I wrote two posts a few weeks back about healing generational sin. One of the commenters said she feels stuck and despairing of the actual healing part. Which is exactly what I was afraid of when I wrote that post.
If you read my blog and come away with the idea that you’d better roll up your sleeves and start working harder to heal, then I’m not communicating well.
Thus this post. How DO we heal when shame has its hands around our neck?
A few years back I read Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains, the story of Paul Farmer’s humanitarian work in Haiti. One of the ideas that informs Farmer’s NGO, Partners In Health, is a concept from liberation theology—that God insists on a preferential option for the poor. It’s Beatitude power: those who are poor reap blessings, because the arc of the universe bends to bless them. Farmer insists on high quality, non-penny-pinching treatment of those he serves, because if he knows nothing else about religion, he believes the impoverished are front of the line when it comes to accessing God’s favor.
I love the idea of God’s preferences. His default modes of operations. The people to whom he gives pre-approval. My understanding of liberation theology is limited at best (I’ve got some books on my bookshelf right now…James Cone, I’m looking at you) but this idea captures my imagination.
When I consider I’ve learned about healing in the last few years, I think this: God prefers healing. Gives pre-approval to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. If there is an arc of blessing extended to the poor, I believe that there is also a gravitational pull that inches every one of us towards wholeness.
Here’s what I mean by that. If we even so much lean towards righteousness, forgiveness, healing, reconciliation—if we place our toes an inch past where we were yesterday, pay attention to a nudge from the Spirit and try to do what it says—Jesus pays out a dividend of healing seven-fold.
Let me say this again: God multiplies our tiny speck of effort into the power we yearn for.
Over the past five years, I have gone from wishing I were someone else to finding freedom. I am not the same person I used to be. Don’t get me wrong; I have so much room left for healing. But the questions about myself and my family that I despaired of ever answering? The questions in my daily life that bewildered me? They no longer feel like nooses around my neck.
Things are better.
Do you know how astonishing this is? It is astonishing to find freedom. It is crazy.
But that’s not the craziest part.
No, the actual insanity is where the major change began.
It was a the year before our family moved to Argentina for a sabbatical. My youngest daughter was one. I did two things that year that changed everything.
- I registered a domain name for a blog even though I felt bewildered about how to blog “correctly”. I nearly hyperventilated as I filled out the form for the web host, because I was terrified of taking myself that seriously.
- I cleaned out our garage and discovered that a box holding all my old journals had gotten soaked from a punctured water jug. In cleaning up the mess, I looked through a bunch of old college journals and I realized I missed journaling. I decided to buy one and write one page a night.
(Notice that our HUGE move to Argentina is not on this list.)
Basically, my life changed by filling out a web form, cleaning my garage, and buying a notebook.
Healing is less about trying harder and more about yearning for the calling of the Spirit towards tiny sparks of light. Buy a journal. Start a blog. Call a therapist. Make a painting. Drop a taxing commitment. Read a good book.
If you had told me that buying a journal and starting a blog would lead me to confront the hard questions that affected my past, my marriage, and my identity, I would never have bought the damn journal. I would have been too freaked out. Thankfully, we don’t have to think about the long-term process of wholeness. We just need to think about our speck of faithfulness today.
At the time, I just noticed an odd tug at my heart when I held my old journals. I thought it would be nice to give my brain space to think and play. And when I registered a domain I just thought I’d try to take my dream of publishing a book seriously, and actually try to develop a platform, despite my terror that I’d %*&^ it up.
That’s what I mean about the smallest steps of healing bending the universe down to assist us. In God’s economy, a mustard-seed of effort sprouts a habitat for all the birds of the air.
If reading about healing makes you feel panicky, bewildered, and short of breath, please don’t shame yourself. If you feel anxiety about how to get started, it’s probably because you care deeply about healing. Admitting we’re desperate for freedom is a great first step towards wholeness. Asking God to open up doors when we’re not capable of even baby steps? Also a wonderful option.
Listening to our hearts as if they’re winsome four-year-olds and getting them that food or water or cheap toy they’ve been asking for? Fantastic.
Paying attention to what makes us feel more alive, whether it’s cooking or running or meditation or planting a garden or leading Zumba classes? Amazing.
Jesus multiplies these loaves and fishes into the food that will satisfy us. It’s not ever up to us to heal. But it is up to us to pay attention and listen up and ask God to find us.
What if you didn’t have to be afraid of losing God’s life-giving bread? What if healing were manna: a little every day, never enough to stockpile, never on our own effort, and mysterious enough that we struggle to give it a name? What if you intentionally ask God for the morsel He has for you today and trusted that Jesus would make it into a feast?
Image credit: Anders Jildén