The most insidious and damaging identity lie victims of sexual abuse believe is that they…
Made New, Memory by Memory
We all have events in our past that need the Lord’s healing.
Sometimes when a memory comes up we can relive it…again and again. We spiral through the “should haves” and “shouldn’t haves” and “what ifs” and “I wish it had been….” We expend a whole lot of emotional energy walking on the treadmill of regret, shame and guilt – going round and round, getting absolutely nowhere. The enemy must love when we get stuck on this treadmill, relishing in the amount of energy we burn fruitlessly, leaving ourselves depleted and exhausted.
What if the memory of that difficult moment or painful experience has surfaced by design? What if we’ve found that old snapshot, not so we can ruminate there and feel badly all over again, but so the Lord can bring healing and sanctification because of that moment? Knowing that the Holy Spirit is alive and active within us, gives us a new lens through which to understand old situations.
Here’s an example…My husband and I journeyed through a long and difficult time in our marriage. Through a series of hurtful events, we had drifted far apart and developed a bad habit of speaking unkindly to each other. Being angry and mean was like putting on protective armor to keep one another at a distance. One day during this season, I was driving in the car with my then 7-year-old daughter. She asked me how I met her dad and when did we get married. Then she paused and in the saddest voice said, “and now you don’t listen to each other. I guess you don’t like each other anymore.” [Insert dagger into heart here].
For months following that moment with her in the car, her sweet little face would pop into my mind’s eye and I would hear her heartbroken words. Onto the treadmill I’d hop…”why didn’t I”…”I should have”…”how could I have”…Guilt. Regret. Shame.
One day, by God’s grace, instead of running until mental exhaustion on the treadmill, my mind got quiet. I sat down. I could feel the weight of my sorrow and guilt and the other emotions that I, with help from the enemy of my soul, had piled on top of that memory. I cried and asked Jesus to take it all, I was done carrying it. Yet, instead of removing in an instant all those emotions, He had something more in mind. There were many important truths about the spiritual walk with Him that I needed to learn and He would use this painful memory to open the doorway leading to deeper healing.
The first of those truths that I learned is this: Our Lord desires our healing, our wholeness, and our sanctification, but no matter how strong His desire and no matter how long we have been walking wounded, He is always respectful of our free will. He waits until we have given our consent. In the waiting, He often nudges us or sends us invitations into healing, which can come disguised as the discomfort of remembering a painful time in our past. Once we give our consent to Him, our willingness to let Him take the lead in healing that wound, our gentle Jesus takes us by the hand and with great tenderness, walks us into the scenario needing His healing. And while it may feel scary to intentionally walk back into a painful experience, knowing that I go in with Jesus makes it an attractive option to the prolonged spiraling around and around it.
The second truth He taught me about my spiritual walk is that often my unmet needs are actually a blessing inviting me into a more intimate relationship with Jesus. Had all my heart’s needs been met by the people in my life, what would there be to instigate my seeking the Lord’s healing? We often become aware of a desire in our hearts through the pain of having that desire go unfulfilled.
Jesus revealed to me over time that my unmet needs and unfulfilled desires had actually very little to do with my husband! The deep desires of my heart were placed there by the God, and were never intended to be met completely through human relationships. Feeling the pain of those unmet needs and desires is His invitation into an intimate encounter with Himself. He alone IS the fulfillment of all desire.
“God always allows us to feel the frailty of human love so we’ll appreciate the strength of His.” -C.S. Lewis
The third truth He revealed to me is that we are partners in my healing and spiritual growth. I can’t do it without Him and He will never force it upon me. I can get intentional about cooperating with His plans for my healing and work with Him to continually take steps forward in the process.
One wonderful way to do this is by putting “healing appointments” with Jesus right into my monthly schedule. These appointments are different than my regular adoration hour. Although I sometimes use my adoration hour for this purpose, I know I also need time to truly adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament, and, paraphrasing St. Therese, to simply gaze at Him and let Him gaze back at me. That right there is a healing activity!
Setting up healing appointments with Jesus means that I carve out a time and space to prioritize my spiritual well-being. Just as we make appointments to consult with a therapist, coach or doctor in prioritizing our emotional and physical well-being, why wouldn’t we set aside time to consult with our Divine Physician and Healer? He alone is the One who truly heals my heart, mind, spirit and soul!
To our appointments I bring my journal, my bible and my willingness to invite Him into whatever memory or painful moment has been rearing its persistent head lately! Together, we open the door and step through. I will ask Him to show me where He was during that moment, what He saw in me or in the situation, as I want to glimpse His perspective. I ask Him to show me what there is for me to learn or to forgive. Above all, I am committed to allowing each affliction, weakness, shortcoming or failure that I come to see in myself, become the path leading further into my desire for Jesus and His loving, healing touch upon my life.
And memory-by-memory, He makes all things new.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
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