Five women squeezed into the little silver car exchanging names and niceties. Everyone was eager to arrive at the destination, though slightly apprehensive, not knowing exactly what to expect. It would be a couple of hours on the road with nothing more than a bag of vegetable chips and five bottles of water, so ultimately the conversation was bound to develop. Once we moved beyond careers, kids, and spouses, we settled into much more serious stories.
I remember well the woman sitting next to me talking about how her childhood had been tarnished by teenage brothers and their friends. Boys with a desire to love, but no idea what to do about their lust, had taken advantage of her in the worst ways. It was clear, her painful past had followed her into the future, as she made choices she later couldn’t change. A teenage pregnancy led to an abortion, and despite being the mother of several children now, she had never been able to let that earlier decision go. She was on this journey hoping to find peace with it, hoping to lay that burden down.
The woman in the backseat on the far right had struggled all her adult life with infertility. Finally, the adoption of two little boys promised to be the answer to her prayers. But the boys had been abused before they came into her life and no one had ever been able to help them deal with those demons. Their brokenness opened up some dark places in her husband’s past, and before she knew what was happening, she was divorced and her family destroyed. She was coming along to escape the loneliness and find a soft place to fall.
Then there was the woman in the back middle seat who seemed to have it all together. She was thin, beautiful, and wealthy and wore the cutest clothes. She had two teenagers and a very successful husband. No one would have ever known, if she had not spoken up, that this man she married was controlling, abusive, narcissistic and her worst nightmare. She had only confided in one other woman; but, just prior to this particular weekend, she decided she was tired of hiding.
When we arrived at our destination, a wonderful weekend retreat, there were even more battle weary women with similar stories. Women from all over the world, together in one place, to listen, learn, pray and participate in all God had planned for them. No criticizing, no judging, no condemnation. It was a place where no one had to hide, where many burdens were laid at Jesus’ feet, unconditional love was extended and everyone found a soft place to fall.
It’s been a few years since I met those women, but I thought of them again this weekend at a similar retreat. The words that remain in my mind this morning, the words some of these women use to describe their own lives are:
even Door Mat.
We have all made mistakes or been the victim of someone else’s destructive decisions. We can carry those burdens and compare ourselves to others, hoping somehow something worse will make us feel better about ourselves, or we can lay it all down and find a soft place to fall.
Psalm 34:18 (NASB)
“The Lord is near to the broken-hearted
And saves those who are crushed in Spirit.”
Maybe a women’s retreat is not your style. Maybe you are not at all comfortable telling another woman what you have been through. But God is always listening and he already knows anyway; so why not just let go and let him carry your burden?
He will show you the way!