Written By: Cathie Ostapchuk
Last week a group of women leaders gathered in my backyard for our monthly ‘cliff-jumpers’ get-together, also affectionately titled “Ruth’s Table” (as our first and frequent gatherings were hosted at Ruth’s home, and my middle name is also Ruth).
We make sure it is a safe space to belong and just be girls together sharing our stories of ‘the life of a woman’. We lean in and listen with our hearts as updates on our personal, family, professional and ministry journies are shared. We cry when one of us is grieving and rejoice when one of us has a major milestone or achievement to celebrate. It’s sisterhood in the truest sense of the word, as we seek to encourage (put courage into) each other in the places needing confidence, and envision dreams for each other that still have yet to be brought into reality.
So, in our final gathering of the summer, we talked about Stones and Arrows.
As each woman held her stone, she was to identify something she had to leave behind that would not serve her well moving into her fall season, and into her future. It could be a relationship, a habit, a way of thinking, or an activity that would have be to be laid down in order to make room for something new.
As each woman contemplated her arrow, she was to write on it something new that she would focus on in the fall, to bring greater clarity and greater impact as she moved closer into her ‘sweet spot’ of purpose and service to others. What could be launched in the fall season that would require this intentional and prayer-filled focus? What could be possible by laying down her stone and making room for something new, something better?
Sometimes we want to move more strategically into the place of purpose where only we are meant to be, but fail to make the necessary changes to get there.
We dream of a different context, perhaps a different church, a different job, different friends, but forget that the most significant changes happen internally – when we ourselves become a woman being transformed by obedience, discernment, and making intentional and focused choices.
Many of us at our August gathering shared the need to lay down our stones of summer leisure, binge watching, social media, and late nights in order to pick up disciplines and healthy rhythms that would bring wellness and see us thrive spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. Some of us shared the need to lay down our crippling self-perceptions of our value as ‘less than’ in order to reclaim our identities as Image-Bearers, fashioned at birth with inherent value, regardless of our output or numbers of followers.
Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians, verses 24-27 (The Passion Translation):
“Isn’t it obvious that all runners on the racetrack keep on running to win, but only one receives the victor’s prize? Yet each one of you must run the race to be victorious. A true athlete will be disciplined in every respect, practicing constant self-control in order to win a laurel wreath that quickly withers. But we run our race to win a victor’s crown that will last forever. For that reason, I don’t run just for exercise or box like one throwing aimless punches, but I train like a champion athlete. I subdue my body and get it under my control, so that after preaching the good news to others I myself won’t be disqualified.”
So many of us have a call on our life to be Bible study teachers, preachers, and ambassadors of the word of God. What will help us stay in our lane and on our unique path is is our attention to the rigour required in being a follower of Christ, and seeing ourselves as champion athletes focused on winning the victor’s crown. Our Champion of Heaven has already crossed the finish line ahead of us and is urging us onward and forward, rooting for us, and calling us by name, saying, “Daughter, you’ve got this!”
After our gathering, one of girls left a breathless Facebook voice message saying she had just completed her second 5K without stopping and clearly had picked up her arrow to run like a champion.
What is the stone you need to lay down that will be a hindrance to you as you focus on your goal in the next season? Some of our stones have, in Paul’s words, just served as 'aimless punches' toward ambiguous goals. What word will you write on your arrow that will bring clarity to the new thing that you are called to in your next season? What do you desire to see launched that will require your full attention and commitment?
Here are four principles to help you as you enter a fall season with new opportunities, and the promise of God’s presence every step of your race.
1) Identify your Stone – what you will purposefully lay down in order to make room for something better.
2) Identify your Arrow – what ‘new thing’ is God calling you to ‘anchor up’ into – even though it is yet unseen? Where are you sensing God saying “it’s time”, even though you are not seeing it in external circumstances, but you know you are ready for in your heart?
3) Identify at least one spiritual, physical, emotional or mental discipline that you will commit to that will help move you from here to there.
4) Share your Stone and your Arrow with a trusted friend or squad. Ask them to track with you as you launch your arrow into a future that may still be unseen, but you know God has called to you.
On October 27, 2018, hundreds of women will gather in Ontario for Gather Women’s third signature national gathering, “Gather Rise = Her HOPE” and lean into this theme verse:
Romans 8:24 “For HOPE means that we must trust and wait for what is still unseen”
Even though you cannot see what you are trusting and waiting for, you can be preparing yourself like a champion and when God’s voice says, ‘Go now’ – you will propel yourself into your future like an arrow, with nothing hindering you on your race, and with everything to gain at the finish line, including God himself.
Lay down your stone, and pick up your arrow, girls. Lace up your running shoes and find your lane. The next race in the next season is yours to be won. Are you ready?