I don't like crowds. I just don't. I'm intimidated by all of the people and I just feel really uncomfortable. I don't do the mingling thing well because I get all tongue-tied when I talk to strangers and I can't find anything to talk about. How many times can you discuss the weather before it gets old? So when I was invited to the Surprised by the Healer conference by a woman at my church, I have to say I wasn't really jumping at the opportunity to go. The tickets were donated to our church by a sister church so cost wasn't the issue. My uncle gladly volunteered to watch little one so I couldn't use that as an excuse. But wait! The weather forecast was calling for 3 to 6 inches of snow - in April! Surely they'd cancel it, right? They wouldn't want anyone to get hurt on the roads, right?
Well, the so-called snowstorm missed our area. My last excuse finally out the window, I met the other ladies at the church. I was grateful for the opportunity to spend the day with these ladies, no doubt. But I was fearful of seeing so many people I didn't know. What would I talk about?
I was also worried about the conference itself. You see, there were going to be some pretty difficult topics discussed throughout the day that all revolved around being a broken woman. Whether it's sexual abuse, lack of intimacy in relationships, trust issues, the inability to forgive, not being able to move past these issues can form a broken person. Whether I was ready or not, the Band-Aid was about to get ripped off of any wounds I had and would be exposed for everyone to see. Was I really ready for that? I got a little comfort knowing that there were 1,260 other women in the house who may have felt the same way I did!
Ready or not, I stepped into the unknown and I came out of there with admiration for so many who have suffered and overcome their hurt, a more humble attitude and the strength to share my story more openly.
You see, one thing I learned was that my story is not my story. My story belongs to God. My story should be told to glorify Him. I've been broken, I've been depressed, I've been unable to forgive. But did you notice I used the past tense ("been?"). That's because I'm not any of those things anymore. God has given me the strength and the power to overcome all of that brokenness and focus on the goodness that is Him. He is my Savior and my Healer. He deserves all of the praise. Anything I have been able to accomplish is because of Him and the grace that he has extended to me. I cannot praise Him enough but one way to give Him the glory is to share with others who may benefit from my story. So, that's what I'll be doing. Check this out: I felt so at ease that I found myself talking to a perfect stranger, something I never do. We prayed together and in our short time together, we connected in such a way that we promised to keep in touch.
I was mesmerized by the openness of the women who shared their testimonies: Angel, a former prostitute and drug addict who found love and joy in the Lord; Taunya of Walking with Shiloh sharing her story of brokenness in her marriage and how she struggles with intimacy; Rita's story of forgiveness of her ex-husband and mistress (now his wife) and her cancer fight; Ginger's heartbreaking story of sexual abuse at a young age; Linda Dillow's struggle raising teenage children overseas during a missions trip. These women were all broken at one time. But they are all now triumphant after having traveled a very long journey.
What else did I learn? Well, I learned that in order to heal, you have to come out of hiding. Bottling up your emotions or putting on a happy face when you're crying inside doesn't help. The healing begins when you rip off the Band-Aid. The Healer is there to help. Let Him do His work!
We are called to walk a road called forgiveness. Honey, I've got to tell you -- that's been a tough one for me. But I learned yesterday that forgiveness has nothing to do with deserving. You forgive because Christ forgave you freely. Wow! How humbling is that? When I think back to all of the wrongs I've done, I'm ashamed. Saying the words, "I'm sorry" won't always fix it. Sometimes you just have to acknowledge the wrong and believe that Christ has forgiven you, whether someone chooses to or not. I got that yesterday. I finally got it!
I was stretched yesterday and I'm glad of it. I'm looking forward to next year!
If you were at #healerohio, I'd love to hear what you thought of the conference and connect with you! Since I had such a good time at this one, are there other women's conferences I should consider attending? What's your favorite? Feel free to share in the comments!