I will never forget the first Ladies’ Retreat that Camp JIM hosted after our family joined the staff. It was the first time I had ever helped plan a retreat, and to say I learned a lot would be an understatement!
Our theme that year was “Beauty for All Seasons,” and our speaker, a pastor’s wife, was sharing about how God works in the different seasons of our lives. Little did I know she was in a very difficult season herself, and it was because of this that she unintentionally shared one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned about ministry.
That year was one of the biggest retreats we’ve ever had, and to be honest, I think quite a few of the women were there to check out the new director and size up the direction the ministry might take. Many seemed guarded, and the mood was pretty serious, though I noticed some “reunions” taking place as old campers were seeing each other for the first time in years. We had a hilarious group of older women sing as a special Saturday event, and their comedic music was the bright spot in the afternoon. All in all, it was pretty standard, for a ladies’ retreat.
And then, something happened that changed everything. During our Saturday evening session our speaker got real. As she talked about the autumn of our lives, the season she was living, she began to share the struggles her family was going through. They were the kind of struggles that no one wishes to experience. The kind you don’t get through without faith. The kind you can’t talk about without sobbing. The kind that showcases God’s glory because He is right there in the middle of the mess, rolling up His sleeves and working side by side with you–pruning your life and polishing all your rough places.
As she struggled to speak through gutteral tears, every protective wall in the room came down that night, like Jericho, truth spilling and stories tumbling out as the pretense and fear of being “less than” fell away. Those women stayed up all night sharing their stories; every woman had one.
Every woman HAS one.
You have a story.
Your story has been instrumental in shaping you, but it doesn’t define you;
it changes you, but it doesn’t make you.
Your story is God’s glory.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
You are an overcomer through Christ. And the thing is that your story, God’s glory, isn’t meant to be hidden away, but shared because someone else is right now walking a similar path to the one you have already grown familiar.
Have you overcome depression? Someone else is experiencing despair.
Are you experiencing the freedom of forgiveness? Someone else is living in shame.
Have you recovered from a financial disaster? Someone else has lost everything.
Have you survived miscarriage? Someone else has empty arms.
Was your daughter among the 1 in 3 who is sexually assaulted, and you have walked that path with her? Someone else’s world just caved in.
Have you forgiven the unforgivable? Someone else is embittered.
Have you lost a loved one to cancer? Someone else’s beloved is still in the battle.
Been abandoned? Broken?
Isn’t it out of our brokenness that God does a new thing? He said to comfort others with the comfort you have received. 2 Corinthians 1:4
What is your story?
Sharing your story, comforting someone else with the comfort Christ has given you, it reaffirms your victory in Christ.
It softens hearts.
It breaks down walls.
It establishes safe zones.
It declares hope.
It precedes victory.
It cleanses wounds.
Treasure in Jars of Clay. One of the most valuable lessons you’ll ever learn about ministry? Be REAL. TRANSPARENT. Your story becomes your testimony. You are not “less than” because of what has happened to you; you are “more than” because of the Christ treasure in you. Instead of pretense that showcases how great you are, your brokenness allows others see HIM. And that is what ministry is all about.
Photo credit goes to Pixabay.