"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, kill and destroy; but I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." John 10:10
Over the last several weeks, I’ve had the honor of getting to know some extraordinary, ordinary women. Not a roomful, but enough of them to be surprised by how much more we have in common than how much we differ. Some I’ve known for years.
Some I’ve known on a Sunday-morning service basis: the smile and the handshake preceding the “serious stuff”. I’m finally getting to know these ladies’ hearts. We’ve embarked on a journey together: a mission, a quest and a pilgrimage all at once. A mission to be healed. A quest for peace. A pilgrimage to our potential.
Privileged to guide the group through the Bible study “Me, Myself & Lies”, I see a bunch of unlikely soldiers: some in capris and t-shirts, others in their came-straight-from-work skirts and heels: each packing invisible duffels of invisible stuff, so heavy that she is bent over beneath it without realizing it. The “stuff” slows us down. Makes us stumble. Steals our confidence. Leaves us doing less for God than He’s intended. We are a hodgepodge portrait of today’s Christian woman.
Scores of surveys and studies have given us a glimpse of what’s in most women’s duffels: Old hurts. New ones. Unrealistic expectations. “It’s all my fault.” “I’m a horrible mom.” “Nobody cares.” “I’m not good at anything.” “I’m undesirable.” “I caused my parents to fight/divorce/leave us.” “There must be something wrong with me.” “God doesn’t listen to me.” “I’ll never accomplish anything.” Shame. Fear. Shredded self-esteem. Dread that we’ve failed God. Disbelief that we deserve anything good. If these were deadly, then we should be dead. And yet here we stand: the Walking Wounded.
That's a term used in first aid and triage for "injured persons who are of a relatively low priority". These patients are conscious and breathing and usually have only relatively minor injuries; thus they are capable of walking. “Walking Wounded” also can refer to those injured but with no visible injuries: their disabilities are literally in their heads, but until recently, they were left to fend for themselves.
Right here, in the safe-and-relatively-normal congregation that I call my church family, we have a startling number of “Walking Wounded”. Wounded in their spirits. Old scars. Fresh wounds. Women capable on the surface of doing all the things our lives say we must: caring for children, caring for parents, being good wives, good sisters, good friends…all the while bleeding profusely in our spirits. Convinced that we are falling short. Not smart enough, or thin enough, or spiritual enough, or nurturing enough. Convinced that we’re too loud, too quiet, too lazy, too intense. Unable to measure up. Afraid to share the contents of our duffels, we, too, fend for ourselves.
If these precious women I’m studying with are any indication, there are few telltale signs. But there are signs. Stress, or depression, or a strong desire for recognition. Isolation, or the fear of being alone. Excessive spending, or perfectionism. All cries for help on a remote battlefield where the Enemy’s arrows whiz past our heads in moments both predictable and random, stinging us with accusations and guilt and ridicule. Satan knows all about the Walking Wounded. Yet while he believes we’re of relatively low priority, he spends some serious ammunition on us.
We have some mighty weapons at our disposal: shields, and swords. The shields? Encouragement. Prayer. Our time. A hug that starts on the inside. An ear that listens, really listens, without interjecting advice and observations every other sentence…and then stores those shared fears and tears away in a safe, non-public place. And the swords: God’s Word, and the truths It contains. Praise, which is God’s favorite habitation. A heart that longs after God beyond any material blessing He might bestow.
Our study will take us through hell and high water, I think. It compels us to challenge the hostile “weeds” of negativity that threaten to render us less useful to our families, our God and each other. Weeds that may be decades old or freshly-sprouted. As the weeds are targeted and we zero in, there is a principle we must obey: when each weed is removed, we must replace it with something! If we fail to do that, then it’s only a matter of time until it returns, and even stronger than before (Luke 11:24-26).
Hmmm…what can we plant that will replace the weed and be fitting of the price Christ paid for us? Seed by seed, the garden of attributes God has already assigned to us as children of His! He sees us – each one of us – as a treasure. Beautiful in our uniqueness, sporting a custom-designed sense of humor, each with our own combination of mercy, compassion, strengths, circles of influence (mission fields!). His favorite thing about us, though, is our potential. He’s ready to take us there, for our joy and His glory.
I can imagine Him standing at the door of our Bible study room each Monday night, greeting every lady with a warm embrace and an expression of reassurance and…anticipation. If He were humanly clothed, He’d have on His scrubs, because He alone is the Healer that is going to bring us, together and sometimes utterly alone, through this process. He knows what must be done: Find the diseased places (those “weeds” of self-destructive thoughts that are crippling our walk). Expose them by enabling us to honestly confront them. Then, with the precision of a laser, shine His light on them and gently do some transplanting: His Peace for our fears. His love for our self-loathing. His joy for our discouragement. His fellowship for our isolation. Life-changing surgery by the Great Physician.
When we leave that Monday-night “operating room” at the study's conclusion a few weeks from now, the healing will be ongoing. It’s fairly certain that we will “walk” beside Him – and each other – with a bit of a limp. Old "injuries" will sometimes ache or burn. But we’ll have learned how to continue with the “transplants”, rejecting the negative and building on the beauty. By spending time with each other… and time with Him. Such healing things.
Jesus knows a thing or two about wounds. The Bible tells us that He has “been there, done that” for every situation and disappointment we experience (Matthew 4:1, Hebrews 4:15). And that's not even counting Crucifixion Day…
Then, when He’d risen, He encountered unbelief. He gently invited Thomas to reach into the wounds on His hands and His side, and Thomas was forever healed of his doubts (John 20:27-29). Now, He is poised to reach into our wounds (but not because He has doubts). We’ve got to trust Him with operating on our souls. Because, ladies, He’s got some work for us to do: places to go, people to see.