I love cookies. Chocolate chip, macadamia nut, snickerdoodle. But occasionally a cookie will be making its glorious ascent into my mouth, when the baker announces, "It's made with Splenda!" My face falls in disappointment. I place the cookie back on the plate, and there will be no reconciliation. It's over.
Splenda cookies have all the outward signs of something really great, but they lack authenticity. And they're gross.
I used to equate being in women's ministry groups with being forced to eat Splenda cookies: the fluffier version of true friendship and biblical community. I envisioned myself sitting awkwardly in an immaculate living room, surrounded by ten absently smiling women. They'd have matching blonde newscaster hairstyles. Their prayer requests would consist of "unspokens" or prayers for distant relatives with health problems.
I decided I should just stay home and deal with my own mess. Alone.
But then one night at the 20s ministry I attend, the pastor announced: "Tonight we're going to split off by gender for discussion tables."
Honestly, the majority of people who attend this ministry go, at least in part, to interact with Christian members of the opposite sex. Eye rolls abounded, but off we went to our separate corners.
I sat next to my friend Kira, low expectations intact. Everyone looked uncomfortable. Nevertheless, we shared. A little.
Anna brushed her thick hair from her almond-shaped eyes as she told us that she runs marathons and just finished her masters.1