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What an "Experience"!

September 23, 2008 - Betsy Bethel
This is for you women: Have you ever met or known a woman about whom you admire EVERYTHING?

I mean, she has it all: handsome and attentive husband, successful career or volunteer work, adorable children, manicured nails, professionally highlighted hair and, gosh-darnit, a great personality, too.

If you feel discouraged in any way about your own life, sometimes when you cross paths with Mrs. Perfect, it makes you feel anything but.

I have discovered it's a mistake to feel that way, however, for a couple reasons. First, comparing yourself to anyone is never good. It leads either to an inflated ego or a false sense of insecurity.

Second, Mrs. Perfect is anything but.

The fact is we all struggle. Four potential Mrs. Perfects proved that before my very eyes on Saturday night at The Experience Ministry's sixth annual women's event. Billed as a life-affirming event, a place where women could come as they are, with whatever baggage they carry, and meet others like them. A place where today's struggling women -- whether single or married; moms, daughters or grandmas -- could feel supported and encouraged.

After a time of high-voltage worship fueled by the 12-piece Experience Praise Band (w-o-w what a sound!), a panel of four Christian women set up chairs in front. Among them were Jo Lynne Nugent, a Wheeling divorce attorney; Debbie Wood, director of the YWCA Family Violence Prevention Program; Carrie McKenzie, wife of Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie; and The Experience Ministry co-founder Linda Seidler.

Each woman is successful in her own way, and at first glance one might see each as having it all together. But as the four attractive blondes (Linda swears she didn't plan it that way!) began to speak, they opened up their lives -- right down to the nitty gritty.

Debbie spoke of the immeasurable pain of an out-of-the-blue divorce after 30 years of marriage.

Carrie revealed how difficult it was to forgive the man who shot and killed her father in a hunting accident; and how, eight months ago, she was furious at God when her 3-week-old baby girl died.

Jo Lynne confessed to having been a loose cannon whose angry outbursts nearly cost her her marriage.

Linda spoke of how hurt and angry she was when her husband, Tim, refused to go to church with her and the kids ... and how she tried to "save" him herself instead of letting God take care of it (which He did ... in His time).

Listening to these women talk about their unforgiving attitudes, their anger, their bitterness, their loneliness, the hardest things they've had to face in their lives, made me feel a kindredness to them. They are just like me -- OK, maybe not with identical struggles, but with struggles nonetheless. These women, trusting in God to work through them, made themselves completely vulnerable and transparent to this audience of strangers. And they left with about 100 new sisters.

There was no question in my mind what God wanted me to learn from this event. Using Jesus as an example, I needed to put aside the anger and bitterness I felt toward a certain family member and forgive her. God showed me that I needed to think of her as a kindred spirit -- a woman and a mom -- not an enemy, and that she was hurting. I learned that forgiving her didn't make everything that happened "OK." I learned that harboring such anger was only damaging myself, my family and my relationship with God.

I called the family member immediately after leaving the event. I forgave her. I felt a huge weight lift off me. I then asked for her forgiveness for anything I'd done to hurt her. I felt even lighter.

Before we hung up, I asked if she needed prayer for anything. She hesitated, not really pinpointing anything but finally answering "wisdom, guidance and patience."

The next morning, unexpectedly, she called me. She had another prayer request -- for her and her siblings. Their father died that morning. She said "it was really something" that God "told" me to call her last night ... "because he knew I was going to need a friend this morning."

Thank you, Linda, Jo Lynne, Debbie, Carrie and the other team members for putting yourselves out there and being "real" with us Saturday night. Lives have been changed because of it.


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