“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
I am nothing special. Just an ordinary woman living a simple life in a small impoverished, farming community. Do you think I want to talk about my failures? Do you think I want to open up the wounds and lay my greatest burdens before others? No, but that is exactly what God called me to do–brutal, gut wrenching honesty about my flaws as a wife, my inabilities as a woman and my most humiliating defeats. Each time God tells me to share, my palms get sweaty, my breathing gets shallow, my heart rate hikes upward. My heart actually breaks. I know people will judge me and look down on me. I know they will mock me or see me as less of a person. I don’t want this response, so I resist God’s will. Each time I obey, I am humbled by the response.
I failed at being a woman. I struggle with the “natural” things of womanhood. For example keeping house does not come naturally to me. I lived years surrounded by boxes because I was unsure how to set up my home. A young bride whose mother was dead, I had no clue. Another womanly failure is that I cannot have children. I long for them, yet it just wasn’t meant to be. For years when people asked when we would have kids, I always responded that we were young and weren’t ready. I was so ashamed of the truth. I was broken and could not do what women were designed to do.
I failed in my Christian walk. I believe each of us has a spiritual gift and mine is joy. At times, I have let mine go. Struggling with depression, I alienated myself and avoided those I love. I let my house, my relationships, my health, my walk with God go awry while I slipped deeper into the dark hole. I didn’t turn my pain over to God. I didn’t live in His grace. I avoided God and His people as I avoided everyone else. I spent years this way ignoring His love and His calling.
I failed my husband. As a Christian wife, it is my duty to pray for my husband. It is my honor to see to his needs and patiently accept his faults. I did none of this. I saw only my pain. I knew he hurt me on purpose. I knew he didn’t care that I was drowning and couldn’t breathe. I blamed him for my sorrow. Why I don’t know. Cancer killed my mom when I was 23; he didn’t. Miscarriages stole my babies; he didn’t. Depression stole my joy and my own foolishness clung to it. None of this was his fault, yet he bore my sorrow, pain, and shame.
I don’t like talking about these things. I don’t like reliving the sorrow. I don’t like revisiting my shame. But, see here is the thing: When I am open about my struggles, I can reach out to someone else. Sometimes it is the same issue, but more commonly it is something entirely different. Admitting I’m human helps them. Admitting I know hurt allows them to open up about their own pain. Admitting how God led me though my trials often gives hope that God will be there with them through theirs.
When I talk about my failures and where I was back then, the conversation always turns to where I am today. As I said, I’m nothing special. Yet God reached down to me. He carefully picked up each piece of my shattered life and tenderly put me back together. Alone I am weakness and failure. With Him, I am thriving and strong. The difference? Him! The past makes me hurt but the present is about embracing my failures and moving forward with His grace.
What’s your past? How can you use it to shine a light for others? How can you use your experiences to lead others to Jesus?