There are layers and layers to grief, but the one thing we do not want to do is to deny the grief, stuff the tears, or in any way avoid the pain. It is only in thoroughly grieving all our pain and suffering that we free ourselves of the past. There are layers to our memories and as we grow older, we can be blindsided once-again by the grief flooding our memories. The task is just the same as with the first time—to thoroughly experience the feelings. Then we can come into the present and be present to God who is always present in our lives whether we are aware of Him or not.
This whole process is one of accepting who we are and what has happened to us, whether the pain is in the present or from long ago. If we hang on to the grief and anger, in anyway denying it, then we are a captive of the past. More than anything, Jesus called us to live in the present, in His presence, in the truth, in reality. So, no more denying pain, no more running from it, no more building walls around the pain within us.
The task is to acknowledge, ”Yes, I was molested,” “Yes, my mother did not love and accept me,” “Yes, the kids teased me until I hurt all over” —-whatever is true for you and me. And to feel the feelings that these painful experiences caused in us, so that we can remember what happened, but we no longer need to run from the suffering. Journaling about it can help as does laying it on the altar before God to heal and to transform. Now it is a part of us, but no longer rules us. Once we are willing to acknowledge the pain we have suppressed, we leave room, finally, to hear God’s “still, small voice,” His “gentle whisper.” [1 Kings 19:12]
I had hoped that I could get rid of all from my past that has haunted me—enough therapy and journaling, enough body work, but I realize that while these helped me separate from its influence, but they did not erase the memories. Interestingly, what I learned through acceptance of my past suffering, has been the healing that I can offer in my writings, for I am a “wounded healer” according to Henri Nouwen’s description. The major trauma of my life was growing up in a hell-fire-and-damnation church. The major trajectory of my life has been this: how do I turn my very negative ties to God into positive ones where I no longer feel I am the lowest creature on this earth, to where I can love God and accept His love and forgiveness?
I heard in two dreams the way I was to use what I learned through this journey into freedom from my past. In the first I was talking to a favorite Presbyterian pastor. I was saying to him, “Your job is to inspire the congregation, mine is to connect the dots.” As I thought about connecting the dots over the next few weeks, I thought it meant to connect Jesus’ teachings with 21st c. life. A few months later in the middle of the night, I wrote down these words: “to make the kingdom real.”
All this came from very difficult church teachings in my childhood. I think any area of great pain once healed and redeemed by God brings us to the people we are to address, because these are the people we understand. In my case it was how do we live the life that Jesus taught? In someone else’s it might be about dealing with an addiction or bad parenting or a particular illness or condition like diabetes or Down’s Syndrome. It might be about overcoming fear or terror, or recovering from any number of situations. The “wounded healer” in us is actually our most powerful voice. We understand where others in the same situation are coming from. We know the pitfalls. We know how we got healed. We aren’t preaching to these folk; we can be with them in their sorrow and pain and love them just as they are.
We can enter into their lives, understand why they did what they did and, maybe, help them find their own way out of their pain.
When we no longer run from our own pain, we can really give of ourselves to others. We can be with them in their pain. We can begin to love and embrace ourselves and others and to entertain positively God’s love for each of us. For this is the gift of facing all that we are, all that has been done to us—it is love!
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I able to look at my life with love in my heart and see exactly who I am? Can I see myself with the eyes of love and forgiveness? Can I begin to accept God’s love for me and allow it to begin to penetrate my whole being? Can I now move away from all judgments and fears(my own) that have accompanied me all my life?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who can pour out His love to everyone we encounter. May we be healed and transformed by God’s love and forgiveness.
On this page find the archives for By the Waters going back to 2011.
My book, “Exodus: Our Story, Too!” is available on amazon.com under my full name, Patricia Said Adams. Read there how your life can be transformed by encountering God in the wilderness.