Last year February before the pandemic hit, I finished a three-day personal retreat at a conference center along the beach. I spent time praying and journaling on the shore to prepare my heart for writing my new book, Sweet Like Jasmine, about how God makes beauty out of our brokenness. I had packed my bags in the car to go home when I decided to take one last walk.
I saw a woman sitting by herself in a wheelchair looking at the ocean, and as I passed by, I paused, turned to her, and said, “How beautiful you look soaking in the ocean! May I ask what brings you here?”
The woman started crying, tears filling up her gentle blue eyes and rolling down her cheeks. She swallowed to collect herself, struggling to get her words out, inhaling and exhaling each word.
I nodded, relaxed my shoulders, and sat down to show her I wasn’t going anywhere.
“I get . . . very . . . upset . . . when . . . I . . . feel . . . emotional,” she replied with great effort.
“I understand,” I said, pausing to let my patience reassure her. I silently prayed, Touch her with Your peace, Jesus. Help me to listen.
“Most people give up waiting for me to talk,” she continued. “They don’t like that I keep crying.” She spoke each word, flinching with difficulty.
“It’s hard to talk if you feel overwhelmed,” I said to her. “It’s okay. Pain is hard for people to be comfortable with.”
As she wiped her tears, I offered, “I love the ocean. The ocean is never in a rush. We can just rest.”
A smile broke through. I gently asked, “Has it always been difficult to share?”
My new friend shared her story. She had lupus, which debilitated her motor skills and impacted her speech.
When I asked about her faith, she said church friends judged her lack of faith and blamed her for not praying enough. It broke my heart to hear that. I affirmed her, “God is so loving, but I’m sorry you didn’t receive the care you deserved.”
I shared about my own journey of healing and how God helped me to stop hiding my story. I told her the parts of my story that I felt were flawed, but I also talked about how God mended my heart with His love and how He taught me embrace my true worth just as I am.
“May I pray for you?” I asked gently.
“Yes,” she whispered. I placed my hand on hers. We prayed, then hugged. My friend looked radiant.
It might seem easier to hide our flaws, but God makes beauty out of brokenness when we are willing to be honest and share our stories. When we do, others can feel safe to also share their stories, and God brings us close to one another, even allowing strangers to become friends. Through our stories, we offer the gift of rest and acceptance to each other.
God takes the stories we’ve lived through to show others that He is faithful to carry us through our hard times. Alone and isolated, we stay invisible, but when we open our hearts and share, we won’t be lonely anymore. We will be loved, and we will be made stronger.
Friend, is God calling you to step out of your comfort zone and share more of yourself? If you feel afraid, let me offer you this encouragement:
God values and treasures the beautiful parts of you that others have overlooked. He makes beauty out of brokenness. Everything you endure can become a sheltering tree of peace to others, so don’t be afraid to share. Your story is worthy to be told.
But now, says the Lord—
the one who created you, Jacob,
the one who formed you, Israel:
Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine.
Isaiah 43:1 (CEB)