When I left you on Wednesday, I was crying in Como Park Conservatory, a tropical oasis in downtown St. Paul, MN.
In my lap I held a legal pad with a simple hand-drawn grid that looked something like this:
Childhood Adolescence Young Adulthood Adulthood
Scattered across the squares were hurts I had experienced in my life:
- trauma I had experienced at the hand of others,
- bad decisions I had made that brought pain to me and pain to others,
- and wounds in my soul caused simply by living in a fallen world.
As I considered the 15 or so items I had written, I saw connections and patterns I had never seen before. I saw childhood events that led to body image issues and disordered eating. I recognized my own search for significance through relationships with men and performance orientation. I saw the pain of dual living that comes from perpetuating a good girl, people-pleasing exterior that really was a cover for the inner darkness of my searching soul.
I cried. I grieved the pain that little girl experienced. I grieved the pain that young woman had brought upon herself. Mostly I grieved wounding I had brought to my heart by trying to deal with the pain and stress of life by burying, rather than holding it up to Jesus and inviting him to step into my mess and work beauty from ashes.
Finally, gathering my legal pad and my Kleenex, I found Bill. He hugged me, held me and promised to be alongside. Together, we left the arboretum, met with Sharon and Dan for a closing session of processing and prayer, and flew home.
My personal great exchange began when I got honest and dug up the stuff, the pain. But digging up the pain without healing, real healing is risky. Open wounds get infected, fester, and bring greater pain, sickness and even death. I don’t want to leave you with open wounds. I want you to get healing. I want you to experience your beauty from ashes.
1. List key events.
Using the grid, begin in your childhood and list key events, particularly painful ones, that you consider to be shaping influences in your life. Be honest. Take your time.
Once you’ve written down these key events, give yourself the freedom to connect dots. You may find that events you have boxed off and buried are related. Make these connections. Pray and ask the Lord to help you make these connections. And then mourn.
Once you’re tears have dried a bit, it’s time to take your next steps to Experiencing Your Own Great Exchange.
3. Open your Bible and read Luke 4:16 – 22 and Isaiah 61:1-4.
4. Pray over the verses and ask God to begin the work of:
- binding up your wounds,
- bringing good news to your grieving heart,
- speaking words of freedom over your captive soul,
- and comforting you in your sorrow.
5. Get perspective.
Who is your life knows you well and is mature in their relationship with Jesus? This could be your spouse, a trusted friend, your pastor. Talk with this person and share what you have discovered.
If you have two or three people in your life that fit this description, even better. But you don’t want to talk to everyone. It’s not time for that.
A key question to ask this person, or these few people, is, “Do you think I need to see a counselor?”
You may already know the answer to this question, but when you’re facing the pain of your past and the way it is impacting your present, your perspective may be a bit off.
If you need to see a counselor, see one. Good counselors, real counselors are simply living out the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the flesh. There is absolutely no shame in seeing a counselor. If you don’t know of a counselor, the American Association of Christian Counselors is a good place to begin to find one.
6. Share your story
Once you’ve met with a friend, or three, and connected with a counselor, if you need to, it may be time to share your story.
Bill and I returned to Charlottesville. I knew that a key piece of my healing was being honest with my stuff, bringing it out of the darkness and into the light. I had gotten so good over the past 25 years ago at burying, so sharing was critical for my personal great exchange.
One Saturday morning, I gathered with about five women in my friend Sara‘s living room. Just as I had felt when I sat with Dan and Sharon and Bill in that office in Minnesota,
I was ashamed. I was afraid.
But I was no longer appalled. I had begun to face my stuff and it was losing its power over me. I faced my fear. I faced my shame. And I shared. I shared all my stuff. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t polished.
What do you think those women did? Were they angry with me? Were they embarrassed for me? Did they tell me that they could never trust me again? Did they threaten to walk out on me because I was just too big of a mess?
Of course not. And they wouldn’t walk out on you either.
But this is the lie the enemy wants you to believe. This enemy, who came to steal, and kill, and detroy, wants you to believe that if you are honest with your stuff, you will be rejected by people, and possibly even rejected by God. And if he can keep you bound up in the captivity of your fear and your shame, then you are rendered ineffective to advance God’s Kingdom in your world.
These women cried with me, prayed over me, spoke words of grace to me, and stood by me as I began to walk in the reality of My Own Great Exchange.
What happened next truly was beautiful. Over the next several months, we met early every Saturday morning and shared our stories. Other women joined us and shared their stories. We cried together and we prayed for one another. We brought our stuff to the light and discovered that the lies of the enemy slowly lost their power in our lives.
Are there women in your life with whom you could gather to share your stories, and cry, and pray?
I shared with my Saturday morning women, and I began to share in my writing and speaking. Most people will not share their stuff in this way, but for me, it’s been part of the great exchange. I try to be cautious and prayerful when I share specifics in my writing or at women’s retreats and events, and I follow the directives of those who have invited me to speak because I am there as a servant. I don’t want to distract people from seeing Jesus because they are so focused on or offended by my stuff. But, I love to share because I am so proud of Jesus and the great exchange he has brought in my life.
I have found that by sharing my stuff other people are freed up to share their stuff. If my great exchange enables others to connect with the power of the gospel, that’s good. Even though my stuff is shameful, I am not ashamed of the power of the gospel that has brought salvation in my life.
How are you going to share your story? You can share with a small group of women, as I did. You can write it down and hand it to a good friend to read. You can talk it through with your counselor. You can meet with your pastor or a women’s leader in your church. If you are led, you can stand before people and tell your story of Your Own Great Exchange. If you don’t have people in your real world with whom you can share, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Although I can’t walk closely with you, I would be honored to receive your story, pray for you, and hopefully point toward deeper healing.
Often God takes the painful experiences of our lives, works a personal great exchange over us, and then uses these experiences to enable us to serve others. When we experience the Lord as the Father of Compassion and God of All Comfort, we can see our painful experience as ones that the enemy intended for evil in our lives, but God intends for good. Often these personal experiences become the pathway to discovering our own Kingdom purpose.
So, what do you think? Are you taking steps to experience your own great exchange? How is God using your experiences to shape your Kingdom purpose? Leave me a comment or email me at email@example.com to let me know how this series has impacted you.