Communal Healing & Intentional Growth

One of the adages of The Cross Ministry Group is: 

“We are wounded in community and we are healed in community.” 

This resonates with me instinctually, when I’m healthy. When I am centered in my true-self, deeply connected to Christ, moving toward community to heal makes sense. I am not made to be alone; I am not an island, nor the physician of my own soul. I need the counsel and care of brothers and sisters (Pr. 13:10; Heb.10:25). It just makes sense that when I am hurting emotionally, relationally, psychologically, I need others to hold space with me.

However, when I’m hurt I want to run from people. Community feels dangerous and vulnerable. My go-to is to isolate, withdraw, and counter attack when I feel hurt. Another adage: “Hurt people hurt people.” I want a safe distance from people. The defensive posture says flee to safety, and my mind tells me people are not safe. 

All of us that have lived a few years have been hurt, sometimes repeatedly and deeply. We are born into a broken world—we are broken and we live among broken people. Now, that’s not the end of the story, but it is an impactful part of our stories. The hurt is real. In our unique experiences, we share the broken human condition and a commonality that can be a healing salve when we sit with it, together. 

Rob: I experienced deep loneliness and sadness from a sense of abandonment as a young boy. I hurt myself and others as I sought to hide, deny and repress those feelings. I hide in stoicism, performance, professional success, and deep frustrations of a wounded heart. I have been hurt by church leaders, the greed of a business partner and the betrayal of friends. My own woundedness played a role in each of these. And my experiences are not unique—every human experiences being wounded by other, wounding others, and sometimes from the opposite gender.   

Kristyn: I was abused as a young child and grew up with distrust, fear and confusion around relationships, particularly males. We moved often when I was a child and I was shy and quiet and often felt outside of circles, unwanted by friends and unsure of my place. As an adult I have experienced the abandonment of close friends, the dissolution of our church community, and the pain of caring for relatives with cancer and dementia. All of which pushed me deep into choices to keep my world small and to avoid the risk of vulnerability or exposure.  Remaining unseen felt safer in many ways. It was lonely, but offered a safety I could define and control. I believe there are many of us who live lonely, isolated lives because of our brokenness.

Gender wounds are hard. The opposite gender is a beautiful mystery of differences. Often the unique differences are what is attractive. At the same time, the differences may lead to communication struggles, confusion, conflict, misunderstanding, wounds and distrust. The differences then make reconciliation and healing all the more complicated. The wounds have deep communal impact, dividing men and women, especially when generalizations and stereotypes are inserted. I suspect the Enemy uses these wounds to divide you and me and all of humanity. Divide and destroy is its game.    

So why not close down, isolate, hide my heart and just power through alone? 

My answer to this is love. Love heals, love hopes, love perseveres, and love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. Love seeks reconciliation and growth. Love is not experienced in isolation, nor does it grow there. Love moves toward the other. Love engages. Love is expressed, exercised, and grows in community. Love is the holy longing of a hurting heart . 

The picture of God in John 3:16 is a movement of love toward those He so loved, though they had turned from Him. And as Jesus is being crucified, in remarkable love he says: “Father forgive them they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). This is the pinnacle of love amidst a wounded and wounding community.

God is aware of the problem and acts (John 1:9-14).

God does not blame orjudge, but takes responsibility for healing the wound (1John 4:10-12).

God in the person of Jesus courageously, humbly and vulnerably moves into the human community (Phil.2:5-11),

and God risks being known (John 15:15, 17:3) and courageously endures the struggle for the joy and re-connection that lies before Him (Heb.12:1-2).      

God’s call is to follow Him and His example. I think that means enduring hard things and pursuing healing in love, even when it hurts. 

I believe the framework for healing is this: 

  • Awareness (insight on the nature of the wound)
  • Responsibility (ownership of my part and healing intentions) 
  • Courage (perseverance/endurance to walk a hard path toward others)
  • Action (risk engaging in community) 

Rob: Now, this may not happen the day after a wound. It may take decades. I lived in ignorance and falseness around my childhood wounds for 40 years. I couldn’t work on what I was unaware of. And that awareness only came from seeing the impact of my false (protective/defensive) self on others, specifically my wife and children. 

This is only the beginning. Healing and growth came in community through a few men I risked trusting at Men at the Cross. Then, taking ownership of my falseness, more healing in persevering in the hard work of looking at my wounds. That is vulnerable work. It involved owning my stuff with my wife. Laying down defensiveness and my fear, and owning how I wounded her and and how I was wounded behind it. That is major vulnerability – it felt weak and dangerous.  But what I discovered was God’s loving presence, and another human being who could hold space for my hurt and pain. 

Love, God’s love, calls me (and all of us) to intentional growth, by going to an edge, exposing our pain, and pursuing healing in community. Men at the Cross, my family, an R-Group, and sharing the story in community was a beginning. It was and is hard, but it is healing.—and the work continues. 

Kristyn:  It is such a gift to be part of a community where it is safe to be seen.  My church community first offered me the opportunity to show up authentically.  It was in this community of women and men many of us fresh off of our Women or Men at the Cross weekend that we began to become aware of and to name our own false selves and to take responsibility for them and for their impact.   It is in community staffing on weekends where I began to watch other women use their voice and be heard and honored and I started to deliberately lay aside my false self of smallness and to show up and be seen. For real. It is with my husband that I can own my brokenness and acknowledge the wounds and my wounding behaviors. It is with my teachers at school who I can hear when they offer me feedback that I was brusque or thoughtless. 

I am seen, I am known, I am loved. From this place, I am also called to do my work to pursue my healing and wholeness.  I need others in these broken places. I have heard the phrase, “…this is solitary work that we cannot do alone.” I find that to be true for me. Being witnessed in my broken vulnerability is where the true growth happens.  I have been wounded in community. It is in community that I am being healed. 

Our collaborative leadership restructuring with Kristyn Bray and me leading The Cross Ministry Group is intentional. We want to grow, and we want to press into the wounds, including gender wounds we all carry. We are committed to love and to the well being of each other and The Cross Ministry community. Working together as Co-Executive Directors, committed to staying “clear,” vulnerable, compassionately curious, and collaborative is expected to test us and tease out the reality of our shared humanity—the wounds and the gold.  

Our vision for ourselves and this Ministry is to glorify God through more love, intentional growth, experiential transformation, and healing. We want to invite you to do your work – in community – with us. We are in!