God's Brave Women - Jennifer's Story
Have you ever looked at your pain straight in the eye and thought, “Do I need to go there? Do I want to go there?” Have you ever decided to begin the journey of moving toward it and through it? When I see someone else do it, I see bravery. I don’t usually see it in me, but this journey of facing pain does require courage and bravery whether we recognize it or not.
House on a Hill is a song breathing life into me these days as I am processing pain related to messages I received as a young girl. In this song, Amanda Lindsey Cook writes with God’s voice to us,
“Is it heavy where wounds have left a mark? …. If you’re wondering who can heal your brokenness. I can, I can. I’ll meet you in the house upon the hill. How I want to show you I am real. Allow Me to introduce Myself again...”
I’ve been through the pain-healing process before, many times for small things, a couple of times for big things. Sometimes a journey to the past is necessary to live more healthy and whole today.
"Sometimes a journey to the past is necessary to live more healthy and whole today."
Once my shame was so big and strong it went with me everywhere. To church. At home. In bed. While praying. While reading my Bible. This dark cloud was my travel companion, my filter through which life poured in. A slow, steady awakening made me aware of how my sexual sin and excessive drinking as a teenager was the root.
Sinking in the mire of insecurity and shame, I reached out my hand to grab hold of the dignity and freedom Jesus offered. I learned to pray things like “show me your glory and reveal yourself to me” from Bible Study teacher, Beth Moore. God's truer nature opened me to risk my vulnerable self with Him. On the floor of 813 Weber Ave, during the mundane, exhausting days of motherhood with 4 kiddos 5 and under, God overwhelmed me with his never-changing, steadfast love. Words like “mercy” and “grace” blew wide open. I discovered his love didn’t rise and fall with how I felt about myself. It didn’t rise and fall with my lack of patience with my kids. It didn’t rise and fall with how clean my house was that day. It stayed constant, like a never-ending flow of water to this thirsty young mom.
This Jesus I had believed in since I was a small child proved himself compassionate in my failings. Jesus wasn’t surprised or scared of my weakness. It’s why he came. On the pages of scripture his gentleness and strength became tangible toward this young girl – a girl who got caught up in being liked and cherished, with a desire for belonging and significance, but who sinned nonetheless. In his kindness, he literally took away my shame and gave me honor. The shame cloud shattered and fell to the floor.
"This Jesus I had believed in since I was a small child proved himself compassionate in my failings. Jesus wasn’t surprised or scared of my weakness. It’s why he came."
I think this coming to Jesus, acknowledging what we've done is brave because we aren’t sure what will happen next. Will we be accepted? Will the grace be enough? Will we feel it? Is it really true?
When my counselor used the words "sexual assault" to define what had been done to me, there was shock even though it happened over 25 years ago. “Oh, yeah. I guess it was,” I thought as I sat there stunned at what the adolescent girl in me experienced.
Looking trauma in the eye and honestly asking how it has affected us takes humility and guts. Multiple, little arrows pointed the way to the culmination of discovery at a silent retreat. I had developed a system of despise like the internal structure of a building stemming from my trauma. It kept me safe but locked, stable but withering. It was familiar but destructive.
I looked at people in my church and judged them constantly. There were times I couldn’t have compassion. The default mode was despise, not full love and mercy-flowing, regard for others. God showed me in my wounding I had forgotten him, not intentionally, but as an involuntary reaction to an assault on my body, mind and spirit by someone who claimed to love me. God revealed to me his anger at injustice, when women’s bodies are violated, not valued and empowered. Jesus revealed to me he was present when it happened and he was binding up my wounds. Jesus tended and cared for my bleeding heart. Instead of blocking up the flow of pain with despise I could allow Jesus to collect it to himself. He could receive it and offer me a new way.
"God revealed to me his anger at injustice, when women’s bodies are violated, not valued and empowered. Jesus revealed to me he was present when it happened and he was binding up my wounds... Instead of blocking up the flow of pain with despise I could allow Jesus to collect it to himself."
I didn’t feel brave most of the time through these journeys, but God did give me courage. If you need courage to face the pain of what you’ve done or what’s been done to you, I am here to tell you, it is worth it. But I wouldn’t advise doing it without Jesus. He destroys shame and reveals despise. He gives honor and exchanges our default for love. He shattered all my expectations and met my deepest needs through the pain. I don’t have adequate words to tell you how much I love him.
Now as I look this new, old pain straight in the eye regarding gendered messages, I want to remember how Jesus showed up before with compassion and justice, grace and truth, presence and action. He will be enough, again.
Jennifer Mary Smith is a blogger, Bible teacher, speaker, wife and mom. She is a natural leader who loves to strategize and dream. She and her husband have been married for 25 years and have six children. Formerly, she has been a high school field hockey and lacrosse coach and volunteer Women’s Ministry Director at Willow Creek Community Church, Crystal Lake Campus. Jennifer is passionate about helping people read the Bible to foster real life transformation and deep intimacy with God through freedom to ask questions in the tension. She would love to go to seminary and write a book someday. You can follow her on her blog www.jennifermarysmith.com as well as her social media outlets: Facebook @jennifermarysmith, Insta @jenmarysmith and Twitter @jennifermarysm1.
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!
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