When our family moved to a small town in Vermont nine months ago, we joined a church unlike any other we’d ever experienced. Previously, we’d ended up in churches where the majority of the congregation was just like us: while dating and then newly married in Manhattan, we attended a mega-church composed primarily of single young professionals; when we moved to California for graduate school and started having babies, we went to a church plant made up mostly of grad students and young families.
The church we now call home is small: roughly 60 people in the pews on Sundays. But those people are an amazing cross-section of small town New England. The youngest member of the congregation is our one-year-old, the oldest is ninety-one. Sitting in church, I can often see four generations of multiple families sitting together. It’s a vibrant, loving, God-centered community.
But, sometimes, this diversity can feel a little lonely. There are only three other families with children the same age as ours; in the nursery, our three daughters frequently make up more than half of the class.
Lonely was my mindset as I drove to our church’s Women’s Prayer Breakfast last month. I was coming off two weeks in which our entire family had been sick, gray winter was dragging into March, and life just felt a little stuck. Now, at a women’s gathering at either of our old churches, I would have been surrounded by women who were going through the exact same things I was. We would have commiserated over sick children and stressed husbands, and left feeling refreshed, encouraged that we weren’t alone.
At this prayer breakfast, I was the only person representing my current life stage (which I’d describe as “at home with three children aged 4 and under”). Most of the other women there had at least a decade on me.
But guess what? I did leave feeling refreshed and encouraged, just not in the way I expected.
“Did they tell you that it gets easier?” my husband asked me, later that day.
“No!” I wailed, “It just gets harder!”
Because I may be exhausted, stretched thin, diapered out, and missing adult conversation. BUT I’m not yet at the stage of caring for aging parents. I’m not yet at the stage of watching my children’s lives get seriously hard and not being able to help. I’m not yet at the stage of supporting friend after friend through life-threatening illnesses. I’m not yet at the stage of making tough decisions about retirement. If there’s one thing these women taught me, it’s that life most definitely does not get easier.
That would seem pretty hopeless, except that they taught me something else.
As these women shared about their lives, I realized that each one was really saying: it’s possible to live through DECADES OF HARD, and to still trust God. These women have walked through EVERYTHING I’m currently dealing with – and more – and they still show up at 8:30 prayer breakfasts.
And these women are BEAUTIFUL. I’m not talking supermodel beautiful, I mean that they SHINE. A rough composite of the kind of woman I’m talking about: someone who’s raised 3.5 children (with a few animals thrown in), works with the underprivileged, and in her spare time takes in stray children.
Here’s why I think they shine: Remember in Exodus when Moses wants to see God’s glory? God puts him in the cleft of the rock and lets Moses see his back as he passes. When Moses returns to the Israelites, his face is so shiny from God’s glory that they can’t even look at him. I think that these women are a bit like Moses. Every hard thing they’ve trusted God with has been like a cleft in the rock where they got a peek at God’s glory. These women are teaching me that, as life goes on, it doesn’t get easier, but by trusting God through the hard, you will get shinier.