We’ve dragged ourselves out of bed early to meet together as we do each week. This time, I won’t run away. I won’t shut down. I’m not sure what happened last week.

Sometimes it feels as though no one wants to speak. I wonder whether it’s pride or shame or just awkwardness. For me, it can be a combination of all three. But this morning we are sharing slowly yet openly. Fatigue, discouragement, disappointment, suffering, intimidation, and fear reside in our words, yet we share them and they become less cavernous, less consuming.

When I speak, I say that lately I wonder if God has stopped listening to my prayers because I haven’t been sorry for my sins. I haven’t been repenting. The voice of shame inside me wishes I didn’t have to share that.

One friend completely nails me. “If it isn’t perfect, I won’t do it.” This is the current that underlies all of my procrastination, laziness, and decision-making. And I have applied it to repentance.

Is that who God is? Exacting, demanding, condemning? And is that what repentance is? Working off a ledger of accounts and unpaid debts?

The answer is ‘no’ but I’m not there yet.

She mentions catholic confession. Is that what I want—someone to tell me exactly what to say to clear up my messes and I’ll say it? Maybe it is.

But they kindly remind me that’s not how this works. I know but I need to hear it. “Repentance is just a simple change of focus from sinning to remembering God. That’s all. I think maybe you’ve turned it into a larger process than it is.”

It’s just a simple change of focus from sinning to remembering God.

“I don’t know, He won’t answer me.” Another friend is wiping away large tears. She had just been asked what God might want from her in this hard time. Her job feels like a trap where she is overwhelmed and her work isn’t utilized. Anger and frustration swells and threatens to swallow her daily. I wish I had something useful to say to her. “You want writing in the sky.” Yes! She exclaims.

I suppose we all want the same thing. Clear answers. Simple directions. Writing in the sky.

Despite all the heartache, this morning each woman is surrounded with encouragements, gentle corrections and truth. We don’t notice at first, but our spirits are lifted.