Wounds


Healing is a choice. It’s not our choice though, it’s God’s choice. It’s always God’s choice.

God created a natural healing process. When we get injured or when we get sick there is a natural healing process that takes place. Healing doesn’t always happen though. Sometimes people get injured or get sick and healing doesn’t occur and they die or live broken lives. OR, the healing doesn’t happen in the way or the timing that we want. For example, God may choose not to heal the physical or mental illness. He may choose, instead, to give us the inner strength, peace, and resources to cope with the illness. How and why this happens I haven’t a clue. Healing is God’s choice. It’s always his choice.

When it comes to emotional and spiritual wounds, however, I believe that God wants to heal us. I believe that he wants us to be healthy emotionally and spiritually so that we can better serve him. He also gave us free will, which means that we are able to make choices. The choices that we make can either allow God to heal us or can hinder him from healing us. Our choices can either facilitate the natural healing process or can block it.

The first choice we need to make re: emotional and spiritual wounds is whether or not we want to get well. Believe it or not, not everyone wants to get well. We can become comfortable with our wounds and want to hold on to them. Though they may get in the way in some area or areas of life, they may be our best friends or protectors in other areas.

The next choice we have to make is are we willing to do whatever it takes to get well. Sometimes there are things we need to do, doctors that we need to see, medicines that we need to take, procedures that we need to undergo, therapy sessions we need to go to, recovery meetings we need to attend, etc. in order to get well. The question then becomes are we willing to do whatever is needed.

(Some of the above content is paraphrased from Steve Arterburn’s book Healing is a Choice)

There is an event recorded in the gospel of Luke about a man who did what he had to do to be healed. “One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seems that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord’s healing power was strongly with Jesus. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, ‘Young man, your sins are forgiven.’ But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, ‘Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!’ Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, ‘Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.’ Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!’ And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God” (Luke 5: 17-25).

Here’s a song about this event. I invite you to take a listen.
Joy Gardner – Healer In The House (Live)

As I have journeyed through life I have had different purposes for different seasons of my life.

When I was a senior in high school I took a psychology course. I was fascinated by the concept that there are reasons why people do what they do and feel what they feel. This course was the beginning of a lifelong desire to understand what makes people tick. I subsequently majored in psychology in college, went to graduate school where I earned a master’s degree in clinical social work, and embarked on a career as a psychotherapist. I also engaged in therapy myself as a client to understand what made me tick.

The desire to understand what makes people tick grew into a passion for helping people live healthy, happy lives emotionally and relationally. When God called me to lead a Celebrate Recovery ministry in August 2003, I was given another avenue through which to help people heal the hurts, habits, and hang-ups which impeded them from living the lives they were created to live.

In July 2014 God narrowed this passion to focus on women. He lit a fire in my heart to help his daughters be set free from the belief systems and practices that tell them they are second-class citizens, and stop them from being who God created them to be. I put form to this passion and calling by writing When Going with the Flow Isn’t Enough, Swim Upstream. In this book I focus on how the Christian Church has contributed to maintaining gender inequality in the United States. I hope that the men and women who read it will be encouraged to swim upstream against gender inequality wherever they either see it happening to others or experience it themselves. I finished this manuscript about one month ago. The publishing process will begin in January.

I don’t know what else God may want me to do. I don’t need to know right now. I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, trusting that he will let me know what he wants me to do. “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

turn turn turn the byrds lyrics

My name is Mary. I’m a recovering people pleaser and approval seeker.

Growing up I learned that other people’s opinions were very important, that their opinions were the source of my self-worth and of love. I, of course, didn’t realize at the time that I was learning these things, however, I grew into an approval seeker and people pleaser PAR EXCELLANCE!

I lived this way for my first forty years on the planet. I then became a follower of Jesus Christ and my idea of where my self-worth and where love came from slowly began to change. As I walked with Christ he taught me that my source of self-esteem and self-worth does not come from the approval of people. It comes from my relationship with him. I am a child of God and therefore I have worth. He loves me, period. Jesus taught me that I cannot and do not need to earn his love. I cannot make him love me and I cannot make him not love me. He loves me no matter what, and he knew me and loved me before he placed me in my mother’s womb.

Fairly early in my faith walk (mid to late 1990s), I started experiencing a nagging sense that I was supposed to do something for God. It kept gnawing at me inside and wouldn’t go away. Though I had this sense, I didn’t have the faintest idea what God wanted me to do. In an effort to try to understand what it was I was supposed to do, I served in a number of different ministries. Though each of these were good and enjoyable and somewhat fulfilling, not one of them felt like the right fit. Each one felt like putting on a jacket with shoulders that were too tight or sleeves that were too short. I didn’t give up though, and eventually I found the right fit.

In 2003 God let me know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he wanted me to be a Celebrate Recovery leader. As I served in that capacity I knew I had finally found the right fit. I knew I was walking in the will of God for my life. This knowing was accompanied by a profound inner peace and joy that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Soon after this I developed my personal definition of success, i.e. to faithfully fulfill my God-given purpose. That definition has not changed. I am now living my life for an audience of One. I am living to please God, not to please human beings. This extends to all areas of my life, not just the ministry I serve in. My ultimate measure of success, which flows naturally from my definition of success, will be to hear, when I stand before God, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Since I put God in the driver’s seat of my life, I have not always been successful in leaving him there. There have been times when I put myself back in the driver’s seat, doing life my way. When I allowed God to be in the driver’s seat of my life, I experienced an internal peace and joy that surpasses all human understanding. The reason for this is that kind of peace and joy can only come from God. When I put myself back in the driver’s seat of my life, I was looking for that peace and joy to come from human achievements and human relationships. What I received was the peace and joy that the world gives. Having experienced both of these scenarios, I can tell you that the peace and joy that the world gives is hollow compared to the peace and joy that God gives. Nothing can compare to that deep certainty you feel when you know you are right where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you were created to do.

I was recently talking with a young woman who was physically, sexually and psychologically abused as a child. I said something about trusting God. Her immediate, and angry, response was “Why should I trust God, he didn’t protect me as a child!”

Now that’s a tough question. My reply to her was “I don’t know what to say to that. I need to think about it.”

Twenty four hours later I remembered a Celebrate Recovery teaching on this very issue and sent her the following message: “Don’t be mad at God for what your parents did. He gave us all free will. If he took away your parents’ free will He would have to take it away from all of us.” I haven’t heard from her since. I hope she’s chewing on this.

This past weekend I was a vendor at The Pink Event, a women’s expo in Baltimore. A woman who was looking at my books asked me what my ministry is about. That started me thinking about the need to boil my ministry down to its core. I then came up with the following purpose statement: Isn’t Enough Ministries exists to help individuals overcome the following obstacles to becoming who God created them to be: unhealed hurts, destructive habits, and crippling hang-ups; religion instead of relationship; the stained glass ceiling; and refusal to wait on God.

After writing my last post I was reminded of an article I wrote a number of years ago titled 12 Steps=the Christian Walk. Here is the article beginning at Step 2:

Step 1, if worked properly, leaves us feeling empty and ready for Step 2 – We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. When we begin to see that help is available to us and as we reach out and accept what our Higher Power has to offer, we start to feel hopeful that our life will improve and we’ll feel better. To take this step we need not understand what lies ahead. We need to trust that God knows what lies ahead and that He loves us and will take care of us.

Taking Step 2 positions us to take Step 3 – We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God. In the first 2 steps we became aware of our condition and accepted the idea of a power greater than ourselves. Step 3 is decision time. When we take Step 3 God becomes the manager of our life and we learn to accept life on His terms. Many of us initially take Step 3 by turning over only certain parts of our lives to God. We are willing to turn over the problematic parts of our lives when we see they are making our lives unmanageable, however, we hold onto other parts of our lives thinking we can manage them just fine thank you very much. We eventually realize, however, that we cannot barter with God. We must surrender our entire will and every area of our life to His care if we really want to recover. When we are finally able and willing to accept this reality, our journey to wholeness begins for real and we are ready to work Step 4.

Step 4 – We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves – opens our eyes to the weaknesses in our lives that need changing and helps us to build on our strengths. We examine our behavior and expand our understanding of ourselves. As we begin to see ourselves clearly, we learn to accept our whole character – the good and the bad. As our self-discovery unfolds, we begin to recognize the role that denial has played in our lives. This realization is the basis for embracing the truth of our personal history. An honest and thorough inventory leads to self-acceptance and freedom.

Step 5 – We admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs – gives us the opportunity to set aside our pride as we see ourselves through the lens of reality. Step 5 is a pathway out of isolation and loneliness, and results in freedom, happiness and serenity. Working Step 5 lays a new foundation for our life of relationship to God and commitment to honesty & humility. Our growing relationship with God gives us the courage to examine ourselves and reveal our true self to ourselves, to God and to another human being. Self-disclosure is an important part of our Christian walk. We were created to live in community with both God and people. Authentic community requires disclosure. It is tempting to believe that telling God is all that is necessary because He ultimately forgives all sins. While this is true, confession to another human being provides special healing and wholeness and releases the grip of hidden sin. Once we share our inventory with God and with another human being we are ready to move on to Step 6.

Step 6 – We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character – provides us with a needed rest as God works in us to create needed change. Our task in this step is to develop the willingness to respond to God’s desired action in our lives. We may believe the saying “God helps those who help themselves, so get busy and change.” This, however, is not true. Change comes from God, not from our self-will, and it comes when we are willing to Let Go and Let God!

In Step 7 – We humbly ask Him to remove all our shortcomings – we Let God. We work this step on our knees in humble prayer, asking God to remove our shortcomings, one defect at a time. Asking God to remove our defects is a true measure of our willingness to surrender control. For those of us who have spent our lives thinking we were self-sufficient, surrendering control can be an extremely difficult task. It is also an extremely freeing task. It takes much faith & trust to work this step. We need to remember that God hears us and wants to answer our prayer. We also need to remember that God works on His timetable, not ours. He will remove our defects when He knows we are ready.

Step 8 – Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all – begins the process of healing damaged relationships. Up to this point in our recovery we have been looking at and dealing with how our hurts, habits and hang-ups affected us. We now begin to look at how they harmed others. Reviewing our Fourth Step inventory helps us determine who belongs on our list. Once our amends list is done we are ready to move on to Step 9 – We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. This step gives us the opportunity to take concrete action to heal the damage of our past and to move further along on the pathway out of isolation and loneliness. Accepting responsibility for the harm we’ve done to others is a humbling experience because it forces us to admit the effect we have had on people that we care about. It requires much courage to successfully complete this step. It is not easy to admit to someone face to face that we have hurt him or her and to ask for forgiveness. Doing this, however, leads to increased self-esteem, serenity, and peace, both in ourselves and in our relationships.

Steps 8 & 9 help us repair our past. Step 10 – We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it – is a maintenance step that is designed to help us stay on track in our recovery. Doing a daily inventory and making amends as needed strengthens and protects our recovery and is a vital part of walking a healthy Christian walk.

Step 11 – We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and power to carry that out – is another maintenance step. Our relationship with God is our most important relationship. In order for that relationship to be vibrant and alive, ongoing honest communication is critical. As we draw near to God in prayer and meditation, we draw close to our source of power, serenity, guidance and healing. To ignore communication with God is to unplug our power source.

Step 12 – Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs – is an action step. Step 12 calls us to reach out to those who are hurting and struggling, and to share with them our experience, strength and hope. 1 Peter 3:10 tells us: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”. The most powerful way that we can work Step 12 of carrying this message to others is to actually WALK the Christian walk, to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. When working Step 12 a good rule of thumb is “Actions speak louder than words”. There is no more powerful witness of God’s transformational love and power than a transformed life that lives that transformation day in and day out.

Therapy and recovery exist for similar reasons and have similar goals, such as healing, growth, change, improved functioning, healthier relationships, and so forth. The ways in which each accomplishes these goals, however, are different, as are the underlying beliefs regarding how change happens.

Definition of terms: therapy refers to secular psychotherapy with a trained and licensed professional (psychologist, clinical social worker, professional counselor, psychiatrist);
recovery refers to 12 Step recovery programs in which the recovery participant chooses his or her own higher power; Christ-centered recovery refers to 12 Step recovery programs in which the only higher power recognized is Jesus Christ.

One similarity between therapy and recovery is that healing and change take place within the context of relationships. In therapy, the quality of the therapist-client relationship is a critical determining factor in the success or failure of the therapy. In recovery, the relationships between the recovery participants contributes immeasurably to the success or failure of one’s recovery. Sharing who one is and what one struggles with in a group of people who share similar struggles counteracts feelings of isolation and the belief that one is different.

A critical difference between therapy and Christ-centered recovery lies in the answer to the question “How does healing happen?” One of the underlying beliefs in therapy is that the patient or the client has the power within to heal self. The role of the therapist is to facilitate this healing process. The belief in recovery, on the other hand, is that the individual is powerless to cure self. This admission of powerlessness is believed to be critical and foundational. It is believed that until one takes the first step of admitting one’s powerlessness, recovery cannot begin and change will not happen. Therapy is about empowering the client to meet his or her own needs and to make necessary changes. Christ-centered recovery is about maintaining an attitude of powerlessness and learning to turn to one’s higher power, Jesus, for the strength and power to change.

The difference between the belief systems of therapy and Christ-centered recovery became blatantly clear to me during a meeting I attended while working as a mental health professional. Present at the meeting were seven therapists, including myself. We were talking about working with clients who were abused or neglected as children. The focus of the discussion was how to teach the clients to parent themselves. As I sat at the table listening to the discussion taking place around me, I felt depressed and frustrated in reaction to my colleagues’ lack of awareness of their heavenly Father and their failure to teach clients to turn to him for parenting rather than turning to self. A very deep sorrow welled up inside me as I continued to listen to my colleagues describe how they were teaching their clients to lean on “selves” and “parent selves,” rather than to run into the arms of their heavenly Father who loves them with a perfect love. My sorrow grew out of my memory of how isolated and alone I felt when I trusted in myself and my abilities, when I was self-reliant rather than God-reliant. In my opinion, when therapists teach clients to parent selves, they inadvertently help clients to stay stuck rather than to heal. It has been my experience that those of us who were deeply hurt in childhood are unable to heal our own hurts. The hurts are too massive, too pervasive. When I turned to myself to try to parent myself, I was unsuccessful in doing that. I simply did not have what it took inside me to heal them.

I spent many years and many dollars as a client in therapy while simultaneously working as a psychotherapist. Psychotherapy taught me to identify my unhealthy thought patterns and behavior patterns, helped me to understand why I had developed these unhealthy patterns, and helped me change them to healthy ones. What psychotherapy didn’t do, though, was fill my emptiness, heal my feeling of aloneness and disconnection from people, and give me a sense of being valuable and worthwhile. Through the help of psychotherapy, I was able to change on the outside. My inside, however, remained untouched. That was healed through involvement in a Christ-centered recovery program. Though it is beyond question that countless numbers of people have attained and maintained abstinence and sobriety through the help and support of secular twelve-step programs, and though I did participate in a secular recovery program for a period of time, my true healing and growth came through working a Christ-centered recovery program.

Another important difference between therapy and Christ-centered recovery involves the concept of forgiveness. In therapy, one is encouraged to resolve issues related to people who have hurt us and to change behaviors that hurt self and others. In Christ-centered recovery, one is encouraged to forgive people who have hurt us and to ask for forgiveness from people we have hurt.

Prior to my involvement in a Christ-centered recovery group forgiveness was not in my personal repertoire of healing arts. It was also not in my professional repertoire of therapeutic strategies and techniques. I have no memory of ever hearing forgiveness mentioned when I was in graduate school learning how to be a therapist. I also have no memory of ever hearing about forgiveness during my years as a client in therapy. As far as I can recollect, the need for to forgive those who hurt me, to ask forgiveness from the people I hurt, and to forgive myself was never mentioned. Therefore, it was no wonder that forgiveness was not on my radar screen. Through working the Christ-centered 12 Steps I learned what forgiveness is and what it is not.

I learned that forgiveness is: a choice, I don’t have to feel like forgiving someone to forgive him her; a free gift given with no strings attached; surrendering our right to get even; choosing to keep no record of the wrongs; a heart condition. Forgiveness takes place in the forgiver’s heart. It is intrapersonal, not interpersonal. It is also a permanent condition, a lifelong commitment. I cannot forgive someone and take it back later.

I learned that forgiveness is not: forgetting; excusing the wrong that was done; tolerating the wrong that was done; denying the wrong that was done; justifying what was done; pardoning what was done; refusing to take the wrong seriously; pretending that we are not hurt; erasing the need for consequences; quick; easy; a magic balm that takes away feelings of hurt and anger.

Though all of the above lessons I learned about forgiveness were important, the three most important ones were: 1. The choice whether or not to forgive does not depend on the wrongdoer’s attitude or perception of the wrong. I can choose to forgive someone whether or not they see themselves as having done something wrong and whether or not they are sorry; 2. Forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation. I can forgive someone and choose not to reenter into a relationship with him or her; 3. Forgiveness is an essential, nonnegotiable ingredient in the healing of deep wounds. In these instances, forgiving benefits the forgiver far more than the forgiven.

As I struggled to forgive people who had hurt me, I fought against my desire to get back at them, to make them hurt as much as they had hurt me. During this process, I was comforted by the following words of Lewis B. Smedes in Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve: “Nobody seems to be born with much talent for forgiving. We all need to learn from scratch, and the learning almost always runs against the grain.” When I finally was able to forgive them I began to experience an internal sense of peace and joy. I was also able to get on with my life unhindered.

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