Last night I had the privilege of speaking to 500 college-age women in Winona at the 2016 Dinner for the Ladies (#DFTL2k16) event. Once a year, men from multiple college ministries come together to put on a free dinner for their female counterparts. They valet parked all of our cars, had a coat check and both bathrooms near the sanctuary were designated for women only. The appetizer–homemade hummus and spanakopita–prepped our spanx-wrapped bellies for the main course of penne pasta, vegetables and a bread stick. I hear there was red velvet cake for dessert but I was too busy getting mic’d for the event.
Here’s a taste of what I said to our millennial women.
How many of us thought we grew up “normal?” We had a set worldview that was formed by both our situation and our family environment. This was our paradigm. We knew no other. Then we left home. Perhaps we went to college and/or got married. Maybe you’re in the middle of your career or have a few kids. You’ve made your own normal and suddenly, one day realize that your normal is not normal.
My normal was fear. Fear of dark places and smelly spaces. Fear of bad boyfriends and disloyal best friends. Fear of bad grades and missed opportunities. Fear of missing out and not being let in. Fear of the Presidential Physical Fitness mile run at the end of 6th grade. Fear of being invisible and being seen. Fear of being seen as weak and helpless, but also aggressive and ambitious. Fear of sharing too much or too little. Lately, fear that my giddy “no’s” will be taken as selfish and rude. Fear of always being too much, too intense and too direct.
Now that I’m older, I’m fear for my children and their futures. My petty friendship fears have turned into fears for my children and their friends. Mama bear threatens to rear when my children are hurt, afraid or bullied. I’m ready to defend at all costs, right injustices and sooth the hurt. I talk of loving your neighbor and knowing thyself, cultivating a positive inner monologue and never body shaming ourselves in front of our daughters. I try to raise brave kids who are resilient and compassionate, strong and courageous. I never want them to suffer as I have, break into pieces, spend decades sweeping up and piecing together.
I never want them to look like me: a glued-together puzzle where all the pieces are there but there are few that are jammed into a spot that doesn’t quite fit. I was afraid to take out those pieces, take a look and put them aside. Why? Because then my carefully crafted puzzle will be exposed, unfinished, broken. I was afraid of the broken places within myself.
Here’s are two things I’ve learned in the past few years: I’m not crazy. I’m not alone. Last year I spent nine months exploring broken spaces with sixteen other women. Our broken places were called: saying no, sex, perfection, insecurity, submission, gender roles in the church, and our calling.
This year I’ve traveled and talked about all of this stuff and more. Here’s what I’ve learned. The unspoken truth is that women are often made out to be petty man-bashers who, at any opportunity to gather, prefer surface-level exchanges that result in a mere gossip circle.
What I’ve learned about being among women this year has been pretty eye opening. I’ve always detested women’s ministry, but not because I don’t like women. I like women who are real. I like women who admit failure and then pick themselves back up to fight another day. I like women who will come alongside another who is hurt and say, here, let me help, lean on me. I like women who say, today sucks, let’s get a beer after work. I like women who can have a great time without giving each other a jealous once-over about their outfit or roots that need to be done. I like women who will say I’ll pray for you and then actually do it right then.
I like women who can do hard things together and not devolve into petty princesses. I’ve found my tribe, these women with broken tiaras. We are the broken tiara tribe.
We may all be broken, but everyone’s broken place is different. Do you recognize any of these as yours? Finances and Debt. Friends or foes. Jealousy. Hate. Insecurity. Shame. Uneducated. Unfaithful. Ungrateful. Promiscuous. Angry. Lying. Pride. Grief. Belligerence. Stubbornness.
My broken places were three:
- Unkind, haughty, sarcastic – I had to learn how to be kind.
- Pass the buck, phone it in, excuse behavior – I had to learn how to be accountable.
- Arrogant, argumentative, egotistical – I had to learn how to be humble.
I said to God, I’m too far gone. I’m too much of a mess to be of any use to you.
Hemingway is my favorite author and this quote rung true:
Here’s what I learned this year: The world may break everyone but nothing is too hard for God.
What if we thought of our broken places as our future strengths? Is anything stronger after being broken?
- When our heart is broken we may love stronger the next time
- When our spirit is broken our faith can become stronger
- When our world is broken it strengthens our resolve to press on
- When our car is broken we have a stronger affinity for public transportation
- When our will is broken our knees get stronger
If the broken places get stronger, then what would happen if you let God break you? He’s a gentleman. His promise is that of restoration, not just perpetual brokenness. There’s a clear pattern of BROKEN—RESTORATION. Look at 1 Peter 5:10– And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. How about Psalm 147:3– He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
We are broken in heart: injured, shamed, and disturbed at our sin. The pain persists when memories of it surface, like a never-emptied gun being fired over and over and over. Our very hearts are not only pricked, but cracked under the sense of the disgrace we have done to God and the damage we have done to ourselves and those around us perhaps.
It is simply this: You can’t be restored until you are broken.
Don’t be afraid to open to God those places that are dark and scary. Those corners that you’ve tucked away but know are still there. There’s great freedom in letting Him break you. He won’t take advantage of your vulnerability; He’ll restore you and make you stronger. The world will break you but God will make you strong in the broken places.