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"Many times they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me" (Ps 129:2).
I began to heal on the inside when I decided to set aside time each day to sit quietly before God. I didn't read or study my bible during this time. Initially I didn't say much. I just sat in my bedroom closet after inviting the presence of God to transform me.
After a while, I got angry. So I told God I was angry. With others. With Him. Later, I felt sad. So I told God how sad I was. Sad that I'd been hurt so badly. Sad that He allowed it. With every confession I became increasingly aware of how comforting He is.
I began to look forward to my time with God. I needed it. I sensed that I was changing on the inside, though I couldn't identify how, which freed me from trying to control the process. And then one day, in the presence of Unfailing, Unconditional Love, my eyes were opened to my destructive re-actions to abuse and betrayal. How I treated the ones I loved the most. How I treated myself. I didn't like what I saw. So I did what I'd been doing all along. I told God. I confessed. Then I asked Him to forgive me. And He did.
Not long afterwards, God prompted me to forgive the people who'd hurt me. For the first time in my life, I had it to give. It felt good to forgive. Healing and forgiveness is an "inside job." I think too many people begin on the outside. That never worked for me. Pointing a finger, telling everyone but God, what so and so did to hurt me--how I feel about them. It only muddied the water in my own heart. A heart that held a well of pain as deep as betrayal and wide as abuse.
God sent His Son to save us AND heal us. Jesus is very interested in healing us on the inside. In Matthew 23:26, He tells us to "first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be made clean." And that's how it worked (and still works) for me.
Counselors are wonderful. I went to counseling, too. But be mindful not to join the drowning--who only describe the water--over, and over, and over.
When we commit to spending time alone with God and invite His presence into our pain, Living Water pours into the muddied waters of our hearts. Over time, the water becomes clear and we see our own need for forgiveness. That's how we heal from the inside. And that's how we forgive from our hearts.
Are you ready to begin? All you have to do in the beginning is show up. From there, simply respond to Him. You can't screw it up.
Published on Friday, August 19, 2011 @ 11:43 AM CDT
She was my first twelve-step-program sponsor. She, too, was a survivor. One of the first questions she asked me was, "How do you treat yourself?"
Was she crazy? I wanted to talk about how OTHER people treated me. What does how I treat myself have to do with healing? Her next question answered my question before I could ask it out loud:
"If the broken parts of you transformed into a little girl, how would say you treat her? Describe this in a journal and then read it to me next week."
As I wrote, it became apparent that I did not take good care of myself. I denied myself water when I was thirsty. I put off bathroom breaks, food, and rest, until I had completed the task at hand. During leisure time, I watched television shows about abuse that merely exploited survivors and perpetuated the fear that the damage of abuse cannot be redeemed. (And yes, I include Oprah in this category. Another blog for another time.)
Without realizing it, I'd taken on the role of passive abuser--by way of neglect, long after the active-abuse had ended. I wouldn't think of neglecting a child, and yet I denied myself many basic human needs. I determined to take baby steps toward gaining strength and dignity. Here there are, Dignity 101:
- Nourish your body. Do not skip meals. Schedule a time to eat something healthy.
- Drink water regularly. Keep a bottle of water on hand. (The rule of thumb for water is: one half of your body weight in ounces per day).
- Gotta go? GO.
- Honor bedtime. Allow yourself 6-8 hours of sleep. What doesn't get done today, can be completed tomorrow.
Simple, but not easy. Try it. And be ready to journal the vast array of emotions that will arise. Physically caring for yourself will have a tremendous impact on your emotional and spiritual well-being. Repeat after me: I'm worth it.
I encourage you to take a quick inventory of how you treat yourself each day. And then ask yourself: If I were caring for a little girl, would that child flourish under my under supervision? Do I meet her needs or do I neglect her? If you don't like your answers, simply ask God for the strength and grace to take better care of yourself. And then, put a practical plan on paper.
Next Tuesday, we'll talk about what to look for in a good counselor. May the Lord direct your steps today and everyday. And remember, every step you take in a healthy direction, is a step toward more freedom than you can imagine. It's yours, so get moving.
Published on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 @ 9:40 AM CDT