The ministry of women relating
The other night I found myself on a video chat with some rather fabulous women. We chatted about our lives and our work, all interwoven with observations on ministry, the Bible and applied theology. It was warm and organic and salty (as in, seasoned with the salt of the gospel!) and when we finished up it was late (relative to my sad early bedtime preference) but I felt so uplifted.
It had “filled my cup” as they say. And why do they say that?
Psalm 23:5 says “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
The psalmist (David in this case) is describing God’s abundant goodness that is so great that it fills him up to over-flowing – he has more of God’s goodness than he actually needs. And that’s how I felt that night. My cup was filled to over-flowing by the good company of those Christian women and the time we shared together. And yes, my cup was filled with time well spent and good conversation and engagement with Christian sisters, but my cup was filled by the goodness of God. He brought me into the company of those women. He gave each of us time and wisdom to use it with each other.
The time was a sacrifice – I’m sure there were other things each of us could have been doing – but there was opportunity to relate to each other and God clearly knew better than each of us that that’s what would fill each of our cups.
So we should not underestimate the power of women getting together to just talk and relate. It is one of the gifts that God gave us as women and it is recognised scientifically. While women stereotypically are better relationally and men are better cognitively (ie relationship versus task orientation), science does suggest that gender differences in empathy have roots in biology.* Specifically, ontogenesis and phylogenesis. Ontogenesis is the state of being – our development from single cell to full human. Phylogenesis is our evolutionary development. So what science suggests is that women have an innate biological predisposition to stronger empathy (and therefore) relational ability which then is amplified through evolutional development over millennia.
God made us this way. He lovingly created us to relate and share for lots of different reasons, but including encouraging and building each other.
You see a woman’s world can be broad. It generally takes us out into the world through work, chores and so on. But a woman’s world can also be quite solitary in the home. We will got to church and Bible study and Titus 2:3-5 talks about women discipling women and particularly inter-generational ministry. But we shouldn’t underestimate the need for simple relating. Not in work. Not in Bible study. Not gossiping or moaning or having therapy session over coffee (although having a vent and a bit of therapy is not to be knocked either!). Just a group of Christian women relating, sharing and allowing their cups to be filled with God’s goodness.
It’s something that falls into the category of “the ministry of small things” but this makes these things no less significant or profound. God made us this way and he delights to lavish so much goodness on us that our cups overflow. So we should use the good gifts that he gave us in our feminine creation. We should create spaces to let those gifts be exercised. Because empathy and relational gifts are like love – they only grow. So in creating spaces like these, our gifts will connect with the gifts of others and be amplified and strengthened, and God will be glorified.
From time to time, think about connecting over coffee (or with a coffee over Zoom) with some Christian women to just relate over Christian parenting, life, the world, the Bible, our pets, what we’re cooking at the moment, church, Scripture, how our kids are doing, how we should relate biblically to our parents. Allow it to meander. Let it be organic. Let it be gospel salty.
Let your cup be filled. And let God be glorified.
* Leonardo Christov-Moore, Elizabeth A. Simpson, Gino Coudé, Kristina Grigaityte, Marco Iacoboni, and Pier Francesco Ferrari Empathy: Gender effects in brain and behavior https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5110041/