broken picture with restored picture

Two things in life that I find really interesting are WORDS and FEELINGS.

I love the way words can be put together in endless patterns and sequences out of our imagination to do all sorts of things. Tell a story, convey information, give instruction or evoke a feeling. Our own creativity determines how we will put words together, never the same way, never like anyone else.

I love that feelings are frequently a mystery and can be so hard to understand and identify. Sometimes appearing when we least expect them or sometimes being ushered in early in anticipation of a certain situation. There are so many words to describe feelings and yet sometimes we are unable to name a feeling when we feel it.

And then there are words, standing alone, that just by our knowledge and experience of them, can arouse feelings in us.

For me, the word RESTORATION is one of those words. When I hear “restoration”, I feel positive and secure, maybe even safe. Restoration is a good word. It even is fun to say. Repeat it out loud a couple of times and see if it doesn’t feel good just rolling off your tongue.

Restoration means to be brought back to a former or original condition, to be brought back to a state of health, soundness or vigor. With a definition like that, it is no wonder it feels so good to say it….rest – or – ation!

In this Pocket Principle, we learn about how restoration occurs in us spiritually. And since all our parts interact when we experience spiritual restoration, we also get restored mentally, emotionally and even physically. Read on to learn what God had in mind when he gave us the Gift of Restoration. Hopefully, this will cause you to feel positive, secure and safe.

Understanding People – Restoration through Christ

 

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Plant with dead GrowthScientists marvel at the interconnected nature of all living organisms. Though many stubbornly refuse to recognize the fingerprints of God in creation, they still speak in awe of the complex design of things they observe and refer to the delicate balance of nature.

A simple flower provides a prime example. The plant is comprised of many parts, each playing an important role in its overall health. Damage to any one of these parts affects the well-being of the flower. If a rodent eats away at the roots, the plant doesn’t get the minerals and water it needs. If the stem is damaged, food cannot be delivered where it is needed. If insects strip away the leaves, photosynthesis (the conversion of sunlight and carbon dioxide to food) does not take place. If the stigmas are damaged, the necessary pollination cannot occur. To have a healthy plant capable of growth and reproduction, each critical part must be healthy.

In the same way, humans are very complex organisms with highly interdependent parts. And it is not just the inter-connected nature of our physical organs and body parts that is important. The various dimensions of our being also have a strong impact on one another. For example, our physical health affects, and is affected by, our emotional health. Proverbs 17:22 says that, “A cheerful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Along similar lines, Proverbs 14:30 states, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”

Historically, the church has focused primarily on the spiritual dimension of the believer’s life and has not always recognized the need to minister to the whole person. This limited perspective of the church’s calling is a tragic misunderstanding that has hindered not only the growth of individual believers but also the ability of the church to impact the world for Christ. Until a person develops emotional health and healthy relationships, he will only be able to advance so far in his own spiritual walk and will be limited in his ability to minister to others.

Because we are complex beings, understanding spiritual growth demands that we understand many components of our lives. One of the primary connections that we need to understand is between the emotional and relational facets of our lives (what we are calling the restorative dimension) and the spiritual aspect. It is critical that we give attention to the restoring dimension of a believer’s life as well as the spiritual dimension. Spiritual growth will not occur in many areas unless there is maturity in the restorative areas discussed below.

We need to develop emotional health.

Developing emotional health begins with learning to think correctly because emotions are a natural response to our thinking about, or interpretation of, the things that happen around us or to us. Thinking correctly involves both what we think (content) and how we think (process). Incorrect thinking is often based on an incorrect or inadequate view of ourselves, of others, or of God. These viewpoints or perspectives are largely formed in childhood and are influenced by the people and events closest to us. It is critical that we learn to counter falsehood with truth.

Consider the following example: A student receives a “B” on a test and feels worthless. The “worthless” feeling is the content of his thinking. He arrived at this content or conclusion by the following thought process (beliefs that led to the student’s conclusion). First, “I must always be perfect in order to be valuable.” Second, “I made a mistake, and therefore I am not perfect.” Third, “Therefore, I am not valuable. I am worthless.” Both the content and the process need to be corrected. The key is to be able to identify where one’s thinking goes wrong or, to put it another way, to identify which proposition is not true. In the example above, the second phrase is true (he did make mistakes; he is not perfect), while the first and third are not. The student’s thought process starts on a false premise and inevitably ends with a false conclusion.

The experiences of the prophet Elijah as recorded in I Kings chapters 18 and 19 provide a good illustration of the principles we have been discussing. On the heights of Mount Carmel, Elijah enjoyed two great spiritual victories⎜the defeat of the prophets of Baal and answered prayer for long-awaited rain. However, the enormous expenditure of physical and emotional energy left Elijah discouraged and despondent, and he descended into self-pity.

God, knowing the interdependence of the various dimensions of Elijah’s being, first provided food and rest. Then He confronted Elijah with the truth he needed to hear to correct his wrong thinking. In verse 10 of chapter 19, Elijah said to God, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty (a true statement). The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword (also true statements). I am the only one left (a false statement), and now they are trying to kill me too” (again, a true statement). Essentially, Elijah was accusing God of giving him a raw deal, and it was an incorrect premise that led him to this faulty conclusion. In His response, God didn’t waste time affirming the parts of Elijah’s argument that were correct; he simply charged him to carry on the work and informed him that there were 7,000 other faithful servants who had not bowed the knee to false gods.

Along with learning to develop right thinking, we need to develop certain emotional skills if we are to achieve emotional health. These skills include learning to process emotions in the present and learning to process emotions that have been buried.

We learn to process emotions in the present by being able to identify how we feel and express those feelings, even if they are unpleasant. It is often helpful to talk about your emotions with a trusted friend. Use words that describe how you feel. Say “I feel . . . angry, sad, anxious, confused, embarrassed, secure, happy, relieved, daring.” Be as specific as you can and don’t use a “weaker” or “safer” word when a “stronger” one is appropriate. If someone has offended you, you may need to talk about your emotions in a controlled way with that person. Once you have processed your emotions, you need to release those that are negative. This release may mean choosing to forgive, if someone has offended or wronged you.

Consider the example of King David of Israel as someone who knew how to process emotions. David was “a man’s man,” feared by his enemies and respected by his friends. His resume included such feats as the slaying of the giant Goliath, killing a lion and a bear with his hands and a club, and winning victories in numerous battles. Yet David was a man who was able to express his emotions. If he was happy, he freely and unashamedly expressed joy. If he was angry, he called down curses on his enemies. If he was despondent, he cried out in anguish to God.

Some of us may be uncomfortable with the force of David’s emotions (or of other’s emotions expressed in Scripture, including God’s). While it is important to remember that David often used figurative language, including hyperbole, metaphor, and simile, this does not lessen the reality of what he was expressing. In fact, poetic language is a gift from God to be used in just this way. The same can be true of music, dance, painting, and even play. (Note the successful use of “play therapy” to help children express their emotions.)

Another necessary skill is learning how to process emotions that have been buried. “Burials” often take place when we don’t know how to or don’t feel the freedom to process emotions in the present. To deal with buried emotions, remember the unresolved, painful situations and allow the related emotions to surface. If emotions do not surface, you may need to seek help from someone who understands emotional issues (for example, a counselor or members of a recovery group). Once buried emotions surface, they can be dealt with as “emotions in the present” (using the suggestions above).

Some people may get stuck at some point in the attempt to deal with buried emotions and need to seek outside help to complete the process. Just as the Holy Spirit gifts individuals within the body of Christ as teachers, preachers, and missionaries, so He gifts some believers to minister to emotional needs. Ideally, a believer would look first within the church for help. Sadly, that help is not always present or the person needing it doesn’t know where to find it. However, even non-believing counselors can be used by God to accomplish His purposes in the lives of His children.

We need to develop relational health.

Developing emotional health rightly precedes a discussion of developing relational health, because relational health is impossible for a person who has not achieved at least some measure of emotional health. In order to be able to relate to another person in a mature, healthy way, you must first understand and be able to manage your own emotions. Or, to put it another way, until you are comfortable in your own skin, you are unlikely to feel comfortable around other people or to make them feel comfortable around you.

Skills necessary for relational health include the following:

Developing intimacy. Intimacy is the ability to connect with another person at a deep level. This involves sharing thoughts and feelings about you.

Setting boundaries. Boundaries are limits, or markers, that define a person as separate from others and what is unique about that person. Boundaries define what a person is, what he chooses, what he feels, what he likes, what he wants, and so on. A person needs to set his own boundaries and not allow others to set them for him.

Developing good communication skills. These skills include speaking clearly, listening carefully, and giving constructive feedback.

Just as Jesus is a model for spiritual growth, He is a model for emotional and relational health. He developed intimate relationships, even at the cost of breaking social barriers of His day. He set appropriate boundaries. Although He made Himself available to people and their needs, He had a strong sense of “who He was” and did not allow others to deter Him from His mission. Also, Jesus communicated effectively, both with individuals and in group settings. Because He was emotionally healthy, He was able to develop strong, healthy relationships with others.

Conclusion

It is critical to a person’s spiritual growth that he develop emotional and relational health. Just as spiritual growth is a life-long process, so developing emotional and relational health are life-long processes. The important thing is to stay on the path and continue the journey. The good news is that these various dimensions of our being have a positive relationship to one another. As we grow spiritually, it will help us to grow emotionally and relationally. As we grow emotionally and relationally, it will help us to grow spiritually. When discouragement comes, recognize and process that emotion in the moment and practice right thinking by remembering this truth⎜”He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” (Philippians 1:6)

Application Suggestions:

• Read Psalm 73

List the emotions described by the Psalmist. Describe how the Psalmist dealt with his emotions in this Psalm.

• Read Matthew 12:9-15. How is Jesus’ ability to set boundaries tested in this situation?

Get this Pocket Principle in Growing Spiritually, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

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.

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.