(Not) just a flesh wound
This week’s daily readings were written by Jenn Krishnan, following her message from this past Sunday. If you missed it you can catch it here.
Have you ever seen these Russian nesting dolls?
Each doll can be opened and a smaller doll can fit inside it. When I was a kid I loved opening each doll up until I found the cute little baby one at the core.
The original nesting doll has its origins in China, created in groups of 7 to represent 7 gods of luck. But gods of luck is not why I bring them to your attention today (hopefully you know that we don’t believe in gods of luck here at The Well :).
I’ve included these dolls because they are a useful illustration of the inner child – or inner children as the case may be (thank you Kathy Klassen for this great analogy!).
As you heard in the message, an inner child is a part of us that has been wounded emotionally and stuck at the age that the wounding occurred. And since we can be wounded many times throughout our lives, we tend to have more than one inner child.
Often when we encounter present day situations that remind us of that unhealed wound, our inner child will speak up and we can feel the same emotions as we did when we were wounded – or we might just feel paralyzed or stuck. It’s as if the biggest doll has been opened up and a smaller doll inside is taking the stage.
Thankfully, as we discovered in Isaiah 61, Jesus came to heal our wounds. Even our emotional ones – even wounds that happened a long, long time ago. So this week we will spend some time each day taking a look at our lives and inviting Jesus to begin his work of healing.
Verses from Psalm 139
1You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You have searched me … this makes me a little nervous. I start to think: What is He searching for? Is God searching for faults? Is He looking to see if there is anything good or worthwhile in me? Is He judging my thoughts and actions? Is He going to criticize me? What have I done this time?
But the next line is “and you know me”. It’s not “and you know ______(insert positive or negative quality) about me”. It’s just “and you know me”, period. He is searching us so that He can know us! He’s not judging or evaluating or recruiting for His team. He searches us because He wants to get to know us. That’s why He listens to our thoughts and watches our comings and goings. He wants to be familiar with all our ways.
Take a minute to chat with God about this passage.
Pause: Ask God to affirm to you that He knows you. Ask Him what he knows about you that He wants to talk to you about today. Is it a character quality? Is it a thought He has perceived? Listen for a word or a picture or a scripture passage or even a memory that He brings to mind. Journal about it if you like.
Next, the passage says:
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Again I am suspicious. What does hem me in mean? It has a connotation of confinement – like boxing someone in. In our society today we don’t really relish the idea of someone surrounding us behind and in front because it feels like we aren’t free to move. But that’s not what it means at all. King David, who was a warrior, was often in need of protection. When he wrote this, he meant to convey the feeling of protection and safety. God is able to guard all sides at once so there is no need to fear a sneak attack. Today we can think of it like this: That God is in front you, paving the way, and also behind you; He’s got your back.
Next David writes “you lay your hand upon me.” Notice the gentleness in the gesture: lay your hand upon me. It doesn’t say “you clamp your hand on my shoulder” as if God is redirecting us forcefully. It isn’t a push in the right direction. It’s a casual type of contact, conveying comfort and ease of being together – like when a friend throws his arm around another friend’s shoulder.
7Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast..
Pause: Ask Jesus to show you a time in your life that He was with you and you didn’t notice.
Read Psalm 139: 23,24:
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.
I used to think this passage was all about sin. I thought David was asking God to point out any sins that he was presently involved in so that he could change and become more obedient to God. And the part about “any offensive way” probably does mean that. But what about the first line: “know my anxious thoughts”? Anxious thoughts aren’t necessarily sinful thoughts (unless you are feeling anxious about the sin you just committed – hmmm… will I get caught?). Usually our anxious thoughts are rooted in things that have upset us, or worried us. I think it’s an invitation for God to explore our emotions not just our actions.
So that is what we are going to ask God to do for us this week. To know our anxious thoughts, our offensive ways and lead us in the way everlasting. I am going to invite you to take an inventory of your past and note any painful events or difficult times that you went through.
Find a comfortable spot away from any noise and distraction. Take some slow deep breaths. Read Psalm 139:23,24 again and then pray it to God. You can use the following prayer if you want:
Search my heart, Oh God. Holy Spirit, please reveal to me this week what past wounds I have not healed from that you want to heal. In the name of Jesus, I command the world, the flesh and all evil spirits to be silent. I invite you Holy Spirit, to bring to mind any experiences that have caused my inner life to become fractured and stuck.
Think back over your life story from as far back as you can remember. On this timeline (you can use this helpful template) plot times in your life that were difficult or challenging or painful. Write down times when you felt hurt, frightened, sad, or rejected. List the events that triggered these feelings as well. Include times where you experienced trauma such as abuse or a physical accident such as a car accident that resulted in hospitalization. Maybe you experienced failure or maybe there was a time in your life when you lacked safety. Perhaps your parents divorced when you were young or you had to stay in the hospital as a child or you lost your job when you were older – these are all difficult events in your life. Some of the events might include unkind words that were spoken to you by bullies or parents or teachers – if so, include these words on your timeline as well. You might have experiences that didn’t seem to affect you even though they were significant events – such as discord in your extended family or a move to a new school. If they come to mind, don’t ignore them. We will assume the Holy Spirit has brought them to mind for a reason. You don’t have to wrack your brain to remember every detail, just write down what the Holy spirit seems to be bringing to mind.
The timeline is divided up into life stages to help you think through it. Feel free to adjust the stages or make your own timeline if the template feels restrictive.
Here is an example of a finished timeline.
Over the next few days we will continue with this exercise. In writing them down you are acknowledging that they happened and that these events may have caused significant emotional wounds for you. That acknowledgement, in itself, is a way of letting your inner child know that you see him/her and you care about what he/she has been through. You might even feel surprised at the emotions that surface as you do this exercise. Remember, that it is okay to feel it. If you have been stuffing down emotions for many years, it is healthy to allow yourself to feel them now because you are safe now. If you want you can journal about what you feel or speak with a trusted friend or a counsellor.
This is enough for today. We will look more at your timeline tomorrow.
For now rest in the truth of the following passage:
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you
Even in those dark times, God was there.
I want to clarify something. God was there when you were wounded but he did not cause the wounding.
Remember John 3:16: God loves the world.
Remember Psalm 103:8: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
Remember Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Remember Psalm 34:8: Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him
God is good, all the time. But He decided when He created humanity that He was not creating robots. That meant that we have free choice and we get to choose God’s way or not God’s way. Unfortunately since that fateful day in the garden with the yummy fruit, humanity has been choosing not God’s way most of the time. Once evil came into the world, along with it came spiritual, physical, and emotional death. And that is why our world is broken and in desperate need of healing.
So when you look again at your timeline and think about the times when you were wounded, remember that God was not the cause of it. The cause of your wounding is the person who wronged you or the brokenness of the world we live in where death has entered in; or it might even be the evil one at work. I don’t even like to say “God allowed it to happen” because that still puts the blame on God for not stopping it. The truth is that God made a promise to humans when He made them that He would not rule like a dictator and force us to choose good. And He has kept that promise. But often He does intervene and He will always redeem the bad things for good in our lives later if we let Him. And I am always surprised when we do renewal prayer sessions how much God is actually doing in a situation – we just don’t see it until we invite him to take us back and look.
Today we are going to look at our timelines again and notice any patterns in our wounding. The reason we do that is because usually the first time a particular wound happens is the root of the wound. At that point you may have started believing lies about what happened, or about yourself or about God or about other people. And perhaps your inner child still believes those lies because he/she has never been healed. After that, more events may happen to deepen the emotional wound and further affirm the lies that were believed. If we can be healed of the root wound, the subsequent events will heal as well.
First pray a prayer to invite the Holy Spirit to guide you this. You can use the following prayer if you want:
Father, I know that you are good. But it is hard for me to see when painful things happen in my life. I want to see your goodness in my life and I want to be healed of the wounds of my past. Please help me today as I look for patterns in my timeline. I command the world, the flesh and the evil one to be silent. Holy Spirit, come and guide me to see only what you want me to see about my past.
Now look at your timeline and listen to the Spirit. Are there multiple events that resulted in the same deepening negative emotion? For example, perhaps you felt rejection in grade 4 when you moved to a new school and again in grade 12 when a boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with you. Or maybe you felt fear at different times when your health (or the health of a loved one) was in jeopardy. Circle the repeated events. If there are more than one group of repeated events you can circle them in a different colour. Again, listen to the Holy Spirit and circle what you sense he is pointing to even if it seems insignificant. Also, don’t force it too much – you don’t need to connect everything and you can’t cover everything in one day (you can always come back to this at a later date). Just listen for what the Holy Spirit is bringing to mind for today.
Take one of the patterns you identified and recall the first event. What did you feel when the first event happened? Did you feel afraid? Rejected? Sad? Angry? Hurt? Embarrassed? Anxious? Confused? You probably had more than one feeling about it at different times. Take your time and try to identify all that you felt. Did you feel angry towards a certain person or rejected by someone? It may be helpful to journal about it. If you are comfortable, write a prayer to God about how you felt, expressing every emotion to your Heavenly Father.
Remember Isaiah 61: Jesus has come to bind up the broken-hearted and comfort those who mourn. So as you pray, picture Jesus with you listening to you and comforting you.
Today we are going to invite Jesus to come and heal our wounds. Remember that when we have been wounded as a child we often get stuck at that point in time emotionally. Our inner child is suffering because they were never able to process or get healing for that painful event. Now that we are adults, and we are in a safe place, away from harm, it’s time to revisit the painful event and get some healing. Obviously we can’t go back in time and change what happened. And just telling ourselves that we are safe now or that those things we believed are lies doesn’t usually work. It takes the healing touch of Jesus to help our inner child recover.
To do this you will need times of personal prayer and with another Christ follower (friend, spouse, pastor or parent) and pray together. The exercise today is something we can do with others, and on our own.
We are going to ask Jesus to take you back to the root memory you identified for one of the patterns you noticed yesterday. While you picture that scenario and how you felt, you will identify with, affirm and reassure your inner child. Then we ask Jesus to show you where He was and what He was doing or what He has to say about the situation. If the root memory is too traumatic for you then Jesus might take you to another place (usually near to the time of the memory) where He can minister to you without retraumatizing you.
First pray that the Holy Spirit would be present and all other voices would be silent:
Lord Jesus, please send your Holy Spirit now to attend to me. I want to hear your voice alone. In the name of Jesus Christ, I command all other voices, including the world, the flesh and all evil spirits to be silent.
Jesus please take me to the root memory of the wound that you want to heal today.
Picture yourself in whatever memory Jesus brings to mind. You can describe it to your friend as you are in it. Describe the space, who is there, what is happening and most importantly what you feel. If you are doing this on your own you can write it down or record your voice if you want to. Try to see yourself in the event and identify with the feelings of yourself as a child in the memory as it plays out in your mind.
Once you have connected with the emotions of your inner child, invite Jesus into the scene. “Jesus, please show me where you were and what you were doing at this time of my life”. Mention (or write down) where Jesus is, what He is doing, what his facial expression is like and what He says to you. Take a generous amount of time with this because this is how Jesus will heal your inner child – by his presence with you in that memory.
Linger with Jesus in that moment and respond to what He is saying or doing. You can chat with Him or thank Him or picture yourself hugging Him – whatever you would like to do. Enjoy His presence with you for as long as you like.
If this was difficult for you or if you couldn’t see Jesus in the memory, you might want to consider making an appointment for renewal prayer. Sometimes there are other things in our lives (such as unforgiveness, unhealthy attachments and family sin patterns) that prevent us from seeing Jesus and He can’t heal us until we deal with those things. In renewal prayer, the prayer team will discern with you to reveal those things and deal with them.
If you want, you can repeat this exercise with some of the other patterns of painful memories you have uncovered this week. When God heals the root memory of a pattern you’ve noticed, usually all the ones following it are healed as well.
To finish today, listen to this song and worship the Lord.
When we go through tough times in this broken world we sometimes make conclusions about ourselves that are not true. Especially if we are children going through things that are beyond our level of understanding. Those conclusions become lies that get embedded into our thinking and they affect our view of ourselves or God or others. The lies we believe when we are young can be especially difficult to dislodge because we have believed them so long and they may have been reinforced by events in our lives. In Rob Reimer’s book “Soul Care” he says:
“The lies that you believe are faulty foundations under your feet…You likely know this is not true, but the lie is so deep in you that you feel and act as if it were true. And what you act on you reinforce in your soul. Every time you act on a lie, the lie gains power in your life.”
(Reimer, Soul Care, 2016).
Think about the difficult times you wrote on your timeline, especially the event you worked through yesterday, and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you if there are any lies you believed. For example, if your parents fought a lot perhaps you believed a lie that you were the reason for their fighting. Or maybe if you had trouble making friends at school you believed the lie that you were unlovable. Or if you were abused by a man you may believe the lie that all men can’t be trusted. The lies might be about yourself such as “I’m not good” or about God such as “God doesn’t notice me” or about others such as “I can’t trust anyone”. See if you can identify lies you might have believed resulting from your past. You might even recognize some of the lies from your own negative self-talk. Write them down.
Lies about Myself
|Lies about Others||Lies about God|
“The power of a lie is in our agreement with it. Whatever we agree with, we give power to. If you agree with the truth, and hold on to the truth, the truth will set you free, but if you agree with a lie, its influence will cast a shadow on your life.” (Soul Care, Reimer, 2016). In order to hold on to something, we often first have to let go of something else. Often we don’t realize that we are holding truth in one hand and a lie in the other. We may hold the truth in our heads but have agreed with a lie in our hearts because of what we have experienced. If we want to fully believe the truth we first need to reject the lie and stop agreeing with it so that it can’t have power over our hearts.
So if you feel ready, take a few moments to reject each lie out loud. You can say something like “I reject the lie that I am to blame for my parent’s fighting”. You can even cross them out after you have rejected them. If you don’t feel ready, then ask God to help you get to the point where you are ready. Again, you can book a renewal prayer appointment if you realize that you need help with this.
Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31,32) He knew that we would struggle to know and believe the truth about Him and about ourselves. Jesus also said: “When the Spirit comes he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
Now, take some time to invite the Holy Spirit to replace each lie with the truth of what He teaches, who He is and what He thinks about you. You could pray “Lord, I have rejected the lie that I am not good. Please tell my mind and heart the truth that will replace that lie.” After you ask him, wait and listen for words, pictures, scriptures or memories that come to mind. Write them down so that you don’t forget what he has said today. If you don’t hear or see anything, be patient. Perhaps he will show you in the next few days. Or you can make time to pray about it with a friend or mentor.
Now just close in a prayer of thanks for all that God has done this week, and for what He will continue to do.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for what you have revealed to me. I thank you for beginning to heal me of my past wounds. Please seal the work that has been done by the power of your Spirit in me. I invite you to complete the healing you have begun and guide me to whatever steps are necessary to move forward in freedom. Amen.