Well, the month of February seemed to revolve around the theme of pain. Not just mine - but more generally pain that we as women often struggle through. Trailhead Church had another women's retreat a week ago. A few women began praying in January about what topic God would have us look at - hoping that we would get clear direction. Boy, did we get it. And then some!
My friend Kristy works in a treatment center for women dealing with eating disorders which often times stem from past hurts. She has been learning from God how to deal with trauma and evil and pain. This is no easy thing as I know she will attest to. Some days you see God's hand of redemption, but most days you see the brokenness of this world very clearly and profoundly. I love to hear her teach and knew this was a subject that any women's retreat could benefit from. So we began to pray that God would give Kristy wisdom and discernment about what exactly she should convey.
At the same time, but in an unrelated situation, a good friend of mine, began to feel that God was calling her to be involved in the women's retreat. She shared with me her personal story of sexual assault and the brokenness that it has caused in her life. Yet she rejoiced in the grace that God has shown her and the redemption that she has experienced. We began to pray about what it would look like for her to share her story (which would be a true miracle since she had only shared with a few people ever - it would be a very vulnerable, difficult thing to do). We began praying about this in January as well.
Then came the straw that broke the camel's back, as they say. I came across the promo for a new book from Re:Lit (Mark Driscoll) about sexual assault. The statistics were staggering. One in four women will suffer assault in her lifetime. How could we as the church not talk about this? And how hard would this be? We began to get a little scared! It was very clear what God was going to have us talk about: Jesus and suffering and grace and redemption.
God did confirm and strengthen my friend to share her story of hurt, redemption, and grace. It was hard to listen to. But it was one of the most amazing presentations of the gospel I have EVER heard in my whole life. And Kristy spoke the Word!! Women were given a safe place to process their pain and to be challenged to take their pain to Jesus and to know that He will meet them there. The gospel was proclaimed. Women were pointed to the true gospel, not their "self-made, self religions". Much could be shared of God miraculously leading women to conversations with just the right person. God was preparing hearts to be vulnerable and other hearts to be full of care and love and the desire to listen.
What a good God we have. I am grateful to Him. More thoughts and stories to share - this is only the beginning. From the book Rid of my Disgrace: "We believe that the only thing that gets to the depth of the devastation of sexual assault" (or other pain) "is God's one-way, unconditional love expressed through, and founded on the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ. And in response to sin and its effects, God's radical grace and redemption are at the center of responding to the pain..."