Immediately following sharing my own personal story at our church service recently, I was browsing Pinterest and saw this quote:
“Sometimes God redeems your story by surrounding you with people who need to hear your past, so it doesn’t become their future.” -John Acuff
WHOA, I thought. That’s DEEP.
I am hoping to share here soon what I talked about to our church, but I am still praying about the right timing. Nonetheless, prior to me getting on stage with my husband, I was pretty nervous that there would be no way I would have the words to say in front of a BUNCH of people sitting silently, especially because the lights at our church are SUPER bright and it feels like a total spotlight. Asa and I prayed beforehand that it would be the Lord’s words, not our own, that came to surface. Needless to say I was completely in awe that I did just fine. I was a little nervous? But not too bad deep down. I didn’t stutter, choke, or even tear up; the words just flowed. After it ended, a gal holding her baby approached me with tears in her eyes. “Thank you,” she said. “I can’t say more than thank you because I’ll just cry harder. So thank you.” I got her name and told her to please find me and talk with me if she felt she could. Then a few more women hugged me and encouraged me. One said, “I felt this was your first time sharing your story but I need to tell you that it shouldn’t be your last.”
So the thing is, with that quote above, we all have a story. Yours might not be that you had an affair, or were an alcoholic, or that you’re addicted to porn. But it’s still important! When a friend told me that she was currently dealing with what I did in my past, I almost started to cry.
“RUN!!!!!” is what I wanted to yell. But we were actually IN church when she told me and well, that would have been weird. If there is ANY way at all that I can spare another woman going through what I did; what I put my FAMILY through, oh friends I would. Do you have something that you wish could help someone be free? It took five years for me to fully heal. To feel okay with friends and family knowing some of my dirty laundry. The fact I was able to share openly in a congregation is 1000% because of the Lord and His healing. You might be thinking, “Ashley, I am not sharing my baggage, in a CHURCH…” But you don’t have to. I am just asking you to be open—if you have a friend or even acquaintance who you think NEEDS to hear your story? Be open to it.
And if you’re NOT there yet, trust the wait. Never in a thousand years did I think I would share the way that I have. Asa’s MOM, his sister, and his brother’s wife all sat in the front row. Stories are hard. Pain, suffering, guilt, shame—all very real things that make us want to be quiet and hush.
Brené Brown said it like this: “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we will ever do,” and I agree SO much! Your worst chapters might be someone else's freedom. Twenty-year old Ashley got married QUICK and never thought she would really stumble. But twenty-five year old Ashley took a swing and a giant miss at that naive assumption. I don’t have it all figured out now, and you know what, sharing my story is still scary. To me there are a lot of factors; things that can go right and lots of people I can help with it, but there’s also things that can go wrong I am sure. I know that you give Satan an inch and he’s gonna take a mile—but I also know that stories where it is proof that we are HUMAN, are most often the very ones apt to change someone else’s life.