Wrecking Balls, Rip Van Winkle, and the Journey Back to Transparency

She's so transparent.  She reminds me of her mama."  We were on vacation in my hometown, visiting dear friends who had been like second parents to me during my teen and young adult years. 

I was suddenly carried back to those years, remembering the younger, much-more-transparent self that my friend recalled.  I realized two things in that moment: (1) I missed that person, and (2) God had begun to patiently and graciously awaken that long-sleeping girl. 

I knew exactly what had caused the Rip Van Winkle-ish sleep of my formerly transparent self.  Oh, a bit of the transformation had been due to normal life circumstances and small hurts or embarrassments along the way, but the biggest part could be directly traced to events that began on July 2, 2006, when we discovered not only that our family had been touched...or more accurately decimated...by violent crime, but also that we had been betrayed...in the worst possible way....by someone we loved and trusted. 

In the wake of that trauma, we were all changed in many ways.   Some were good, as God worked to heal and grow us through the pain we were experiencing.  Other ways were not so good, as we instinctively tried to protect ourselves from that same pain.  One of the biggest changes was that we became much, much less trusting. In some ways, that was a good thing, but in other ways it walled us off to those around us (and at times even to the very God who was using our circumstances to mold us into the people He wanted us to be.)  

God has spent the last 7 years healing and working to knock down the walls that were built in overtime during those days.  It's been a process, a process which continues even now...and will probably continue as long as I'm breathing earth's air.

In those first horribly dark days, the wall was somewhat like the Great Wall of China...high, long, and very, very wide.  The thought of ever sharing our experience with anyone outside the few people who had to know at that point was nothing short of horrific.  It was a story we had never dreamed of living in our worst nightmares, and we certainly didn't intend to ever share it.

As I prayed desperately for healing for our family and searched frantically for resources to help, I realized that there were very, very few resources available for Christian families dealing with the trauma of sexual abuse and looking for Biblically sound help.  At that point, as I shared here, God began to create tiny fissures in the huge wall I'd built, giving me a desire deep in my heart to be used to help others going through similar pain. 

The cracks in the wall caused a bit of trauma of their own as I realized that in order to be able to help others, we would have to be at least somewhat open about what we had been through.  God continued to change my heart and my desires in that area, and I began to see all over again a truth that I had learned as a teenager...that when we delight ourselves in the Lord, as Psalm 37:4 says, He will truly give us the desires of our heart....but that in the process of delighting in Him, He makes our hearts more like His, so that our desires are His desires.  I knew this to be true, as I would NEVER have come to this heart-longing for Him to use our story to help others on my own.

(In God's own perfect but rarely-understandable-to-us timing, after He had brought us through much healing without any of the resources or help I'd so desperately sought, I came across some very helpful [and brand new at the time] books: Mary DeMuth's Thin Placesand Justin Holcomb's Rid of My DisgraceI highly recommend both to anyone dealing with any type of sexual abuse, or anyone who knows someone dealing with this trauma.  I actually recommend them for every Christian, as this is an issue that touches us all at some point, and as church families, we need to be prepared to help and minister to those who are hurting.)

The conversation with my friend with which I began this post was a second major wrecking ball to the Great Wall I had built.  God had already been dealing with me about being more authentic and transparent, and that conversation brought back my 20-years-ago self as though I were seeing her in a mirror.  God gently reminded me that while He had accomplished much good growth and change in the intervening years, there were other changes that weren't because of good growth and maturity, but instead because of my own faulty, frail attempts to pull in behind the wall and protect myself from further hurt.

Since that time, the wall has continued to come down slowly...a chunk here and a brick or two there.  When I'm delighting in Him, my heart's desire is to be openhearted and transparent, and in that, be usable to comfort and help others on the path to healing.  There are those other times, though..the ones when my flesh is in control, when I'm driven by the hurt rather than the Holy Spirit, and I go to one of two extremes...the walled-in protective mode, or the let-it-all hang out mode that mistakes tearing down the walls for having no boundaries.  Neither extreme is healthy or Biblical. 

Mary DeMuth's newest book, The Wall Around Your Heart, and my time on the #OpenHeart launch team have constituted another huge wrecking ball...the latest tool God has used to bring me back to the authentic, openhearted transparency He can use for His glory and for the good of myself and those around me. What a huge blessing this book has been (and how it has not just stepped, but sometimes stomped on my toes as I have highlighted like crazy. :))

In The Wall Around Your Heart, Mary uses familiar Scripture, the Lord's Prayer, to show us how to use the power of prayer to knock down those walls we've built around our hearts.  She challenges us to become part of the OpenHearted revolution, to live and love authentically and transparently through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. 

As she says, "...loving others is not a sheer act of grumbly will.  It's not something we check off our 'love people' to do list.  It's messy.  It's tenacious.  It has to come from the authenticity of our hearts, where Jesus has dynamically changed us."

This is not a book to read once, check off the "to read" list, and nestle back on the shelf.  This is a book to savor, to ponder, to camp out in.  It calls for action...for repentance, for forgiveness, for living transparently and loving with abandon.

We'd love for you to be part of the OpenHearted Revolution!  Grab the book here, or see more at www.wallaroundyourheart.com.  

Jennifer is a simple wife and mom with an extraordinary God! She is the blessedly spoiled wife to Billy and mom to four crazy, highly creative, sometimes cranky, but always amazing children.  Jennifer’s heart’s desire is to steward the story He’s given her well. She blogs at Ponderings of an Elect Exile about “Family, Friends, Learning, Books, Music, Photography, Food…and the Ramblings of a Wife and Mom Daily Amazed by the Grace of an Awesome God!” She also writes and speaks about child protection issues…another subject close to her heart.  She would love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram.

Note:  This post was originally posted on the 31 Days of OpenHearted Living blog last fall.  It's come to mind several times in the last few weeks, and I was reminded of it today during a time of sharing with some very special...and openhearted...ladies.  We SO need to learn to break down the walls in all directions...to be able to be open with others ourselves, and to allow others a safe place to share their burdens.  This is a burden on my heart.  I'd love to hear from you on this topic...please share your thoughts in the comments, or message me through the contact box on the right. 

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