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.

 

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

 

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.