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Clock Face 8 am

Last week I finished meeting with a group of ten ladies that have become very special to me.  These ladies were selected to be part of a training group by the leadership of their church. The WDA Restorative Team  is helping their church launch a Restoring Your Heart emotional healing ministry. My ladies have now completed the majority of their training to be Restoring Your Heart (RYH) group leaders. Most of this training was accomplished by actually participating in RYH groups and working on their own self-awareness and dealing with their own hurts and pains. Sounds like fun, huh?

Here is a bit of the story of our journey together.

Last January, we met for the first time on a cold windy Sunday morning. My co-leader and I did not know exactly what to expect, the other nine group participants knew even less of what to expect. Let me start off by saying that 8 AM on a Sunday is not exactly the ideal time of the day or week to dig into your past and take a long look at your hurts. Yet this was the time allotted for the training, so we began.

In a typical “first group session” for RYH, we spend some time introducing ourselves and getting to know each other. This is one of my favorite parts of the group because we all know nothing about each other. It is always interesting to notice what people reveal about themselves, and I love the beginnings of getting to know each person. This group was no exception. Each lady told a little bit about herself and what she hoped to get out of the group. We are all usually very cordial and congenial and somewhat guarded when the group begins. After some sharing time in that first session, we went over the Group Covenant, which is basically the “rules” of the group. This is important because one of the primary “rules” is confidentiality. This is so important to make the group a safe place for healing. A person can be asked to leave a group if confidentiality is violated.

After talking a bit more about what to expect and what we hoped to accomplish, I asked the group members in that first session if they had any thoughts or questions. There was silence for a minute. Then one lady spoke up and said, “To be honest, I don’t know if I will feel safe sharing anything with this group. I have been hurt by gossip in the church in the past and I just don’t trust people in the church.” I nodded and said nothing. Then another lady spoke up and said basically the same thing, “I don’t know if I will feel safe sharing, either.” I waited a minute to see if anyone else had a comment or thought. Then I said, “You must only share what you feel safe sharing. Hopefully, as the group gets to know one another better, trust will form. But, YOU will be the one to decide what to share and when to share it.” Half the group still seemed uneasy; the other half nodded expectantly.

That was a year ago, two workbooks ago, numerous trainings ago, and many tears and laughs ago.

Over the course of our time together, the two ladies who were most unsure in the beginning have become two of the most hard-working, courageous, gut-sharing members of the group. It took some time and patience with each other. It took baby-steps of sharing and trusting. It took the powerful healing work of the Holy Spirit moving among these women and in their hearts.

These 9 ladies have bonded in a supernatural way with each other. They have shared things about their pasts and their hurts and their hearts that they have never shared with anyone else before. They have gained insights about themselves and new ways of thinking and acting. They have learned to express their feelings in healthier ways and they have learned the meaning of safety. They have disagreed with each other. They have confronted each other. And in so doing, have come out on the other side of their disagreements and confrontations even more connected and bonded. They have encouraged and supported each other. They have prayed for each other.  They have learned how they impact other people and why they do the things they do. Each lady, in her own unique way, has healed and become more self-aware. This is the beauty of a Restoring Your Heart group experience that is guided by the Holy Spirit.

These ladies have also learned a lot about the emotional healing process and group dynamics. They are all excited about using what they have learned and experienced to help other women heal: women who are also afraid to trust, women who have deep hurts from their childhood, women who want to grow and don’t know how.

When I end a training group, it is always a little sad and a lot exciting. It is sad for me because I grow so attached to the women in my groups. I hate to end our time together.

But it is also exciting to think back over how far they have come and to see the growth in their lives. It is exciting to see them want to share with others their experience of healing.

Ultimately, this healing is because of the power of the Holy Spirit, working in us and through us. However, the Spirit employs us as His co-workers and lets us work along side Him as He does His mighty work. I am encouraged by what is happening in these women and at their church. I am looking forward to seeing what God does next.

 

Have you ever been afraid to trust others, especially in the Church?

Have you ever wondered why the Church should be a safe place and sometimes isn’t?

Have you experienced emotional healing in the Church?

We would love to hear your comments or experiences.

 

PostScript:  At this church, there was a men’s training group going on at the same time. These men will also now be helping other men begin their healing process.

For more information on emotional issues we refer you to our Pocket Principles:

Created with Emotions

Understanding Emotional Problems

Healing From Emotional Problems

 

last night i went to the first meeting of a group i swore i would never set foot in. the first of 17 meetings.

jesus is quite the practical joker. if i ever swear i won’t do something, it’s pretty much guaranteed that in the next few years, he will take a bulldozer straight through that promise, with me chained to the front scooper gizmo, screaming all the way, and then it will turn out to have been a heaping spoonful of blessing-pants.

2003: “i will NEVER set foot in that campus ministry. they are a cult.” a few weeks later, i step in because they have free chili and i am hungry and lazy. then, i am going every week. a few weeks later i meet my husband inside that building. a few more months and i meet jesus there and the following year i am working full time and living in the house. as alumni, we now give a large amount of money every month to keep this “cult” running, pray daily that our kids will find a community like it when they get older, and even speak at their retreats when asked.

good one, emmanuel.

so i should have known that when i said, “ew, i will NEVER take a restoring your heart group. i’m a hippie jesus chick and don’t like binders and programs and i would NEVER spill my guts to a bunch of lady-strangers,” that i was essentially saying, “give me my name tag and my spiral-bound study guide, i’m IN!”

so a few years back, when wda introduced a new program, called “restoring your heart,” that was developed with the aim of discovering where you have been wounded, how those wounds have affected, and still affect you; and then grieving those wounds, and beginning to heal from them. i thought, that sounds great, i’m sure lots of people who had crappy childhoods will really benefit from that. but again, not for me. i don’t have any huge, glaring baggage that i felt like i was still carrying around. i have never been abused, haven’t dealt with addiction, never dealt with death or abandonment…none of the big headliner issues. i figured, nothing that bad ever really happened to me, so any issues i have are of my own doing.

Ironically, I kept hearing people I respected say, “i never realized ___ about myself until i did the restoring your heart group but….” and we’d hear other couples rave about the results. like: every, single one goes on and on about how much it has changed their lives. how much it sucks at first, but then what freedom and wisdom comes from it.
i started to think more about it. but i always came back to, “no, i really don’t have any wounds that i haven’t already healed from.”

all this has been playing out over the past 4 years. we have dealt with marriage issues, becoming parents, having conflict with friends and family and trying to think about how we want to raise our kids. lots of these issues seem to repeat themselves: hubs and i having the same types of fights again and again, me losing my cool at my son over the same stupid triggers, getting into misunderstanding with friends because i feel devalued. these sorts of patterns made me start wondering.

one night last month we called some wda-ers over for an SOS emergency marriage counseling session. after a few hours of talking through things and them asking questions, it finally hit me that i do a lot of the things that cause me and my husband and my kids pain (and will continue to) because i am wounded. not in any lifetime original movie kind of way, but just in a way that screams, “oh hey, this is a fallen world and sin and lies are everywhere and they are all over you. Didn’t you know?”

i came to the conclusion that while growing up i interpreted and received what i thought was truth the only way i knew how. in the process i was told, perceived, believed and reacted to many lies. lies about who i am. lies about who jesus is. lies about how god loves me. lies about shame and worth and safety.

it is really important to note here that there isn’t a human bad guy in this story. it’s not like my parents or a bully or a teacher ever outright lied to me on purpose to hurt me. and even though, sadly, that can sometimes be the case that people lie to and hurt us intentionally, we have to remember that they are victims of a broken world too. the only person whose entire identity is that of a liar is satan. he is where all of this crap comes from and it gives him amazing amounts of joy when he can convince us to swallow them.

every single one of us is a limping, burned, disfigured product of these lies. in the process we bang around hurting each other, even if we want only the best for and to love one another.

so in the process of growing up, and with the mind of a child, i interpreted false messages that wounded me. that taught me unhealthy patterns and unwise reactions. as kids we are constantly being passively programmed: taking what we see and hear and experience and feel and instantly interpreting it, with no conscious thought–with our tiny minds–into the worldview from which we will operate for the rest of our lives.

so, yes, a 3 year old programmed the brain from which 80% of my thoughts, assumptions and decision originate…awesome! that really explains so much.

satan is a crafty butwipe and he hurts us the most subtly as children, when we are too immature and unlearned to put words to the hurtful things and feelings that we come across. these unnamed things get cemented into our heads as “just the way things are” or “normal,” or, “truth,” and by the time we are old enough to “know better” (no, my dad didn’t love me less because he worked all the time, or no, my mom didn’t think i was stupid because she encouraged me to do better in school, or no i am not worthless because some bully kid singled me out), it doesn’t matter because the fallout from those unspoken lies has already tangled itself around so much of our operating system that it has become our truth, even if we “know better” in our conscious minds.

i would say the easiest people to hate in this life are those that target and harm children. well, the devil is the king of child predators and he started working on us from infancy. he has planted sneaky and evil lies in the hearts and minds of the smallest souls that never even knew they were in a war or had an enemy. it is disgusting and evil to the core. satan’s lies seek to harm us in the only lasting way that we can be hurt: by tearing us away from the truth of how much jesus loves us. it’s his only weapon and he wields it with impunity and skill.

it’s hard to imagine any damage being worse than what we read about in the papers or see on the news about the horrible and rare things that can happen to children, but i am realizing that every single one of us has been the victim of an even worse abuse: trying to have our hearts and minds stolen away from and twisted against our most perfect heavenly father.

and the sneakiest part is that these acts committed against us leave no outward signs, and the victims and eyewitnesses to them don’t even know they have even occurred. let me say it very clearly: satan is a disgusting, malicious piece of garbage and is the only one who hurts us with full knowledge of what he is doing to us and why he is doing it. he isn’t acting out of his own woundedness; he is acting purely out of his identity as a predator who wants to destroy us.

i was always afraid to talk about my “stuff” because mine “isn’t that bad.” i was afraid of looking like a pampered little complainer next to others who have suffered in more external or obvious ways. but you know what? i am just realizing that that’s a lie too. everybody has their own stuff and by saying someone else’s is better or worse than mine, i am attempting to judge what’s good and what’s evil based on some scale that my brain came up with. i seem to remember that doing that exact same thing didn’t work out so well for all of us when adam and eve first tried it out in the garden. and you know who was right there telling them to do it? plot twist! it was the devil there too.

i now hate the little saying, “if we all put our troubles in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d want to grab ours right back out again.” we are ALL living in a broken world and have been poisoned by it. every single one of us is lost. no one wins this contest of “who’s got it roughest/easiest?” because they have the “least” or “smallest” mess. it’s not an objective scale. we are all walking around with the same score: me-0, satan-1.

just like you can’t compare your physical pain to someone else’s because you CANT FEEL THEIRS, we can’t do that with emotional pain either. what wounded me is what wounded me and that’s all i have any control over or firsthand knowledge of. end of story.

so i am done keeping my junk in the darkness. that’s what satan wants anyway. for me to feel like i am a freak or that i am alone in feeling this way, or that i am lucky and didn’t really get hurt. that’s not truth and that’s not jesus. there is no shame in christ. he would never turn me away and say, “shut up, that memory of being humiliated in 8th grade was nothing; try having nails through your hands.” he is ever-comforting, always gentle, and wants to be with me FOREVER. there is nothing in my heart that he would ever dismiss or write off.

so i will be going through this class for 17 weeks with 6 other women, all strangers, led by another woman who has been trained by WDA people who wrote the program. i have committed to a serious covenant of confidentiality about the things i hear during our group about the other women’s stories, but i do want to share my own personal walk through this process in a public way a little bit in case any one else has ever thought their stuff was too big, too small, too ugly, too messed up or too anything to not address.

my goals: to stop some of the cycles of unhealthy behavior and recurring wounds that i exhibit, receive and inflict by discovering the lies and hurt that i developed these behaviors in response to. that sounded fancy. here’s what i really mean: to figure my junk out before i pass it on to anyone else or make it worse for myself. to walk more like christ.

the thing that finally won me over was hearing people I love get emotional saying how much they would give to have gone back and done this before they had kids. they would pay thousands of dollars to have known what their own wounds were so they could catch themselves in the moment of acting out of those wounds and hurting their kids as they were raising them. their grown children are already benefiting greatly from having more healthy and self aware parents, but stopping the cycle for the next generation BEFORE many of the wounds and lies are cemented in childhood is an invaluable opportunity that i couldn’t spit in the face of.

dear jesus, i already know what it feels like to have wounded my kids due to my own issues. i refuse to do that anymore out of my ignorance. will i still wound them? Inevitably, and tragically, yes. but i will have this stuff in the light, before my eyes and turned over to jesus, so its insidious power is lost. i might not ever get the cure on this side of heaven, but just knowing my diagnosis and what the symptoms of my wounds are will go a huge way toward breaking the cycle of their power to cause even more hurt.

i am so ready to start the painstaking process of asking the questions that lead me back down the tangled paths of emotional unhealthiness and identify where the stupid, backward messages started. to call out the lie and deny the liar. to claim the freedom that we have all been promised by the one who is truth. to trade in my scorecard of k8-0, devil-1, and redeem the inheritance that i was ransomed to: jesus-a billionty googzillion for ever eternity, satan-ultimate loser.

bring on my spiral-bound binder of class materials! i don’t expect this to be easy. i don’t expect it to be fun or solve all of my problems. i do fully expect jesus to show up and hold my hand and start turning the pixels of my heart one by one over to the truth side. it’s what he does, when we let go and let him, and he’s kind of undefeated at it.

here we go.

This Blog was written by a Restorative Ministry Participant.

WDA’s Restorative Ministry and Restoring Your Heart Groups are a vital part of many people growing in grace. Learn more about WDA’s Restoring Your Heart.

 

In the Kuria district of Kenya, the November air is clear and the stars are bright. There is no electricity in the small house where I am staying. I awake at 3 AM, sleepless from jet lag, pull back the mosquito net that surrounds my bed, look out my window on the moonlit lawn and weep.

Earlier tonight, I heard a story that I didn’t want to hear, about a practice that I didn’t want to know existed. I’m having trouble comprehending the horror of what I heard.


Female circumcision…female genital mutilation…girls sometimes as young as 9 or 10…a ritual done in the bush…no anesthesia…one razor blade…families celebrating this “rite of passage”…girls given no choice and told to be brave and told not to cry out.

Girls who refuse to participate in this procedure are shunned by their peers, shunned by their families, shunned by their communities.

Girls who submit to this ritual get infections from the unsterile procedure, AIDS from the shared cutting instrument, emotional trauma from the forced mutilation. They receive no further schooling and are soon given by their families in marriage.

I am horrified that this happens, horrified that I did not know of it before and horrified that I feel helpless to do anything about it but weep. I cry myself to sleep with the cool night air of Kuria blowing through my window.

[This is my second visit to Kenya with my WDA Restorative team. We have been teaching discipleship principles as well as emotional healing principles to several churches in this remote area.]

Since that night last November, I have become more educated about the practice of female circumcision. I have read, researched, talked, listened and cried some more.

 

GraduationSince that night last November, I have become aware of and involved with several efforts in Kuria to end this practice. The Komotobo Mission Compound, where I stayed in Kenya, shelters girls during the month of December when the rites are performed.  There is an initiative being started right now in Kuria to educate churches and pastors about the Biblical reasons for abolishing this practice, in addition to the health, safety and emotional reasons.

 

Girls sheltered at Komotobo – Dec. 2010

What can YOU do to help?

  • You can make a tax-deductible contribution to GRI, an organization committed to educating people and sheltering girls in Kuria.
  • You can learn more about this atrocity and speak out against it.
  • And you can pray for the girls in Kuria, some who will escape and some who will not but all who need to know the saving power of a God who loves them dearly.