There was a game I enjoyed during childhood that we called, “Mother, may I?” One person was selected to be “mother,” and the remaining players would form a straight line, and ask “mother” permission to move forward, in baby steps, larger steps and giant steps. Sometimes “mother” would allow the movement, other times, movement was immediately denied if the player failed to first state, “Mother, may I?” before submitting the request. The first player to make it to the across the line akin to where “mother” was standing was crowned the winner and the ability to become “mother.” As engaging as the game was, it was truly steeped in favoritism. Some players were granted affirmative consent for each request, while others floundered in the background the entire game. It was quite evident that connections afforded mobility. Often this game was played primarily with the females in the community. Funny how I’d not thought about the game until this past week as I prepared to speak to females at a women’s conference and following a less than positive experience with another woman. The memory of the game prompted me to wonder about what questions we might ask of each other as women and subsequently, what responses we may expect in return.
Sister, may I share wisdom with you that I gained either as a result of obedience or defiance? Sister, may I offer the difficulty of consequences, particularly when said consequences are negative and not in your best interest? Sister, may I expect that you consider the history that we’ve had with each other as opposed to a single incident manifested through the communication of a third party? Sister, may I anticipate your concerns to be shared in a Biblical framework rather than flesh? Sister, may I offer you love even when it shows up in a diverse form by which you’ve become accustomed? No matter how much we may desire, if any of the aforementioned questions are posed, one may find herself immobile in the game, waiting for one’s sister to speak YES!
Ruth and Naomi were what I like to refer to as the power couple as far as two women are concerned; with possibly Mary and Martha coming a close second, or even a tie with Elizabeth and Mary. Whomever you put your lipstick on, there is one additional person who found herself in the Ruth and Naomi paradox. Ruth 1:15 states, “Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law is going back home to live with her own people and gods; go with her.” Orpah made a different decision. No need for her to ask “Mother, may I” because Naomi presented both of her daughter-in-laws the extension to depart. One found herself immobile to the request, and the other crossed over the line of “mother” and kept it moving. It doesn’t appear that favoritism played a role since both Ruth and Orpah found themselves to be widows and were encouraged to depart. Yet, Orpah made a different decision. She went off alone. It is critically important to recall that just because we have expectation of our sister, doesn’t always mean that she is in a place to respond in the manner that we desire. Perhaps we are in prime position to consider the mechanics of Orpah. Let’s go deeper.
Sister, may I offer you to make an Orpah decision? A primary example is when your self care is harming others. I’ve been on the receiving end of witnessing when another sister is practicing the ability to take care of herself, for her mental, physical, emotional and even spiritual being. Yet, this can be enacted in a methodology whereby those around her are being negatively impacted. If you find yourself in the workplace and everyone is over extended because of you, thereby impacting their own ability and resources to be mindful of their health , it may be in your best interest to take an Orpah. When you are not actively engaged in the application of wisdom in your life, it is likely best that you don’t make a failed attempt to a sister who needs wise counsel. If anything, you might suggest that the both of you go to the Lord in prayer, to collectively seek what you stand in need. Further, when you are walking by flesh, take an Orpah until you get your flesh under subjection to the will and move of God and leave the vulnerability of your sister to the Father. Life will always present interruption, and if God has instructed that you carry out an assignment without the voices of oner in your head – get to Orpahning! As you find yourself in a space of listening prayer, Orpah yourself away to hear the voice of God for instruction, affirmation, mysteries and the like and fully embrace and experience the peace of God. Finally, it is important to consider that simply because you desire the ideal for your sister, she may not be in a place of understanding to see the benefit. If you’ve not had as much basic interaction with her and then attempt to leap to a spiritual connection, you may find yourself stuck on the wall, the last to leave the playspace. Before we may become someone else’s liberation, we must first become our own. And when we have become our own liberation, we must be patient while using Godly tactics to offer her love, while allowing God to offer her the correction as she becomes free. The next time you find yourself in peril with another sister, just pause to consider that perhaps she is not really trying to be in your business and instead, really does care about you and only desires to get you off the wall, to step forward, in giant steps or baby steps in order for you to assume the greatness that God has ordained you to become. Similarly, the next time you find yourself in peril with another sister because she has not accepted your wisdom, give her space, and recall when you failed to operate in it as well.
I entered the weekend still bruised from an encounter with a sister. I knew in my heart that I’d shared wisdom I’d gained – but it wasn’t received in the immediacy that I’d hoped. When I was granted invitation to speak at a woman’s conference at the first church I joined when I moved to North Carolina 22 years ago, I was excited to “go home.” While being in the space, the Lord brought to my remembrance how unwise I was at that time; How many sisters in that church “played” “Sister may I,” and how I embraced a few, but kept most at bay, preferring to operate in isolation, refusing to grant what they offered. I praise God for the opportunity to present to other women, while simultaneously presenting to me! I know that I am not the same woman I was 22 years ago. God gave me time and space to develop wisdom. He may have desired it immediately, and placed women in my life to share it, yet I wasn’t ready to receive. I am grateful for the trials and triumphs, and the wisdom afforded over time, through it all. I was reminded that God’s love and concern for us continues to embrace us through all seasons and foolishness, and is always available to us. The next time you find yourself in the game, let us recall that ultimately, God is in charge, and as sisters, we must support each other to get to the other side, no matter how long it takes. As you operate as “Mother” recall that previously you too were on the wall.