Healing


I have not been writing over the last few months because I took a journey into healing at a new level.

It has been a journey I never expected.

Days are hard. Heartache is real.

Pain is very present.

I have lacked hope. I have clung to faith.

I am starting to see some light.

One of the impacts or coping mechanisms of abuse is to numb your emotions.
When the pain is so deep, the emotions seem overwhelming. We can shut them off to cope. We stop feeling to survive.

Part of recovery is turning our emotions back on.

That means choosing to feel….to feel the good, the bad, the painful, the joy, the emptiness and violation, and the hope that it all can change.

I have been learning to feel again. Learning to come alive.

I forgot how deep the pain could go. I now remember what it is to feel emotions of all kinds and intensities.

The work has been hard. The work is starting to pay off.

I am thankful for the grace and mercy the Lord has shown me through this time, and I am falling on that grace and mercy with faith that he will see me through.

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The idea of whether we have permission to speak comes up a lot among those who have been hurt and disillusioned by and with the church.

Author/Speaker Anne Jackson is releasing a new book today titled Permission to Speak Freely.

If you or someone you know has been hurt by the church and has questioned God, this could be the book that will begin a road to recovery. Permission to Speak Freely is also an excellent resource for those in the church who haven’t been through the things Anne and many others have to help them to become aware of the dangers of living a life of condemnation toward others. The stories in Permission to Speak Freely can serve as a wake-up call to the church. Jackson’s book and ministry will help many in the church who have been wounded and left to pick up the pieces. – CBA Retailers & Resources Magazine

Today Jonathan Acuff at Stuff Christians Like posted an excerpt from the book, an excerpt showing some of the roots of Anne’s disillusionment with the church. He ends with this question, “Have you ever had an experience where how people in the church acted and what the Bible says didn’t line up?”

I share this not to draw you to more stories about what is wrong with the church. That is not my heart, nor do I believe it is something Jonathan or Anne would support. I share this because the discussion about having permission to speak, having a voice, speaking out, and confessing our need for each other and for a Savior is so important.

Pick up the book.

Lurk on the sites and learn more.

Find the courage to speak freely.

You have permission!

Later this week I will be participating in an event where I may cross paths with my old pastor. I know he is connected with others who will be attending the event. The fact our paths may cross is really weighing on my heart.

Near the end of April I had communicated with the pastor and elders that I could not remain in silence any longer about the situation because I knew that God was calling me to step up, to share my story, and to proclaim to others about the amazing healing the Lord had done in my life. They have been unwilling to work through and resolve issues. The response I received was that I was unstable and irrational, did not understand the Gospel, again was showing I was unrepentant, and that if I spoke I would actually damage God’s kingdom.

I have continued to try to respond in love and patience to these leaders, and have offered over and over again to resolve the issues with no progress. It took until the beginning of July for those leaders and my current pastor to agree to meet. My pastor has not wanted me to meet with these leaders because he does not believe they are willing to reconcile, and he believes it would be unhealthy for me to share with them. So far, even after meeting with him, they have not shown any openness or willingness to reconcile. I also know some others that were key in my story are no longer at the church. They also have been hurt and are dealing with a difficult road of healing.

I am not sure how to respond if I see my pastor. The last face-to-face interaction I had with him was last December when he had an uncontrolled outburst and made a public scene. I do not want to cause any disruption at the event, and I have concerns that the pastor will try to speak to me. His elders told me not to speak to him, and after the run in last December I clearly defined that he was not to speak to me again without witnesses (on my side) due to his outburst. If he tries to speak to me the only thing I know to do is to calmly remind him that we are not allowed to speak, and then to involve others if he tries to communicate further.

My heart is heavy with concerns for all involved. I am walking in faith, still knowing that God is capable of healing and restoring everything if we would surrender, so he is definitely capable of taking care of much smaller pieces of this, such as this even.  I am going to the event with a very open and hope-filled heart, trusting that the Lord will use it mightily to change things, and believing that He can be glorified in all situations.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

I grew up in the Presbyterian and United Methodist churches. Overall, their beliefs are very similar, and by the time I left the care of my parents and church I had a good start to a foundation. I had only been a believer for two years when I stepped out my own, not realizing there were dangers that lay ahead.

In college, I attended InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the Covenant Church, and a non-denominational church. I also studied Religion, and was exposed to a large range of belief systems. When Christianity was discussed, it was often in negative light or a very weak manner. After college, I served with a ministry in the south (Bible Belt) and then went overseas with Youth With a Mission. I returned to the states to look for a solid church home for several years before settling into a non-denominational church. Twelve years later, I was abused.

Since that time I have received counsel from leaders of many different churches, worked with counselors with different belief systems, attended several different churches, and I have been exposed to a very large number of books, sermons, web sites, conferences, etc. They do not all share the same viewpoints and beliefs.

I am a theological mess!

The mixture of things I was exposed to has broadened my mind and stretched me, but it holds many dangers.

I have been exposed to so many varying teachings and beliefs, that sometimes I don’t know what to believe.

Sometimes things I read or hear sound really good, and then I start to realize that it is misleading or shortsighted in some way. It leaves me wondering how often I read or listen to things and do not realize it is distorted or off target. It isn’t that these writers and speakers intend to mislead, because I am sure they firmly believe what they share, but unless we know the whole truth, the parts can mix us up or may not make sense.

Not long ago I learned that a very well-known pastor I have read and listened to believes the Bible is a product of humans, and not inspired and created by God. He used to look to the Bible for truth, but now he just accepts that certain things will remain a mystery. The news shocked me and made me wonder why I did not know this about him. It made me realize that I do not know much about the beliefs of those I have listened to and read.

Not knowing about those speaking into my life has left me in a very dangerous position where I can be mislead and deceived.

I have been taught many conflicting things.

Sometimes I don’t know what to believe, but there one thing of which I am absolutely certain.

The Lord is greater than any theology or belief I hold. He can fix any mixed up belief, deceit, misleading, or shortsighted understanding I hold.

After all, he is God!

Sometimes circumstances leave you behind a rock and a hard place, and no option looks or feels good.

That is how it may feel to be authentic and transparent about your life.

You know your past, you know the story, you know the good, the bad, the lame, the extreme, and you know the parts that might live better hidden under a rock. Do you have any of those pieces? Pieces of your story that you are not proud of? Pieces of your story that you may be coming to terms with, but others don’t want you to tell? Do you have pieces of your story that could hurt others, and therefore you are not sure what to do with them?

When my life intertwines with others, then my story becomes our story. My story no longer exists alone.

It is hard to learn to own our story. We may be willing to accept the parts of our story that we feel responsible for, but not those parts that are imposed or inflicted upon us. When our stories involve others it is difficult to know how to own our story, and what to share with others. That is especially true if the story could hurt others.

Some of us have stories where we are hurt, disillusioned, and victimized. Church and spiritual abuse typically occurs at the hands of leaders, and many people feel it is wrong to speak against leaders or to say anything that might damage their reputation. However, not being allowed to share our stories can leave us in silence, shame, and bondage. Those things are not healthy, and they keep us from being authentic and transparent. They keep us from growing and having healthy, mature, and authentic faith lives.

Sharing our stories does not need to be a black and white issue. There are some guidelines that can help in knowing when, where, and what to share.

1) Own your story: Are you willing to accept your story for what it is? This includes being realistic about what happened, and not denying it. Accepting it means being able to state facts about what happened with little to no shaping of your own perspectives and agendas. It also means taking responsibility for your part of the story and accepting things you did wrong. In my story I had to accept my sin, my failures, my false theologies and beliefs, and my poor communication and relationships.

2) Check your heart: If you are going to share your story, take time to ask why. If you are only telling your story because you need to work through issues, then choose an audience who will help you do that. This will typically be people you see face-to-face, and I believe it is best done in community and relationships and not just in a counselor’s office. A time may come to share your story (or elements of it) to a larger audience like a bible study, a church group, in a written newsletter/article, on a blog, or in a book. Knowing the condition of your heart and why you are sharing are critical when you start to speak beyond those who are closest and most intimate with you. If you are not sharing for the right purposes, then please stop and take your heart to the Lord to have it changed.

3) Guard your words: When our stories intertwine with others, anything we say can reflect poorly on others involved. Checking our heart is the first step of guarding our words, but even if our intentions and purposes of sharing are correct, we still need to be very careful that our words are shaped in a way to redeem, build up, strengthen, give life, and encourage. Our words can hurt and destroy. Take time and make very determined effort to speak words that will bring life, hope, and healing. You do not need to tell everything to express your story, and if you are testifying about what God has done your focus will be his work, and not the deeds of other humans and how they might have failed you/God/others.

4) Seek to bring God glory: What better purpose is there in sharing our story than to bring glory to God? This actually might be the only reason to share our story beyond our closest circle, but our stories are also a work in progress and always changing. If all we do is seeking to glorify God and to bring him glory then our words, our purposes, our heart will all be focused on that. We will not have room in our heart or mouths to speak things that lash out, destroy, or bring malicious damage to others.

5) Give grace: Give others and yourself a great deal of grace. Even in the best of situations there is room for things to be misspoken, misunderstood, or shared with a perspective others do not share. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Be willing to correct and change things in your story if needed to clarify so others have the correct understanding. Be open when others are critical about you sharing, and allow them to speak their disapproval. It might be that their disapproval will change if voiced, or there could be room for compromise. Also, give grace to yourself. Sharing your story may open the door for shame, guilt, criticism, anger, frustration, or denial to surface. Take the time to feel what comes up, and to walk into the painful and difficult parts of the journey. Be realistic that you are a broken person who needs a savior, and even with all the Lord has done in your life up until now, there is still more that needs to be done.

If it is time for you to share our story and the situation is correct, then share it with a heart to glorify God. Speak with boldness, grace, and love.

Tell of how the Lord has brought you through, opened your heart/eyes, and how he is writing you a new story. You do not need to live in silence, shame, guilt, or secrecy. Be honest, be transparent, be authentic and real. Your story is your own, all of it! Sharing your story and confessing things might be the door that opens your life up to the freedom that only Christ can bring.

My words have not been right lately. I have been short-tempered, prideful, and questioning. My words are a reflection of my heart. My heart has been experiencing shame.

My heart needs to change.

Not temporary or surface level change, but deep heart-felt change.

Recently I received some email communication from someone I have not communicated with since May 2009. Their communication contained something that caught me by surprise and I did not interpret part of it correctly so did not respond as well as I wish I had responded. Their second message said they had hoped that I had been “set free” this past year, but it was clear I was still working through some things. There was a part of me that felt justified that I had reason to still be working through issues as things are not yet resolved with my last church, but deep down what really bothered me was that this person had seen something I had not seen, even after all these months of hard work. When I stopped to look, I realized they were addressing something in my heart and attitude that needed to change.

Today I finally had the time to work on that with God.

Correction, today I finally had the courage to let God work on me.

Often we know when something is not quite right in our heart. We may avoid it, deny it, reject it, or twist it, but we are still aware it there. I have known recently that things were not completely right in my relationship with God, but I did not know what to do about it. Yesterday the weight of it became heavy and I knew I needed to change. I knew it was time to look at what lay underneath. However, I also knew that I couldn’t change anything. All I could do was to let go, to open myself up to God, and to trust that he would lead me.

So, this morning before I even started the day and moved from bed I laid my heart bare. I surrendered and let go of all plans, all desires, all expectations. I asked with a sincere heart for the Lord to change me and to reveal what I needed to know.

Today has been an amazing day.

The Lord waits for us to come to him.

He is always ready. He will always respond and will not fail us.

That doesn’t mean we will get the desires of our heart or he will answer how we want him to, but he will respond.

Like David, I became aware of my sin, and I cried out for him to change me. (Psalm 51)

Like Paul, my heart grew and my desires are changing so that I am drawn to be like Christ, even in his sufferings (Phil. 3)

This song holds a lot of truth, and it reminds us that the heart, our heart, is the key to our relationship with the Lord.

We can’t change it, but he can change us on the inside. It is our heart that needs to change.

I long for freedom to live in the truth
I want to be more like you
But every time I try to bring about change
I try to change the visible me
There's only one way I'm really gonna change…

Just like King David I cry out to you
Create in me a clean heart
I've grieved you again, I need your release
From patterns that keep me is sin
There's only one way I can finally break free

Change me on the inside
Change me on the inside
Change me on the inside

God isn’t finished with me yet. There are still areas of my heart I need to let go of, but today as we celebrate America’s independence I am also celebrating the freedom I have from sin, from bondage, from chains of falsehood and deception. I am celebrate that the Lord has changed me from the inside and he will change me even more. I long for freedom to live in the the truth, and I know the only way to break free and really change is by having the Lord change me, from the inside!

I heard this song a couple of weeks ago and it immediately led me to think of all those I know who are disillusioned, hurting, frustrated, etc. Those who feel like they have been knocked down, but who need to know that they are not knocked out forever. God never gives up on us, and we need to stopping giving up on ourselves and each other.

Get Back Up
By Toby Mac

You turned away when I looked you in the eye,
And hesitated when I asked if you were alright,
Seems like you’re fighting for you life,
But why? oh why?
Wide awake in the middle of your nightmare,
You saw it comin’ but it hit you outta no where,
And theres always scars
When you fall back far

We lose our way,
We get back up again
It’s never too late to get back up again,
One day you will shine again,
You may be knocked down,
But not out forever,
Lose our way,
We get back up again,
So get up, get up,
You gonna shine again,
Never too late to get back up again,
You may be knocked down,
But not out forever
[May be knocked down but not out forever]

You’re rolled out at the dawning of the day
Heart racin’ as you made you little get away,
It feels like you’ve been runnin’ all your life
But, why? Oh why?

So you’ve pulled away from the love that wou’d’ve been there,
You start believin’ that your situation’s unfair

But there’s always scars,
When you fall back far

We lose our way,
We get back up again
Never too late to get back up again,
One day, you gonna shine again,
You may be knocked down but not out forever,
Lose our way, we get back up again,
So get up, get up
You gonna shine again
It’s never too late, to get back up again
You may be knocked down, but not out forever,
May be knocked down, but not out forever!

This is love callin’, love callin’, out to the broken,
This is love callin’.
This is love callin’, love callin’, out to the broken
This is love callin’.
This is love callin’, love callin’,
I am so broken
This is love callin’ love callin

Lose our way, [way way way ay ay ay]
We get back up, [get back up again]
It’s never too late [late late late ate ate ate]
You may be knocked down but not out forever!

Lose our way,
We get back up again,
So get up get up
You gonna shine again
Never too late to get back up again
You may be knocked down,
But not out forever,

This is love [lose our way] callin’ love callin’ [get back up again]
To the broken
This is love [never too late] callin’
[may be knocked down but not out forever]
This is love [lose our way] callin’ love callin’ [we get back up again]
To the broken
This is love [never too late] callin’
[may be knocked down but not out forever]

This is love callin’ love callin’
Out to the broken,
This is love callin’….

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