Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Safe Place to Heal

A friend of mine wrote an excellent blog post about the need for a safe haven in every part of the church. When I read what she wrote, some thoughts came to mind that I'd like to share here.

We all know people who are struggling and hurting. They may have been victimized by someone else as in the case of spiritual abuse or their struggles may have been caused by their own poor decisions. Whatever the cause, they may need a safe place where they can heal.

The track record of the institution has not always been good. One of my friends has told me how she shared her struggles in a home group and, as she put it, they looked at her as if lobsters were crawling out of her ears. After experiences like that, we learn pretty quick that it's best not to share too openly so instead, we share the safe "sins" like, "I don't read my Bible enough" or we might even get bold and share that we got angry when we had to wait too long at a traffic light.

The issues that are hurting us and causing us to lose sleep are never brought up for discussion. Instead, they are continually pushed down where given the right set of circumstances, they can erupt spewing hurt and leaving devastation all around us. I believe that institutions are really not the best place for individuals to experience healing. I believe healing is best accomplished in a relationship where the hurting person is befriended and can experience the comfort of travelling with someone who will support and encourage them in their journey to wholeness.

The hurting need a shelter where they can feel loved and sheltered while being healed. I know there are many of us who want to be a safe place for the hurting so it's important that we understand what are the characteristics of a safe haven.

I believe a listening heart is one of the most important characteristics. While it's good to provide a listening ear, I think it's critical that we develop listening hearts. When we listen with our hearts, we hear the words that are not even spoken; we hear the cry that is not even uttered. Some who are hurting will try to hide their hurt and emotions from the world. When we listen with our hearts, however, we look beyond the smile and see the hurting heart.

Others may act out of anger or bitterness. During the time of my healing, I expressed uncharacteristic anger. I'm normally not an angry person but that emotion came out strong. Emotions that had been repressed began to come out and, when they did, they came out in a flood.

In the natural, before a wound can heal, the infection has to come out. The discharge may be unpleasant to see and unpleasant to deal with but, unless it comes out, the wound will not properly heal. Wounds of the heart are similar to physical wounds. Anger and bitterness may be discharged and we have to allow the wounded to freely express their hurt. It may be unpleasant but this is a vital step in their healing.

Healing is a process and it's never a short, quick process. In the case of a physical wound, it may look terrible and yet the healing process has already begun below the skin surface where it can't be seen. The same is true with a wounded heart. Things may look messy and nasty for a while but that's part of the healing process and shouldn't be rushed. The ugliness that we're seeing is not the real person. It's the infection that has built up around the wounded heart. During this time, the heart must be gently massaged with the love of God since this is the only medicine that will heal it.

I believe as we become more firmly established in Father's love that he will bring more of his hurting children to us. That's why I started blogging and that's why I added an email address to my profile. I want to be available to encourage and, if necessary, walk with someone as they journey toward wholeness.

My desire is to share the life and freedom that Father has given me so that others can be set free. I'm excited to see all of the other blogs and websites that are proclaiming this message of freedom in Christ. My hope is that they would multiply. The hurting and wounded need to hear that Father's love is not based on what they do but it's based solely on what he has already done.


Katherine Gunn said...

Aida, these are truly words of someone who has been there. And you are right. The best healing happens when, one on one, friendships are made and we walk through the healing process together. The church I left did not allow for those kind of relationships. It was so full of fear and bondage to appearances that they didn't even recognize that they were/are a building full of walking wounded, refusing to let each other heal.

Aida said...

Yes, Katherine. I've been there. While in the abusive situation, I had someone there reach out to me and walk with me for a time. The only problem is she was too closely aligned with the system so, after a while, she pulled away but it was definitely a time of healing for me and I will always be thankful for what she did give me.

Unfortunately, in the institution, we've been trained to believe that we can't do it so our first reaction is to send them off to the professional. I believe that's rarely necessary.

That type of church that you describe is not a place for healing. It's actually the scene of the accident where the bodies are left to die. How sad!

My hope is that those who are hurting will find their way to a safe haven where they can be sheltered until the storm in their lives has calmed.

Tracy Simmons said...

Aida, you are going to be such a gift to some really hurting people! I have to remember to add you to my spiritual resources blog so that when new folks go searching, they can easily find you.

Aida said...

Thanks, Tracy.

Free Spirit said...

"the ugliness that we're seeing is not the real person."
I love that, because right now, I feel like I got a lot of nasty, ugly, messy stuff coming out on my blog; that is not the real person underneath. I feel like I come across very angry and upset all the time, which typically does not characterize me either. Thanks for sharing this encouragement!!!

Aida said...

Free Spirit, I can certainly relate to what you're going through and it's OKAY to be angry. I remember being so angry that I once took my bowl of salad and threw it into the sink where salad spattered. Then, I went to bed. It probably was about 7:00 pm but I couldn't stand facing the world any more.

Darin Hufford says you have to vomit it up. That's graphic but I believe that's exactly what has to happen.

In a physical healing, if someone has swallowed poison, the treatment is either to neutralize it or to vomit it up. You've swallowed a lot of poison and it has to come out so let it out. Blogging is a great way to do that.

In time, you'll see a softer, more peaceful person emerge but, until then, be real in expressing what you're feeling.

Free Spirit said...

I love that about the vomit. MANY a time, that is exactly my thought as I get stuff out of me. I even prefaced one of my last blogs with something about "here comes another heave" referencing vomiting.
That is exactly how I feel!!

amy said...

Wow these are graphic and fitting pictures of what happens when you walk away from the "just fake it til you make it" pressure of the IC. I'm the one who got the weird looks like lobsters were crawling out my ears at the homegroup encounter (LOL Aida, I forgot I told you that til now). We were there to share how wonderful and perfect everything was now that we were signed, sealed, healed and delivered. The most that was allowed was "I'm not content in my job" or "please pray for Aunt Sarah."

Aida, your "cleansing out a wound" picture is right on. You have a way with words as well as a heart for listening.

Aida said...

Free Spirit, that really is a great analogy. Continue heaving until it's all out and don't feel guilty. In time, you'll experience freedom and things won't look so messy any more.

Thank you, Amy.

Yes, you are my lobster girl. I wrote the blog and wanted to post it but didn't have time to ask if it was okay to use your name. I think you clearly described exactly what I wanted to bring out.

In those types of group, people often aren't allowed to be real and share from their hurts. So, the wounded leave just as wounded as when they came in and sometimes they leave even more hurt and wounded.

Sue said...

Aida, this was just beautiful. I love what you say here, that as we grow in the love of the Father he will bring his hurting children to us.

Aida said...

Thanks, Sue.

I don't believe it was ever Father's intention that the hurting would go to professionals in order to receive healing. I believe it's always been his intention that we connect as brothers and sisters to encourage and love one another. I've experienced the pleasure of walking with a few and I've also been helped as others have walked with me. In my opinion, anything else is a cheap substitute.

Vicki said...

Aida, you seem to have walked where I am walking. My family and I left our long-time church last fall, and it has been difficult finding a place where we feel like we fit in. But, in a way, I feel relieved that I no longer have to pretend that everything is okay.

I was so impressed with your post that I quoted you in my most recent post at www.watchfortheday.blogspot.com. I linked the quote back to your site. (I am new at blogging, so I hope this is okay. If not, just let me know and I will remove it.)

Aida said...

Vicki, thanks for stopping by.

The transition from being an active church participant to not going or to being relatively uninvolved is hard. I still go Sunday mornings but don't participte in a lot of what they do. Although I still go to some of the social events and enjoy the people, I almost feel like I'm an outsider at times because, of course, life in any institution is built around those who are actively involved.

That feeling of freedom that you're experiencing is precious and well worth the change. I found that the early transitional days were the hardest for me. Now, I wouldn't go back to the former days for anything. Father continues to teach me the joy of forgetting the former things.

I'm honored that you quoted this post and linked back to it. I don't mind in the least. I'm glad you found what I wrote helpful.

You've got a nice looking blog.

Karen said...

There is no substitute for a listening heart, well said Aida. Father has given me two priceless friends to walk my journey out with me. You know when someone hears your heart and embraces and accepts you. It's so beautiful because it's a representation of Father's embrace of us. Another way of him reaching down to touch us and heal us. You, my friend, have been another link in my journey to freedom as well. I knew from the first day on your blog that our journeys have crossed paths. Hey, guess what...I'll be in Phoenix this weekend and plan on hooking up with Darin H!

Aida said...

Karen, hi! I've been missing you and wondering how you're doing so it's good to hear from you.

You are very fortunate to have two friends to walk with. Loneliness is a very common struggle for folks on this journey. I'm so glad you and I are having the opportunity to walk together. I've been very encouraged by what you've shared.

Oh! How wonderful! I haven't met Darin yet but I have talked to him some. Believe me that's a major request on my prayer list. Enjoy your week-end. I know you will and so will Darin.