The truth is, we cannot heal alone. What is broken in dysfunctional relationships must be recovered in healthy relationships. In a recent healing seminar I facilitated, one of the participants asked me why God allows all of us to suffer so much with the wounds inflicted upon us in childhood and adolescence. “Surely a loving God would spare His children from so much suffering,” he said.
My answer to this young man helped give him a greater perspective to his plight: “It’s not about you,” I said. “It’s about God working His power to heal you, so that you in turn, you can bless and help others who are suffering with your story of healing.” If our healing was simply for us to get on with our life and be happy, what purpose would that serve the Body of Christ? There is truly a greater redemptive message in our stories of healing that God is using in His master plan!
Our healing can never be about ourselves. If it were, we would simply reach a point of nirvana and meditate all day in the glow of inner peace! As long as God has us on this earth, we are being used to help craft His beautiful plan. We can either fight Him, or be a part of the greatest story ever told! For this reason, we do not need to be obsessed with perfection, absolute sobriety, or living a sinless life, because we’ll never attain it. Does that mean we should not strive for holiness and avoid sin? Of course not, but that’s not the ultimate point.
I know former sex addicts and recovering alcoholics that pride themselves on not having a drink or acting out for years. They sit in support groups every week and recycle through the 12 steps year after year. Some of them achieve sobriety, but underneath it all, many of them are dry drunks and emotionally disconnected. They go to anonymous meetings to keep themselves from using, but after they leave the support group, they live quiet lives of desperation, holding on until the next group so they can keep their serenity. That is no way to live!
God gave us life so we can live it abundantly! Our addictions are merely unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with our unhealed wounds. It’s not about managing our symptoms; it’s about discovering who we really are underneath the hurt and pain of our past and finding our way to a better future with God’s direction.
When the wounds of childhood are healed, we discover the disowned parts of ourselves, our inner child, which allows us to be fully present within ourselves and able to hear that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, leading us day-by-day.
Recovering our disowned selves in our healing
In the book of Matthew, we find this account of a question put to Jesus:
"Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me (Matthew 18: 1-5)."
The reason Jesus places so much importance with the child is that it points to both our innocence and our capacity for wounding during our formative years.
As children, we experience the awe and wonder of life. Everything is a new experience. Everything is exciting. Everything is pure. If mom and dad love, care, and nurture the child, he or she experience God as a caring, benevolent figure that cherishes us. Parents model God to the child; they are, in a sense, Mr. and Mrs. God. Mother and father provide all of the essential needs for their children when they are very young, so if these needs are met, the child (in his/her immature state) will look to God as a loving extension of mommy and daddy.
This is why our feelings for our Heavenly Father are often based on the experiences with our earthly father. If our parents hurt us when we are young, we often transfer that hurt onto God. “Why would you deny me this romantic partner/job promotion/new car?” we say to God. “Why would you allow my husband/friend/boss to hurt me like this?” These hurts and disappointments often take us back to our childhood, when mom or dad denied us a basic need, did not allow us to have something we really wanted, treated us in a way that was unfair, or abused/neglected us in some way.
Think about it: If we grew up in ideal families and communities where all of our needs were completely met; if we never experienced any hurt or pain from our family and friends; and we were taught to completely rely and trust on God in all circumstances; any present day hurt or disappointment would barely phase us. We would say: “I don’t like the way my friend/boss just spoke to me, but I can see that he/she is hurting right now and needs to be loved, just as I need to be loved.”
But rarely does such a thought come into our head, because in the moment, we are being triggered from our wounding and respond to a past hurt. In actuality, very little of our present day reactions are from the present. Most of the fear, anger, and sadness we experience on a day-to-day basis are based on past hurts. We then transfer, unconsciously, those wounds onto people that trigger us in the present.
Have you ever wondered why that one person in your office or church seems to get under your skin, no matter what they say or do? If so, they probably remind you of someone that hurt you in the past. If you would ask God to show you how to heal that wound from the past, the power of the present person’s behavior would greatly diminish and no longer trigger you.
So how we do stop this? How do we heal or change? Jesus told us in verse above: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” How confusing for the disciples to hear this! It’s along the same line as when Jesus told them that in order to enter Heaven, they must be born again.
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3: 1-6).
Again, like the passage in John, Jesus was speaking figuratively, not literally, in the passage in Matthew. Read a little closer (in verse 3) to understand: “You must become like little children…”
In my counseling practice, I often witness what I call “the walking wounded” among my clients. They are all basically good people, but almost all lack a core aspect of what is called integration. Their adult selves are out of touch with their younger selves. They live their lives for many years, sometimes decades, without ever healing the hurts from the past.
Imagine a professional athlete that experienced two broken bones each season of a fifteen-year career, but never healed his wounds. He made millions, won championships, and experienced some great fun along the way, but when all was said and done he was left with thirty broken bones in various parts of his body.
One day, he’s walking down the stairs, slips and falls, and blows out his knee. When the doctor looks at the X-ray, he’s astonished at all the broken bones around the knee that are also problems that may have contributed to the current accident. But because this player didn’t take care of himself, his current break is compounded by all of the past-unhealed broken bones. As you can imagine, his recovery will be a long one.
I am always amused when a new client asks me: “How long will it take for me to heal?” I’ve even had clients say to me: “Is there a quick fix for this?” I then go onto explain that it took 20/30/40 years to inflict the wounds of their childhood that led them to their current state, and that it will most likely to take years (not months) to heal those wounds.
If our adult selves are to integrate with our younger selves, we must heal the wounds of our childhood. We must get in touch with that inner child that was wounded. Most of our current symptoms ¾ whether they are addictions, unwanted sexual feelings or behaviors, or persistent depression and anxiety ¾ are simply manifestations of our childhood wounding. Left unhealed, our inner child will sabotage all efforts to find peace and happiness until we get in touch with these wounds and understand their message and meaning.
Perhaps you are thinking: “I’ve never received professional counseling or done inner child healing, and I came out all right.” If this describes you, examine your children. Are your children healthy and whole? Have they gone onto to form loving, stable relationships? Are they living God-honoring lives? If you cannot answer a 100 percent yes to that statement, your unresolved issues may be showing up in the next generation. After all, our children’s problems are often times a reflection of our own unresolved issues.
If you answered no, does that mean you are doomed? Are your children resigned to a life of misery because of your failures? Of course not! God desires redemption and healing for all of His children so that we can truly live our lives in the way He intended. But in order to do that we must trace, face, and erase the issues of our past if we, and our children, are to experience all that God intended for us.
This is an excerpt from chapter 7 of The Meaning of Sex: A New Christian Ethos (January, 2018). For more information on how to obtain a copy, please contact our office at IHFINFO@InstituteforHealthyFamilies.org. Christopher Doyle, MA, LPC, LCPC is a licensed clinical professional counselor and the Executive Director of the Institute for Healthy Families.
Posted on Thu, January 25, 2018
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