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forgive painting

Forgiveness is a lovely thing to witness. Having led more than a few Restoring Your Heart (RYH) groups, I’ve had lots of opportunities to watch the forgiveness process as it unfolds in people’s lives. The following is one such story.

I know we have all experienced forgiveness at one time or another. Maybe by giving it or receiving it ourselves. Or perhaps been a witness to someone else giving it or receiving it. We’ve all learned about it, studied about it and most likely, struggled with it.

One of the most encouraging and unexpected times I saw forgiveness in action was in a RYH group I led many years ago.

Margie was about 45 years old when I met her. She had joined a RYH Processing Pain group that I was leading in a local church.  Margie, myself and five other women met together for two hours each week to go through the RYH Processing Pain workbook and share emotional hurts from the past. The purpose of the group is to better understand our childhood, grieve our hurts and come to a place of forgiveness. It’s a healing process. During the three months of meeting together in a safe environment, the group members generally form a close bond with one another. Margie’s group was no exception.

A little history on Margie. Margie grew up in a strict home. Her parents were cold and stoic, and as we went through the lessons together Margie told us how they frequently called her stupid and ugly when she was a child. She was neither, by the way.

Not surprisingly, Margie married a man who didn’t treat her much better. She was accustomed to being put down and although she didn’t like it, it was “normal” to her. One day, when Margie’s sons were close to high school age, Margie’s husband left her…for another man. And although in many ways Margie was glad he left, the way he did it confirmed everything her parents had told her about who she was, ugly and stupid.

When we started the RYH group, it was clear that Margie had an enormous amount of animosity towards her ex-husband. The lessons in the first half of the workbook are focused on childhood but Margie had a hard time staying with her childhood issues. She wanted to vent about her ex-husband at every session. About a third of the way through the workbook, Margie realized the process was moving towards forgiving those who had hurt us. She became very agitated and announced that there was one person she could never forgive…her ex-husband.

Everyone in the group validated Margie’s feelings, confirmed that she had been mistreated, and comforted her in her hurt and anger.

Fast forward to the end of the workbook, just past the forgiveness part. Margie walked into the group session that night and she looked radiant, seriously glowing. She was happy and excited. She looked like a different person.

“You will never believe what has happened to me!”

Of course, we all wanted to know. Margie looked so beautiful we wanted whatever had happened to her, to happen to us as well.   “What? What?”

“I have forgiven my ex-husband! I don’t know how it happened! I never thought I would forgive him! But I have and I feel SO FREE!! God is so awesome!”

During the process of Margie acknowledging her pain and grieving her losses, she was able, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to forgive. It not only changed the way she felt, it literally changed the way she looked. That night I actually saw the beautiful face of forgiveness.

If Margie’s story has encouraged you or perhaps touched something deep within your own story, and you would like to see and experience the healing power of forgiveness in your life, learn more about the WDA Restoring Your Heart Ministry at  www.RestoringYourHeart.com.

 

bandages

Each day that I sit in my counseling room, I listen to people share their stories. Stories that come with pain and stories that come with questions. Am I going to get better? Am I crazy? Will this ever end? Why did God let this happen to me?

To find answers and to feel better, people must experience the slow process of healing. And when there is pain, time always seems too long.

To help people understand the significance of time in their healing process, I have found a helpful metaphor. It is simple and understandable.

The healing of a heart wound is like the healing of a flesh wound.

Everyone has had a flesh wound and watched it heal. We all understand that.

 

The flesh that has not been wounded is like our heart when we are born, clear and undamaged.

Then the injury comes. To the flesh – a cut, a burn, a puncture. To the heart – abuse, yelling, neglect. The area becomes inflamed, agitated, irritated.

To heal well, a wound must be attended well. Here is what happens when a wound is not taken care of properly.

To the flesh, a hasty bandage is applied, maybe not adequate, but what is handy at the time. There may be no cleaning agent or antibiotic available.

To the heart, a crudely fashioned coping mechanism is applied, frequently by a child who has no idea of the extent of his injury or how to take care of it. Usually the adult who should be helping is not able. Or that adult may have caused the injury.

The flesh wound heals on the outside and for a while looks better. But underneath the skin, the poisons are brewing. They are destroying tissue, breeding infection and creating pus. This brewing poison can only be contained so long before it erupts through the skin.

A heart wound heals on the outside, too. A hurt child learns how to function and cover up the pain. Maybe to friends and neighbors he looks fine. He might do well in school. Inside, the child’s heart is secretly being destroyed. The poisons of hurt and pain are festering out of sight from the world. Just like a flesh wound, these poisons can only be contained for so long. Eventually they will erupt; acting out rebelliously as a teenager, drug or alcohol addiction, bad relationships, the inability to function at work or anger.

Once an eruption occurs, flesh or heart, the wound needs to be be dealt with. The exposed infected flesh is not pretty. The exposed hurt heart is not pretty. However, the good thing is that exposure allows healing to occur.

The pain of the eruption is harsh. The pain of the treatment will be intense. When an infected flesh wound is cleaned out, it hurts. It was already painful, now it is being hurt again on top of the original hurt. When a heart wound is cleaned out, it hurts. It was already wounded, now that tenderness is being touched again. When a person tells the story of how they were hurt, they feel that hurt again.

However, once the cleaning out begins, relief can come. The poison is being removed. The pain of abuse and the trauma of the wound are being healed. It has to hurt worse before it can begin to feel better. Cleaning out a wound is painful.

A flesh wound will not miraculously heal overnight. It will gradually begin to feel better, a day at a time. Likewise with a heart wound. God does not usually allow a fast healing. If we didn’t experience the process and learn from it, if healing were instantaneous, we might not be so careful with our flesh or with our hearts. We might not protect them well. We might be more likely to re-injure them.

A flesh wound usually leaves a scar. Depending on the severity of the wound it may be a big scar or a little scar. If it is a small wound and leaves a small scar, we will probably not remember how much it hurt. If it is a big wound and leaves a big scar, we are more likely to remember not only the wound, but also how it happened and how we survived it. With wounds of the heart, the scar is not visible to the naked eye. However, the scar is very visible to the eyes of our heart. It reminds us of the pain and how we survived it.

One way we let others see our heart scars is to tell our story. The telling of our story is healing, both for the teller and for the person who hears the story. If the person who hears has experienced a similar hurt, he feels hopeful. Someone else who knows the pain, who understands the experience, has healed.

Since each person has a different personality, a different temperament and a different experience, each person’s wound will be different. And yet, all wounds heal the same way. They are re-opened and cleaned. As the scar forms, there is relief and the freedom that comes as people discover who they really are.

We can’t heal our heart wounds alone. We need help. Help is what happens in a counseling room.

If you have a wounded heart, there is a healing process for you. There is hope and there is freedom.

[A counseling room is not the only place where healing occurs. At WDA, we are committed to helping the Church become a place where heart wounds can be healed. For more information, click here for Restoring Your Heart.]

Do you have heart wounds that need healing?

What are your heart wounds?

To understand more about how we get hurt, read How Emotional Problems Develop, a free download from WDA. Click here to access.

dancing

dancing“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

― William W. Purkey

The first time I heard this quote, I loved it. I especially loved the first line; dance like there’s nobody watching. That’s because on the rare occasion that I dance, I feel like everyone is not only watching, but they are at best, secretly smirking and at worst, laughing and pointing. In my reality the only people who get to dance like there’s nobody watching are kids, really old people and professional dancers.

“Dancing like nobody is watching” is to me a picture of freedom and joy. And dancing is frequently done with another person, usually someone you care about. So in addition to expressing freedom and joy, dancing is a connecting activity. Sometimes when I am dancing with someone, I am less concerned about the smirkers and pointers.

So what does this have to do with tolerance? Well, not a whole lot actually. But I thought it might be fun to toss around some ideas about tolerance, like nobody is watching and maybe we could connect with some ideas. So let’s dance with tolerance for a few paragraphs.

Some synonyms in my dictionary for tolerance are patience, sufferance, forbearance, impartiality and open-mindedness. These synonyms have slightly different connotations of meaning. However, all of these meanings imply interaction with other people or with our own personal circumstances. There is a relational aspect to tolerance.

Tolerance has gotten a lot of press recently. As we dance with tolerance, I will share some thoughts expressed by James Emery White, a pastor and author who thinks deeply about our church and our culture. (Click here for his blogs).

He says that tolerance was once more social in its dynamic. That is, tolerance was to be accepting of another person. You could recognize and respect different beliefs without actually sharing those beliefs. There is also a legal aspect of tolerance that says each of us has the right to believe whatever we want.

Recently, he says, tolerance has taken on more of an intellectual definition. To be tolerant is to do away with objective truth and substitute individual truth. It means that we must hold another person’s beliefs as equal to our own. If we say that anything is wrong or inferior, we are not showing tolerance. He calls this intellectual definition of tolerance “intellectual nonsense.” Dance on, James Emery White.

Moving across the dance floor, I have been playing with another idea of tolerance. This gets back to the social/relational aspects of tolerance. Tolerating emotional discomfort, or even emotional pain, is a skill that we can learn for ourselves and pass on to our children. It is important to learn how to “sit with” discomfort, pain and sadness. We all know we are going to be uncomfortable emotionally at times. How much healthier we would be if we learned to tolerate discomfort. And to help each other tolerate discomfort.

We all want to be able to dance through this life with freedom and joy. We all want to be able to express ourselves without fear of what others will say. And we all know that with freedom, comes responsibility. If we are dancing recklessly all over the dance floor, or meadow, or road or wherever it is we dance, and bumping into other people and knocking them over, we are not being very respectful or tolerant of their space.

Hopefully, when we dance with others, in whatever way we dance, we can hold on to the social aspects of tolerance, “I accept you as a person,” or the emotional aspects of tolerance, “I can get through this hard place” and let go of the intellectual aspects of tolerance, “I believe everything you believe.”

As you can see, my thoughts on tolerance are dancing all over the place… just like nobody is watching.

What are your thoughts on tolerating emotions? Other people’s beliefs?
Other ways of living?

What are some of the ways Jesus showed tolerance? Or didn’t?

 

Read more about this topic:

Healing from Emotional Problems – WDA Pocket Principle from Understanding People

Hide and Seek – Now Where Did I Hide my Emotions?  by Buddy Eades

Fight Nice! by David Parfitt

Once I actually “saw” forgiveness. With my own eyes. In person!

Dove with Olive BranchMost of us have experienced forgiveness one way or another, given it or received it. Been a witness to someone else giving it or receiving it. Learned about it, studied about it, struggled with it. I am going to tell you about the time I saw forgiveness. It was amazing!

Margie was about 45 years old when I met her. She was a member of one of the first Restoring Your Heart groups I led. It was a group of about 6 women who met together for a couple of hours once a week to go through a workbook and share emotional hurts from the past. The object is to understand our past, grieve our losses and heal. Usually, during the three months of meeting together, the women grow very close to one another. Margie’s group was no exception.

A little history on Margie. Margie grew up in a really strict home. Her parents were cold and stoic, and as we went through the lessons together Margie told of how they frequently called her stupid or ugly when she was a child. She was neither, by the way.

Not surprisingly, Margie married a man who didn’t treat her much better. She was accustomed to being put down and although she didn’t like it, it was “normal” to her. One day, when Margie’s sons were close to high school age, Margie’s husband left her…for another man. And although in many ways Margie was glad he left, the way he did it confirmed everything her parents had told her about who she was, ugly and stupid.

When we started the group sessions, Margie had an enormous amount of animosity towards her ex-husband. The lessons in the workbook are focused on childhood but Margie had a hard time staying with her childhood issues. She wanted to vent about her ex-husband at every session. About a third of the way through the workbook, Margie realized we were aiming towards forgiving those who had hurt us. She became very agitated and announced that there was one person she could never, ever, ever, ever forgive…her ex-husband.

Everyone in the group validated Margie’s feelings, confirmed that she had been mistreated, and comforted her in her hurt and anger.

Fast forward to pretty close to the end of our workbook, past the forgiveness part. Margie walked into the group session one night and she looked radiant, seriously glowing. She was happy and excited. She looked like a different person.

“You will never believe what has happened to me!”

Of course, we all wanted to know because we wanted it to happen to us as well.   “What? What?”

“I have forgiven my ex-husband! I don’t know how it happened! I never thought I would forgive him! But I have and I feel SO FREE!! God is so awesome!”

When Margie acknowledged her pain and grieved her loss, she was able, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to forgive. It not only changed the way she felt, it literally changed the way she looked. That was the night I actually “saw” forgiveness.

If Margie’s story has encouraged you or perhaps touched a nerve in you, and you would like to see and experience the healing power of forgiveness in your own life, learn more about the WDA Restoring Your Heart Ministry at www.disciplebuilding.org.