By Vanessa Marie Caron
“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee. But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this might be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.” (Luke 1:26-30 ASV)
For years I prayed for fellowship. Having neighbors and family friends, of course I wasn’t completely alone, but I longed for a more intimate friendship: a bosom friend, a best friend or a small close-knit group of faith-filled sisters in Christ. I wanted to get to know other women on a deeper level, but even more, I wanted to be known and valued.
I am a terribly shy person—at least, initially. Having been bullied at a young age, I can doubt myself and what value I have. Sadly, I expect to be rejected and so engage in most social situations with hesitation and fear.
This fear, this social anxiety, can be a huge hinderance in my ability to connect with others. How could I develop those deep friendships I so craved, if the mere idea of leaving my home made me sick to my stomach? Or, if I did manage to leave, I’d leave early to escape the panic, fearing what others thought of me.
Despite all of this, the yearning remained. I am a woman, after all.
And what does that mean?
It means that I have been created as a deeply relational being. Yes, men benefit from having friends and from being social but women view the world more strongly in regards to our relationships. That’s why we often see women in “helping” careers like education, healthcare and so on. Of course, not always, but such is the tendency.
In time, God granted me those deep friends through an intimate Christian prayer group. With these faith-filled women, I am truly seen and loved through Christ. They challenge me to go deeper in my faith and inspire me by their tenderness and incredible fire for God.
Being social is still a struggle for me, but it is a deep desire I cannot starve off. There is a peace and encouragement found in female solidarity also; to feel that despite our circumstances and struggles, we are not alone. To smile in relief when we realize we are not the only ones with our particular burdens.
This is illustrated so cleverly in the Gospel according to Luke at the Annunciation when, after Mary accepts to be the Mother of Jesus, the Angel Gabriel says, “And behold, Elizabeth thy kinswoman, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that was called barren” (Luke 1:36 ASV).
When Mary receives this most extraordinary and frightening news that God has chosen her to conceive Jesus, He brings her great consolation and solidarity through her kinswoman: Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is also experiencing a marvellous and crazy phenomenon: she’s become pregnant in her old age through God’s grace. God recognized Mary’s need for fellowship and connection as a woman and gave her that sisterhood through her cousin.
My favourite part follows in Luke 1:39 when Mary makes, “Haste,” to meet her cousin. The most important thing to her at that moment is to be with her cousin, a woman of faith: to make connection and be in relationship.
I am grateful to God for the friendships He has blessed me with and for these connections I’ve made with my own sisters in Christ. We were not created to be alone. We were created to be in communion and connection with others. To love and be loved. To validate the broken and be supported in our own brokenness.
My instinct is always to curl up where I am comfortable and avoid community, but I can only survive this way for so long before I become emotionally destitute and feel despairingly lonesome. Pushing past my social anxiety, past those lies that Satan presses on me, I embrace the discomfort so that I can become comfortable. Because in relationships, there is Christ and there is peace.
Thank you, Lord, for creating me for community and for bringing others into my life. Thank you, most especially, for the gift of Mary, my Mother and most adoring bosom friend. May she lead me always, guiding my feet and my heart to Your warm embrace.