I pick up a stone and roll it around and around in my fingertips. It's rough around the edges just like me. Not a particularly pretty stone, just spotted white and grey without a whole lot of sparkle. It pretty much suits me.
I look down at that stone in my left hand, with my fine Sharpie pen in my right hand. I am to write a word that has wounded me and hindered me from being real, being a friend, being in community. Wounded women wound other women. And we are to bind up the wounds with the wounds of Christ to make women whole again.
I know the word instantly.
But how can I write it? How do you form letters into a word, make marks on a stone; on a stone that resembles the wall that you have built up around you to protect you like a shield, but has instead morphed into a steel cage? Keeping you imprisoned in loneliness.
I decide to be a little brave and face the hard reality, but then I scrawl a triad of words. To leave it as just that one word makes me feel exposed. And aren't they all closely linked one with the other?
Ann prays as the women each let go of their own stone into a basket. Prays that in the power of the name of Jesus these walls would be torn down to bring healing by the wounds of Jesus Christ. She seeks the Lord, "Let these women be changed before they leave here today."
We drop our stones in these empty baskets, fill up our plates once again with sticky buns, and come back to the tables, to be fed by the Word of God.
The second session of the morning has nicely begun and Ann speaks of the very word that I was scared to scratch out with my Sharpie, for fear of cutting too deep into my own heart.
She exhorts: "When you don't have your identity in Jesus Christ, you have insecurities". She speaks the truth with words and picture that Christ promises to "give you my perfect identity and take your imperfect insecurities". She reminds us that the Father sings over us. Calls us His Beloved.
We need to believe and be healed from these wounds so we can turn around and instead of being a
hurt heart that hurts hearts, we can feed, pray, love, and forgive and be the friend that other women need.
I know I need to go home set free from its bondage. But I don't know if I can. I don't know how.
As the conference wraps up, Ann asks the women to take some the stones of their sisters, go over to the pond and pray. Pray that, as the stones sink down to the pond's murky bottom never to be retrieved again, the walls built up over time and have created barriers, would be broken down.
I share my cracked heart with Ann quietly, when the crowd has cleared a little, and trust her. She understands. She knows. She has done this hard work. She continues to speak words of healing and love and hope. She's a dear friend and mentor and mostly I love how she loves her Lord God. I've seen the powerful work that the Lord has done in her life and she is a beautiful woman of God and she presses on with us to love with our whole hearts.
After catching up with another friend, a beautiful woman who has served these women after little sleep, has loved and prayed for these women, I go to the basket to pick up some sisters' stones. There are just a couple handfuls left there at the bottom of the basket. I gather up three little stones.
I walk out to the pond and there in my hand is the very stone I handled hours earlier.
How is it possible that I have picked up my own stone?
I have to be the one to let it go. No one else can do this for me.
This is a work that God is doing in my life and it is between Him and me.
I suppose I could choose to leave and hold onto this stone, slip it into my purse, and carry it back home with me. No one would ever know. But, I could also release it into these dark waters, and let it go. Walk away changed!
I stand with women who love and build up the beautiful bride of Christ and I let it go. It splashes and sends ripples on the surface of the pond. Ripples deep into my heart that has been cracked open to receive the promises of God.
God knew I needed to throw that stone down myself. In His sovereignty He worked out all the little details to have me come here to this gathering of women in real life to do this work in my heart.
By tearing down walls, we build up community and love and unlock hearts.
Ann quoted Bonhoeffer:
"The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure”. True Christian community happens in Christ."In Christ. When my identity is in Him I can love those who need to be fed with this same love and affirmation. Pray for my sisters with a heart of thankfulness. Love as Christ loved and forgive others as I have been forgiven.
Thank you Lisa-Jo for this inRL community of Christian women. Thank you Ann for being the Christian who spoke God's Word into my heart. Thank you Diane for being such a beautiful and faithful woman of God and serving, with the ladies at GBF, and hosting this conference.
Images 3,4,5 by Molly Morton-Sydorak