A few weekends ago I had the privilege of speaking at a retreat on the topic of Imago Dei: the image of God.

Specifically, I was asked to speak on how we as women are created in the Imago Dei, uniquely as women.

Well, my pleasure.

I have skinned my knee so many times on this road called womanhood, it is my supreme joy to alert other women to the potholes that can cause us unnecessary grief. One of the perks of being a deep feeler and a recovering all-or-nothing personality, is that you feel failure to the bone. I call this a perk because it means I get women who feel inadequate, who slump under the weight of guilt, shame, scarcity and a not-enough mentality. Connection with most women, for me, is like breathing. It is second-nature for me to hit pavement of soul and lock in step with another woman because I know what it feels like to believe lies in my womanhood. It is perhaps the years of heartache that I experienced in this area that make it so satisfying for me to speak on this subject to women today. It’s as if I get to wear the neon jacket and hold the arrow sign pointing out the dangerous beliefs we wreck ourselves on and direct the traffic instead onto a clear path of Truth.

But there was one little teensy weensie thing about this gathering that made it different from other women’s gatherings I visit. This one small characteristic may seem on the surface a non-issue, nothing too challenging, but it was something that use to unravel me to my core.

The attendees were 50 teenage girls ranging from the 7th to 12th grade.

And my teenage years were not the smoothest for my soul. Maybe yours weren’t either.

I have a few things working against me these days in my desire to connect with teenage girls, or so I thought. For one, I’m 40. I’m in the “mom” camp for many of these girls, and even the “grandma” camp in some instances. {Ok. Typing that out makes me want to schedule a facial ASAP.} When I chaperoned teen youth trips I was in my 20’s, then my 30’s, but could still manage a “cool” veneer enough to make some connection. I knew the references, the technology, the key influencers, the language, and could appreciate the style trends. But the fast passing of time and full calendar of activities is making it less feasible for me to keep up with the current culture for all the generations of our day. And even if I could absorb all the information streaming, something tells me spending my time doing this is not the wisest move for my soul.

Then there’s this other thing working against me, keeping me from staying in touch with teen culture today: my season of life. I’m also a toddler mom. I know all the pups on Paw Patrol, the soundtrack to every Disney princess movie, and the different kinds of fairies who live in Pixie Hollow. I love this season, and I’m wanting to be fully IN this season and not rush it along. But does being fully in this season mean I’m not able to effectively connect with women in other seasons?

Stepping into the over-sized cabin with its many hallways, rooms, bunk beds, cozy common space and 50 teenage girls took more courage for me than standing on a stage before thousands. The honesty of a teenager is like a brand new knife, it cuts straight through. Yet, in all my preparation for this retreat, this is what I kept sensing God remind me:

Shame is shame is shame is shame, and Truth is Truth is Truth is Truth.

I wish I could say this was just a badly timed photo, but me making strange faces is pretty typical.

I assumed that in spite of our cultural and season of life differences, we were all humans. I assumed that in spite of our background and maturity differences, we were all women. I assumed that in spite of our faith and family differences, we all knew shame and we all needed Truth.

So I exposed shame and how shame bullies our souls, and I spoke Truth. By the end of the weekend I discovered all my assumptions were correct. Shame was having a way with these girls, trying to snuff their lights out before they even got firmly planted on the road of womanhood. These beautiful, smart, talented, creative, hilarious, energetic, articulate, gifted, vulnerable, gracious young women were under full attack by the enemy of Imago Dei, and some of them were losing battles for lack of encouragement.

By the end of the weekend I was so stirred up with love for these girls and with anger at the lies trying to sow deep into their identities, that I spoke Truth like a woman on fire.

Oh we laughed, we braided hair, we hiked, we swapped silly stories. But we cried too. We shared hard stuff. We asked questions. In many cases we found some answers. We worshipped God and we whispered confessions. We prayed together.

See, strange face again. I’ve accepted it.

It was beautiful, but this is what I learned from these 50 teenage girls: they need Jesus in us. They need our voices telling our stories of Jesus at work redeeming our broken places. They need God’s Word, they need to know who they are, and they need someone with flesh and bone to hug them and walk with them offering Truth.

Because here is the equilizer, here is what makes YOU right for them no matter your age or background:

Shame is shame is shame is shame, and Truth is Truth is Truth is Truth.

In this little writing house a Mama Bear is a woman who has Jesus in her, who loves what He loves and does what He does. Jesus loves women, and little women I imagine are extra special. Jesus hates shame, took it to the cross and told it where to go. Jesus sets us free, shame oppresses us. Mama Bears partner with Jesus to set women free in Truth and show shame the door.

The time for us to show up is now because our families need Jesus in us. Our friends and community need Jesus in us. Our neighborhoods, our schools and government need Jesus in us. And I am here to tell you, these precious girls…these #littleEsthers…they need Jesus in us.

There are women who are leading in this generation, who are using their voice to influence our next generation of girls but they are not trumpeting Truth. They are not pointing to God’s Word. They are casting off shame but it is with the pride of humanity, not the presence of Christ. The result will be a whole generation of women self-dependent, still broken and exhausted unaware of Imago Dei, their true hope.

The time is now, women with Jesus, to step out of the shadows of shame and into the Light of God’s grace, in the fullness of who you are with knees trembling and hearts open. May we search out the young ones to mentor, to invite closer, to listen to and nurture with Truth. May we root deep in God’s Word so we remember who we are, so we too find release from our own binding shame, so we show up to our place in history.

Ladies, it is time to tell shame where to go. It is time to release the Mama Bears!