*UPDATED 12/4/17: The second half of this post contains several ideas learned from Tim and Katie Mather of Bear Creek Ranch. I highly recommend their ministry and books.
I wasn't aware of how much of their teaching I'd used for this post until I read Katie's book The Five Wholeness Steps the afternoon after publishing the post. (The conscientious writer in me nearly had a heart-attack.) However, my ideas in the post aren't presented just as the Mathers would present them, as I learned last weekend during their Advanced Wholeness Retreat.
What you believe matters.
A belief is like a seed. Throw it into the soil of the mind. Wait. In time, the belief yields the fruit of behavior. As the nature of the fruit depends upon the nature of the seed, so the nature of the behavior depends upon the nature of the belief.
All beliefs bear fruit eventually, no matter how deep you bury them.
Early in the summer, I agreed to beta-read Finding Heaven by my writer friend, Talena Winters. (Before I go further, you should know the story is beautiful, powerful, and highly recommended. Not only did I enjoy the story, I loved how God made it part of my healing story. I will craft an entire post around it soon. Don't let what I've written below dissuade you from reading it. Order your copy here.)
Talena warned me ahead of time of the heavy thematic material, but I wasn't worried. I could handle it. I was a big girl, and I was healed, after all.
Less than 20% of the way through the book, I triggered. Hard.
I wasn't prepared for the sudden wave of anxiety, accompanied by a headache, heart palpitations, and a strong urge to toss my Kindle across the room. I don't typically respond like that. Not in a quiet house with a book in my hand.
Typically, I'm a bit more controlled. I might feel a slight twinge in my gut, which I could chalk up to something I ate, and then swallow, pack down the pain, and pretend it isn't there.
Denial--it's what's for breakfast.
The weirdest part for me was that the character's trauma wasn't the thing that triggered me; it was what she believed about herself as a result of the trauma.
"Not strong enough."
"On her own."
"Made of ice."
"Something is wrong with me."
It was like the character was me.
I didn't know what to do with my reaction. It seemed rather extreme. Why was this still bothering me after all these years? After I had forgiven? It wasn't like I'd been abused by a family member. I should be over this by now. What was wrong with me?
I set the Kindle aside, and Jesus and I had a conversation. The revelation that came was that I had judged myself based on my experiences and the way people had treated me over the years rather than on what God said about me and my new identity in him.
My judgments, which I treated as lies from the enemy, had implanted into my wounds. That day, I began to renounce those lies.
Renouncing lies is an important step to healing. Lies are like bad bacteria, infecting the wounds caused by life in this fallen world. The wound doesn't even have to be deep to be infected. If the enemy can convince you to believe the lie, it sets in like gangrene, rotting the whole limb.
For example, if you believe you aren't safe, that you're on your own with no protector, you feel you must protect yourself. From everyone. And so you build walls that keep everyone--God included--out. Self-protection prohibits intimacy with anyone.
If you believe you're dirty and worthless, you have a hard time believing God who says you're loved, chosen, and accepted. You'll always be striving to earn something that's already yours in Christ. Your entire relationship with God will be based on what you do for him rather than becoming one with him, and you will have missed the point of the whole thing.
If you believe you're a whore--figuratively or literally--you'll act like one. If you believe there's something wrong with you, you can never love yourself. And if you can't love yourself, forget learning to love anyone else.
Jesus did say, "Love your neighbor as yourself," not "instead of yourself."
Do you see the problem yet?
The lies do what they've always done. From the very first one in the garden. They cause us to take our eyes off of God and his complete sufficiency and focus on ourselves and our deficiencies.
Lies intrude upon our worship. They distort it.
Think about it. If worship is a matter of focus--what we set our hearts and minds on--then lie-infected wounds cause us to worship...our pain.
I don't know about you, but I don't want to spend my life worshipping my pain. I have more important things to do with my time and creative energy.
So I renounced the lie that I'm not safe. I renounced the lies that I'm dirty and worthless. I renounced the lies that I'm a whore, I'm a troll, and there's something wrong with me.
It was a good start. But renouncing lies isn't quite enough.
Lie-free wounds are clean, but they're still there. They need to heal. And they won't heal by telling yourself that you're good enough or that you're pretty.
At least, my wounds didn't heal that way. They didn't even heal when I quoted Bible verses at them.
No, I had to bring my wounds to the Light. Which meant I had to return to my roots--confession, which is basically agreeing with God.
I had to admit that I was in pain and that I couldn't heal myself with logic, self-help, or even scripture. Which I couldn't have admitted had I not handed over my self-protective armor. Because you don't admit your weaknesses to a person you don't trust.
Time passed. Because life with God isn't about reaching a destination. It's about the relationship that evolves on the journey. It's about learning him and becoming like him.
The summer was nearly gone when the final stage of my healing began.
...to be continued...
About Finding Heaven:
What do you do when you realize that everything you are is a lie?
Sarah Daniels seems to have the perfect life--a successful career as an erotica author, a successful lawyer husband, thousands of adoring fans, and the freedom to do whatever she wants. Or does she?
Behind the façade, her marriage is in a shambles, she hates what she writes and the people who read it, and she feels trapped behind the masks of her own making. A cancer diagnosis has just dealt the final blow to the shaky foundations of her life.
A chance encounter with Steve McGuire--a man who gave up the rat race to help Mumbai's prostitutes, and who finds joy in every little thing--makes her question her priorities and wonder if it's time for a change. His example and friendship inspires her to start a journey to find God, healing, and her authentic self.
Can Sarah rediscover her passion for life with a death sentence hanging over her head? Can she conquer her personal demons and break free from her abusive past so that she can truly live?
Will Sarah ever know what real love is?
Finding Heaven is a gritty inspirational novel about healing from the hurts of abuse.
"A riveting, true-to-life tale of love's power to heal and redeem." - Melissa Keaster, author of Eleora