41 is a good age. I know some stuff now. I have experienced, best as I can tell, every emotion there is to experience.
Though, I have not, for instance, lost a child through miscarriage or death, nor have I battled cancer, or had a rebellious child, I have gone through a variety of other things by now.
I have had parent issues.
I have been in a flood.
I have had a broken engagement.
I have dealt with abuse and addiction.
I have had migraines.
I have experienced dreams coming true.
I have experienced dreams shattering.
I have broken under the weight of my own sin.
I have had people be outright cruel to me and refuse to make amends.
I have seen someone I love survive a violent crime.
I have seen someone I love endure false accusation.
I have given birth.
I was in a difficult marriage for seventeen years.
I have visited third world countries and seen poverty up close.
I am going through a divorce.
I have received the gift of salvation, and continue to do so daily.
When I was 23, I tried my hand at volunteering at the local women’s shelter. I was given the task of leading a one-on-one Bible study with a woman who was homeless. I was terrified. I had no idea what to say. I was completely out of my comfort zone. It didn’t last very long.
And why? At that point, I had almost nothing to give, nothing of value to offer.
Now that I’m 41, I am trying my hand at volunteering at that same women’s shelter. I was given the task of teaching a series of classes on things like forgiveness and conflict resolution and developing an intimate relationship with God. I am energized. I have a pretty good idea what to say. I am in the zone. I’m expecting this to stick this time around.
And why? Because this time, I’ve been broken enough by life and love and sin and myself and others, and I am allowing God to come inside of it all and bring healing (Jesus just gently reminding me this morning, “I’m putting you back together…”), that I do have something to give, something of value to offer.
Fifteen years ago, my target audience would’ve been women. I led the women’s ministry and I wrote books and spoke to young mothers. But I believe my focus is narrowing as I go through fire after fire. My heart now bleeds for the woman who has been abused, who knows neglect firsthand, who feels worthless and beat down, who is trying to sift through the pieces and find something beautiful, something to go on for.
Just in the past couple weeks alone, I have had tea with a woman who is struggling in her marriage, I have counseled a woman over email who lives in Johannesburg (who found me online) regarding the choices she’s made in her relationships, I have spoken on the phone with a woman in her 70s’ whose almost fifty-year marriage is coming to an end, and I’m about to sit by the side of another simply to help ward off the awkwardness as she must face her ex- for the first time in a long time.
So pretty much, it seems, if you’re a woman and you’re in pain, I’m your girl. And this is what I call redemption.
So encouraged by your story Elizabeth. He is making something beautiful out of the ashes, as He always does.