Before the publication of February’s newsletter on “binding up the brokenhearted,” we sat down with Chris Armstrong, director of Women’s Recovery at Anna Ogden Hall, to learn more about the healing process. Chris, who has been in ministry for 18 years and freely admits to her own journey through brokenness, clearly loves her job. We wish you could sit down in her sunny office and listen to her in person, but the passion packed into her five-foot-one frame even comes through words on a screen.
UGM: How does brokenheartedness manifest itself in the women who come to Anna Ogden Hall?
Chris: I believe what drives people to bad behavior – whether it’s addictions or abusive relationships or being abusers – is that brokenness of heart. It has been so broken, and they can’t risk having it broken any more so they become hard and cold or run to anything or anyone that promises an escape from that pain. I believe brokenheartedness is behind everything that everyone who comes into Anna Ogden Hall faces.
UGM: Do they come in saying their hearts are broken?
Chris: No. The majority of the ladies don’t want to feel. They would say they have no hearts or that their heart is so cold that they don’t need to have a heart. They want no one. They need no one.
UGM: What does that look like in the early days?
Chris: What I see is that when ladies come in, they often are very afraid. They’re uncertain. They don’t know what’s going to happen. They don’t know what to expect. They don’t know if they’re ready to do what they’ll need to do in our program. And so . . . they are often very closed off. They fight against the very thing they want and need because they’re afraid. They’ve learned it’s not safe to trust people. It’s not safe to be honest and open. It’s not safe to have needs and desires and wants because you will get hurt, and so they build this wall to protect their hearts. They don’t want to be hurt. That’s what we see when these ladies come in. That’s what presents.
But what I see is a woman with a God-appointed destiny. If someone will just hold her heart for a while and let it heal, she will move into that destiny. They want it, but they don’t know how to get there.
UGM: How is God “binding up the brokenhearted” here at Anna Ogden Hall?
Chris: For me, the binding up process is really about giving them places – and this happens in classes, it happens in counseling, it happens in conversations in the hallway – where ladies will take just a little bit of a risk and share their hearts and their hurt, share something that they may never have shared with anybody before. I can almost hear their heart saying, “Please don’t hurt me one more time. I’ve been hurt too much.”
One of the most beautiful things we see here is when one of these ladies who is hard and cold and doesn’t need anyone or anything – all of the sudden has tears starting to come. And I say, “I’m seeing the real you for the very first time. God created us to connect with one another through emotions.”
When I talk with ladies, I feel as though sometimes they literally hand me their hearts. They allow me to look deep inside – and even to hear really ugly things that they’ve done and said and that they regret – and we just hold that and allow God to work.
When I was so broken, people looked at my sin and weren’t afraid of it but helped me walk away from it to something better. It’s what we all want – someone who sees us completely, know us and says, “I see the true you. I see the destiny that you have, and I know you can get there.”
Conversation between Barbara Comito, UGM staff writer, and Chris Armstrong, (former) director of Women's Recovery at Anna Ogden Hall.
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