notes yet! Divorce and remarriage are tough issues for the church even in the States, I told them. Theologians have studied and debated and have yet to reach a consensus. So much depends on the circumstance and the hearts and motivations of those involved. In many cases there is no hard and fast rule. “Your husbands are discussing this very thing,” I asserted. “Listen to your pastors and elders. Respect their authority. Abide by their decision.”
Well, it got a little frantic (you know how women are when they get something on their mind). I finally went for help, interrupting the pastoral discussion to ask Eric or David to talk to the women. David told the ladies essentially the same thing Amy and I did but it sounds better coming from a man, which may have been the point all along. I loved that they so wanted to be obedient and firmly believed God’s way was the best way. It was determining God’s way that proved difficult! One sweet older lady just smiled at me and patted her Bible each time the discussion grew especially earnest. I think they appreciated David’s counsel. I know I did!
Wednesday night’s sessions were on Holiness. I was woefully ill prepared (due to the aforementioned craziness that was my life just prior to leaving for Nicaragua). I spent Wednesday afternoon in frantic mode, madly scribbling out notes for the evening’s teaching. And can I just say that lesson prep is SO MUCH easier via keyboard than pen and paper?
We were told not to expect as many women as we had on Tuesday since Tuesday was the regular church night. They were wrong. It was standing room only again, and once again the men had to bring in chairs and benches. So many women! What a privilege to encourage them with God’s Word!
After the incredible, amazing evening we had together in the study of God’s Word on Tuesday, Wednesday night we crashed and burned. Or, rather, I crashed and burned. I wasn’t prepared (my fault) and it showed. We couldn’t get a rhythm, Maricela and I, and for whatever reason the whole session fell flat.
Part of me was so disappointed to end on such a down note in my estimation. Really, though, I am glad for those less-than-stellar experiences where I end up more on a low than a high. I don’t like it necessarily but I can be glad for it because it reminds me that it is the Lord’s work and not my own. He grants the increase of any seed sown, not I and certainly not my eloquence or passion or wise and persuasive words. I think of Paul’s assertion to the Corinthians that he did not come to them with lofty speech or wisdom but rather in weakness and fear and much trembling (hello, I can so relate); he wanted his message to be a demonstration of the Spirit and of power in order that the Corinthians’ faith might not rest in the wisdom or eloquence of man but in the power of God. Yes and amen. May it be so in me as well…
On our way to the conference, Eric suggested the women join the men for the second session. So at the conclusion of Eric’s sermon, the pastor invited our whole team, men and women, to the front of the church. He asked for words of testimony from the conference attendees; one of the men spoke but the women were shy and none stepped up except for the pastor’s wife. Through the translator she thanked me for my teaching, teaching that was “different.” Different is good, right? And her summary of what I taught the ladies? To submit to their husbands!
I told Amy later: days and days of preparation (not enough however), 5 hours of teaching on the call of Christ to Surrender, Brokenness and Holiness, and what do they remember? My answer to submit to their husbands during the question and answer time! Hello, humility!
I don’t mind, really. If that is their takeaway then it is a good one indeed.
The pastor then prayed for us and the conference, the mission we came to do, it was over. Before leaving the church, most of the 50 or so women in attendance shook my hand, kissed me on the cheek, or hugged me. “The Lord bless you,” they told me through Maricela. I attempted the blessing in return though I never could remember the Spanish phrase. “Come back to us,” they implored. “Pray for us. Do not forget us.”
How could I forget?
I will not.
Indeed, I can not.