Brian and Cara live in Louisville, KY with their four children, where Brian is senior pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. Brian is also the founder of the ministry Practical Shepherding. For more information about Practical Shepherding, check out their website at www.practicalshepherding.com.
Cara – Last year I found myself at one of the lowest points of my life. I had been struggling with a deep, dark depression that just would not seem to lift. To say that I was overwhelmed with life is an understatement. I was desperate. I had prayed and sought God but He seemed silent, distant, cold, and uncaring. When I came to Women at the Cross, it was a last attempt at trying to find God in the midst of this darkness. I came desperate for at least a sign that maybe He still cared for me, that maybe He had heard my cry, that maybe I could feel something other than emptiness. I came begging for crumbs with my soul starving.
What I found last November was so much more than what I could have hoped for. I was not surprised at the false selves I identified, I was not surprise at the fears and shame I had. I knew those things well; they were the things that were familiar in my life, the things that were consistent. What I didn’t realize is just how much those things were choking the very life out of me. What I was not prepared for was the process Women at the Cross took me through to let go of those things. What I was not prepared for was to hear God speak to me “Let go and trust me, I have you, just let go”. It was one of the most difficult weekends I have ever faced, but it was also the most rewarding weekend I have ever been through. I came begging for crumbs, what I got was freedom. I found my freedom in Christ again as I broke down the walls I had built to protect myself from the pain and hurt of my father. I found freedom from the very things I was clinging to for security. I found freedom from having to be good enough to earn the love of my Heavenly Father. I found my identity as a beloved daughter of the King. I found life where I was sure there was nothing left but death.
Do I still battle with false selves? Yes, because my weekend did not perfect me. Rather it gave me the tools to not only identify my false selves but also to be able to lay them down at the feet of Jesus. I will be forever thankful for this ministry, as God has continued to use it as a reminder of His intimate care for me. I am learning everyday more of what it means to walk as a daughter who is both broken but beloved.
Brian – My wife’s struggles were her issues. At least, that is what I thought for a long time. As she walked through a particular dark time in her life last year, I was prodded by others to look within and see how I might be contributing. What was uncovered was troubling. I had been living my life as a narcissist, driven by control and perfectionism. As I dug deeper these driving forces were closely connected to different kinds of trauma I endured as a child and teenager that created feelings of fear, anxiety, and worthlessness that I brought into my adult life and marriage. Over the years these struggles in my own life were crushing my wife and contributing to her struggles. It was a painful realization, but I was grateful to have come to a knowledge of that which had ultimately left my soul in turmoil and unrest for many years. The problem was I wasn’t sure what to do with this new found knowledge about myself.
In the Lord’s kind providence, Men at the Cross in many ways was the answer to that question. I have loved the Lord for a long time. I know the gospel well. But I was not sure how to allow the grace of God in the cross of Jesus to enter those dark, hidden places in my heart and bring healing. Men at the Cross helped me both to face those traumatic experiences in my childhood, expose them to the light, and find true healing at the only place that heals those painful wounds of the past—the cross where Jesus bore my sin, shame, and punishment.
As a result, I have not only found freedom and healing from the pain of the past, but Men at the Cross also reminded me of what true masculine strength in Christ really is. True masculine strength comes when we embrace our brokenness and weakness and allow Christ to minister grace in those places. What emerges is a broken, but beloved man of God able now to love those around him and be an instrument of healing. I continue to battle still every day as I try to walk in this new man, but my experience at Men at the Cross equipped me in two important ways for the battle: It reminded me that true gospel healing only comes when darkness is exposed to the light and that it is not a bucket of grace we find at the foot of the cross when we come, but an unending, powerful river of grace that flows from the foot of the cross.