By Jennifer Strickland
A while back I had lunch with a woman who had honored me to share my testimony at her women’s luncheon. I had just moved from California to Texas at the time of my speaking and felt unusually emotional in front of the microphone. I nearly always shed a few tears at some point in telling my story, and at this particular event, the tears streamed down my face.
I am very honest when I tell about the world I came from. For the sake of the women in the room, I don’t wear a perfect mask; instead, I share my experience from the heart. I intimately recall what it was like to call out to God I didn’t know from a place of sheer darkness, to be answered by Him, and to pass by faith into a life of light. Typically, I speak and write from the pit of my stomach, from the place that remembers well a life without God at the helm. Over our debriefing luncheon, the woman commented that many women were moved by my testimony, but also asked if she could offer a correction.
“Absolutely,” I said, inching forward on the edge of my seat.
“The daughter of the King is not a victim, Jen,” she said, “She is a victor.”
At that moment I knew that as much as Christ had triumphed over my past, as much as God had restored my life with incredible blessing, I was at that time still speaking as a victim of the world. I was still giving more weight to the ways I was hurt than to the ways I’ve been healed. Why was it that I still shed tears when I told the story? Was I still hurt? Was I living like the wounded instead of the restored?
Many of you come from greater pains than I; many can’t even imagine life on earth without the Word as your guide. But if you have laid your life at the throne of Christ, you are given a beautiful, resplendent crown to wear, no matter where you come from.
Jesus came to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners … to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isa 61:1-3
Are you giving the brokenness in your heart more weight than the fact that God can bind it up? Are you giving more weight to the captivity of your past or the freedom of your future? The darkness you’ve been released from or the shackle-free life ahead? The mourning or the comfort? The grief or the provision? The old spirit of despair or the new garment of praise? The ashes or the crown?
Recently, I felt the Lord ask me a simple question: Which weighs more, Jen, the crown or the ashes? The ashes are our pasts: the hurts, the injustices, the debts owed us, the ruins of what we had once hoped for but didn’t bear fruit. The crown of beauty is our future: the healing, the purpose, the truth, our cancelled debt, forgiveness, and grace. I have a beautiful crown I put on at some of my events to show women and girls the power of what it is to be a daughter of God. I think I’ll take a scale today and weigh some ashes and weigh that crown. Of course I already know which weighs more.
I refuse to put more weight on my ashes, for the past can’t tell us who we are. Instead, I lay hold of the crown of the Daughter of the King, which gives us an eternal identity and destiny. We are crowned in victory, hope, restoration, and joy. The crown of the faithful carries the weight of authority and purpose that no bucket of ashes could ever outweigh.
Today and in the days to come, choose the crown.
I will clothe his enemies with shame, but the crown on his head will be resplendent.” Psalm 132:18
How has God traded in your ashes for a beautiful crown?