I recently had the privilege of attending a conference put on by Called to Peace Ministries in North Carolina called, He makes all things new. It was a conference for Domestic Violence survivors and those wanting to help survivors.
The 500 women who attended (plus many more online) had a kind of unity and bond that is not come by without a deeply shared common understanding and shared experience of suffering. Never before have I been surrounded by so many strangers and yet felt so loved or truly seen. Every woman there was a woman of courage. Every one of us has gone through or are still going through a major battle, a battle to survive.
I struggle with social anxiety, large gatherings make me nervous and uncomfortable. Not to mention the anxiety of returning to the same place my abuser is from and where I have many memories of our trips together. It took every fiber of my being to sit in that large auditorium that first evening and not bolt out the door. I wanted to run. I felt a need to run. I knew in my soul that these 3.5 days would change my life but it would be heavy and difficult. I knew that it would bring up things in me that had not quite healed yet, and probably reveal truths that were still hidden deep in my heart. I was right. But what I didn’t anticipate was the intense anger it would stir within me, anger at the hurt all of these women have gone through, some so bizarre and nightmarish that you would have a hard time believing the stories even if I told you. What I felt was a righteous anger. The majority, if not all, of these women had “Christian” husbands, many serving in ministry. My story was not unique here. My story did not shock or disgust or cover me in shame here. My story was accepted, believed, understood and I was embraced for who I truly am, a child of God. Still loved, despite my many scars.
Women have a tendency to judge other women very quickly and harshly, we often deal with jealousy and insecurities. But at this conference there was non of that, there was passing of tissues when the stranger next to you started crying in worship, hands laid on each other shoulders as prayers for healing were offered, smiles given to every woman who walked through those doors. We all understood the extreme courage it took to attend this conference, many women having to hide their location and the purpose of the event from their abusive spouses back home. Many women feared what they would be going home to. I think it safe to say that ALL of us faced one or more spiritual attacks before/during/after the conference.
But we came, stayed and left with strength. We learned about healing and we leaned into the Holy Spirit.
It will take me long time to go through all of the material we received, but I will provide a list of resources for those who are in need of somewhere to start.
As I looked around the room at all these women of different ages, backgrounds and ethnicity I was overcome with the beauty. No one will ever understand the amount of courage it takes to rescue one self from an abusive situation, unless they have had to do so themselves. To run when you have no where to run to, to fight for your children’s safety, to fight for your basic human rights. To understand the courage it takes to start life all over again with nothing but the clothes on your back, or to navigate the constant threats and attacks on your character, and even your life. All from the person you have spent years loving and who had promised at one point to love you forever. This kind of courage is beautiful. It is powerful and it is a testament to how God works through the mess and the pain.
These women are choosing to take their lives back. They are confronting the trauma, not running from the pain. They are choosing to take a stand and make the changes in their own lives, do all the counseling, the ptsd therapy, the new job training, etc. to realign their lives with the Lord and learn how to thrive. They are taking back the joy that was stolen from them, one day at a time.
Healing doesn’t just happen with time. Healing is a choice of facing the hard things. Confronting the lies in your life, making positive changes and being diligent in rewiring the pathways in your brain that have been disrupted or distorted from years of abuse. Healing takes longer than anyone really wants or expects it to. Healing involves other people, good people, and needs to exclude toxic people. Healing means learning what safe people look like and relearning how to trust your gut.
And above all it means CHRIST. Because he LOVES YOU. He understands you, he cries with you, he holds you, he surrounds you, he is FOR you. True healing comes with a transformation of your thoughts, a complete overhaul of your heart, and it needs to start with seeing yourself the way God sees you. We have been beat down, torn apart and told repeatedly that we are worthless, despised and unlovable. BUT God says we are heirs, chosen, cherished, beautifully crafted, gifted, wanted and desired. Lean into his grace. Lean into his promises and start replacing lies with truth.
You can do this, you are a beautiful and courageous woman.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself RESTORE you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power forever and ever. Amen. ” 1st Peter 5:10-11