I am usually pretty good at packing a suitcase. This summer, however, it was a whole different story! For our 25thwedding anniversary, my husband and I went to Rhode Island to tour the old mansions and enjoy the tastes of the waterfront. We travel for food and we are not ashamed to say it! We arrived at our hotel, threw down our suitcases and headed out to explore the town. It wasn’t until we stopped back at our hotel that I realized I had done the unthinkable!
When I unzipped my suitcase and opened it up, what I saw took me by surprise! Inside of my suitcase, there were NO clothes! There were no clothes in my suitcase! I clearly remembered getting my clothes together, I just never had that moment when I put them in the bag! I was on my 25thwedding anniversary trip and I had forgotten to pack my clothes!
I stood silently staring into my empty bag, hoping that I was just seeing things, unsure of how to break this news to my husband. Shopping on vacation is definitely not his idea of fun! In a quiet voice, I shared with him the truth I had just uncovered. He looked at me, not knowing what to say, shook his head and out we went! We walked into a clothing store, found the clearance rack and started looking for my size. A lady from the store asked me if she could help me find anything. She had no idea what was coming her way!
I smiled at her and said, ‘Yes, please. I am here on my 25thanniversary trip…’ She interrupted me to congratulate me. I thanked her and then continued… ‘My husband and I just arrived today, and when I opened my suitcase to unpack, it seems I forgot to pack my clothes.’ You can only imagine the response. She had no idea what to say, no idea where to start, no idea what to suggest. She said she would be right back, went to the front desk and shared with her co-worker the mishap of the woman shopping on the clearance rack!
Within a matter of minutes, everyone working in the store that night knew my story, and everyone shopping in the store did, too. I mean, really, it is not uncommon to forget a thing or two, but to go on vacation and forget allof your clothes? While the news of my packing fail was going around the store, I found a pair of shorts and a few t shirts that worked, got in line, and that is when the conversation began.
One woman behind me asked, ‘Are you the one who forgot to pack your clothes? Oh, you must have children, I understand how that could happen! I bet you were running around trying to take care of them before you took care of yourself…’
Another woman said, ‘You doing this makes me feel so much better about myself, I forget things all of the time and I thought I was the only one who would do something like this!’
Another woman opened up by saying, ‘Oh that reminds me of the time when I did something so similar….’
One by one the women in the line started sharing their experiences, sharing their failures, times when they had not met the standard, times they didn’t get it all right. What started as a conversation about clothing became a conversation about life, because let’s face it, we all struggle! No one gets it right all of the time.
Sharing my story allowed others to share theirs. Sharing my weakness led to women I had never met telling me things about themselves that I would never have imagined. Sharing my struggle became a launching point to start conversations with women around me. Everyone in the store began talking, no longer about me, they were talking about them.
Women were connecting. An invisible thread was being sewn as one by one we laughed, shared our weaknesses and encouraged each other because women were created to connect. There is a piece of us that longs to connect with other women, to share our struggles, the places where we are vulnerable, to have someone listen, to hear us and then to pray.
Women struggle. Who knows how many women in our churches, communities, in our families are struggling with feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, fear, anxiety and would be encouraged by the honesty of another woman saying it’s alright, I have been there, too. I have had my share of failures and mistakes, but let me tell you about Jesus and how He set me free, and the conversation begins. One woman ministering to one woman…who will in turn minister to one woman…and on and on it goes.
It takes just one woman to be real, but it requires a first step, that first courageous conversation, the moment when we let down our guard and let God use our struggle for His glory. There is just something beautiful about women connecting with other women. Women who share their struggles can be game changers in the Kingdom of God.
As I walked out of the store that evening, women working, women in line and women still shopping waved goodbye and wished me a happy anniversary. People who were strangers upon entering the store were now conversing as if they had always planned on being there together. The atmosphere in the whole store had changed, all because one woman shared her struggle. It can happen in our churches, in our women’s programs, in our communities and in our homes.
In a world of filters and perfect posts, it’s okay for us to be real! God used one empty suitcase to impact a store full of women. Just imagine how many hearts He can impact through your struggle today!
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT)