“I’m not going down there, Christina. I’m telling Phillip that I can’t come and speak. Why am I even a speaker? I made one feature film and it didn’t do well because we didn’t make our money back, which means no money to make another film. I can’t look at these people and tell them that for the second year in a row Disciples in the Moonlight is not being filmed this year. What am I doing? I’m a failure. Everything I touch dies. I get a lead on project after project and they are taken away or pushed. Maybe this is not my calling.”
Tears are streaming down my face as Brett stands vulnerable before me. I put the weights down and sit on the ottoman because clearly my workout can wait. This man before me, the one who is strong for me, fights to protect me, prays over me and takes on spiritual oppression when I’m under attack by Satan’s lies and fears, is baring his naked soul to me. Through the blurriness of my tears, I look him in the eyes. Those same eyes that I have looked into a million times since 16 years old. It is one of the features that I love most about him because even as we age, his eyes and that look of unconditional love he gives me will never change. I can see his soul, and in this moment, there is fear. Insecurity. Worry. Failure. Lies. Bitterness. Betrayal. Hopelessness. This is not the man I know. Because that man I know is who Christ says he is, not these lies from Satan.
This was only one of a few broken moments that Brett had in the past several months. I asked the Spirit to tell me what to say or do. I have told Brett over and over in past occurrences that those are lies. I’ve spoken truth into his ears. Laid my hands on him and prayed warrior prayers over him when I have found him paralyzed on the floor of our bedroom unable to get up because the fears and lies had overtaken him. But now, I use my exercise shirt to wipe away my tears and honestly don’t know what to do anymore to help him. I wanted to yell, “Shut up!” Yet instead, my own fears and worries rose up. How can I be a helpmate to my husband when I myself am battling my own insecurities, shame of sin, fears of the future? I didn’t say anything. We were both broken. I just let the tears come. I nodded my head to say I understand. We went our separate ways. I don’t even remember if I finished my weight lifting.
Now, I’m on a plane flying back home to Indianapolis from San Antonio. We went “down there,” way down south in Texas. The place that only a few weeks ago Brett was dreading to go. And now tears are ready to burst from the overwhelming joy of what took place this past week at the Christian Worldview Film Festival (CWVFF). Last night after a wonderful time at the festival’s ceremony and after-party with so many friends, I looked into Brett’s eyes. And this time I see joy. Hope. Encouragement. Peace. Security. Surrender. That didn’t come from news that his film projects are funded and off and running. Or that he got a role as lead actor for a feature film. Or that he took home a prestigious award…because all those things didn’t happen. This is how it happened…
Brokenness. Vulnerability. Surrender. Community.
The past few years, God has been breaking Brett and me. We asked for revival a couple of years ago, and God has been answering. But that revival could only start in our hearts. A quote I read on the plane down to San Antonio spoke loudly where we are at: “Before God can use you greatly, He will wound you deeply. Are you ready to be pruned by the Master?”* We have been wounded in different ways, separate from each other and together. Oh and how the pruning hurts. But it is necessary. A week before our trip to the CWVFF, I devoured the book The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp. This book is one that I will buy and put on my shelf, and that says a lot for an avid book reader who doesn’t buy books unless they impact my life, and I will read over and over for the years to come. The Spirit spoke through Ann right to my heart and where I am at on this broken journey myself.
In my previous post, My Friend, You Are Not Alone, I wrote about loneliness and how relationships and discipleship is crucial in this life. In The Broken Way, Ann expanded on this concept, specifically how brokenness and suffering in community are the way to heal our broken hearts. I have experienced “the broken way” this past year with my three discipling relationships and even other relationships I did not mention. Through my suffering I fought to isolate myself but instead became vulnerable. I poured out my heart, confessed my sin, and opened my hands to give to others. And because of it I have known this to be true: “The way through brokenness is, and always has been, to break the sufferer free from the aloneness of the suffering by choosing to participate in the suffering with them – [community] – choosing to stand with the suffering, stay with the suffering, and let it all be shaped into meaning that transcends the suffering.” (I give you permission to read that again and let it sink in! It’s pretty deep!)
Brett and I went down to the CWVFF not knowing what to expect. We prayed and asked the Lord to use us. Use our brokenness. Vulnerability. No answers for our future. Open hands ready to give. Humbled hearts surrendered. I walked into that place and it honestly felt like I was given oxygen to breathe. The veil of loneliness and fear disappeared from surrounding Brett as the week went on. When someone asked how we were doing, we didn’t say “great” and a bunch of fake comments to appease the person. We were honest. “It’s been a really hard year, but this is what God is doing…” On Friday night, the Spirit spoke through Brett as he gave a powerful message on how a wrong identity leads us to fear and worry, distracts us from the mission, and makes us question God. He shared his journey through the past couple of years of having a wrong identity. He was completely vulnerable and even the end wasn’t tied up with a pretty bow, since we still don’t have answers for our future. (Click here to listen and watch a short video clip from his speech.)
We found “the broken way” right there at the CWVFF. As our walls came down, others’ walls came down too. My heart wanted to burst with gratitude for every person that came up to him and told their own story of fear and loneliness. Others suffering alongside Brett in the filmmaking world. We are not alone. There is no judgment. This is community: Those who prayed with him. Hugged him. Cried with him. Gave written and audible words of encouragement. And all those who engaged with me in conversations that touched me deeply, whether sitting at a table, the couch in the hallway, on the floor, mealtimes, crammed in our rental car, and even the bathroom. Talking to other filmmaker wives who really do understand me. Laughing with friends like we’ve known each other for years. You will never know how desperately I needed to hear your words: “Thank you for all you do for your husband. You probably are behind the scenes but your role as his wife is most important.” “Thank you for your vulnerability. You are a warrior princess. We need to be mentoring more warrior princesses.” “Listening to how you have supported Brett has inspired me to find a wife like you.” (Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at that one! I had to fight to shut up Satan from reminding me of all the ways I have failed Brett through this journey.)
Many filmmakers went “down there” to the CWVFF hoping to bring back an award. Yes, some did, yet most all of us went home Spirit-filled, encouraged, and rejuvenated to continue the mission God has called us to in filmmaking. If you want to find Jesus in filmmaking…come to the Christian Worldview Film Festival and Filmmaker’s Guild next year. That is where revival is. That is where suffering happens together in community to bring about a purpose far greater than we expected.
As I was leaving the after-party to get to bed since we had an early flight home, I said goodbye to the founder’s wife. She told me what spoke to her the most this week was experiencing blessing through others’ suffering, which doesn’t seem right! I hugged her and said, “Oh I know. I really do know. It’s the broken way.” And Ann says it better than I can: “The fellowship of the broken believe that suffering is a gift He entrusts to us and He can be trusted to make this suffering into a gift.”
Flashback to a few weeks ago, I sat on that ottoman and at one point couldn’t look Brett in the eyes anymore because it was too painful. I stared at my weights feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders questioning, what was God doing? We’ve been waiting for answers for a couple of years now. What more does He want with our brokenness? Now, I know. I really do know. God has turned our suffering into a gift. If God allowed us to suffer all this time so that Brett would share his vulnerable heart to all who heard him this past week so that lives could be impacted…then it was worth it all. And now we come home still unsure if God will or will not allow answers for our future to come soon. Regardless, we will remain….
Broken. Vulnerable. Surrendered. Suffering with Community. A Gift.
Follow CWVFF on Facebook and check out more pics and videos from last week’s guild and festival: https://www.facebook.com/cwvff/