A while ago a woman contacted me about the imagery I used in my post entitled Path to Humility - In God's Arms. She raised some very valid concerns that I thought others might share. I have her permission to address her concerns publicly in the blog while respecting her privacy.
Lately I have received a message from a woman who is having a hard time visualizing herself being a child in the arms of a loving God. Why? In her case, and not to get too personal, her mother was not a safe, nurturing person. In her message this woman admitted that for years she has been trying to work through her past. What to do?
I appreciate her struggle and her honesty. After all, parents are the first example of God in a child's life. If a parent is abusive, absent, misguided or otherwise unloving, this will mark the child forever. It is likely that the child will perceive the world as a cruel place and behave accordingly. Even when the child grows into adulthood and wishes to believe in a loving world, there can still be the sense inadequacy, a knowledge of love withheld. It takes nothing less than a leap of blind faith to try to believe that one is lovable and cherished. (Yes, I'm speaking from experience here.) Then there is the added burden of 'healing' from such an upbringing. Let me qualify this statement: getting to a point where you can live as if the hurt never happened. Forgive and forget.
There are many pro-active steps we can make on the path to healing. Psychiatry is a wonderful thing. Sometimes medicine can help you regain your bearings. This can also be a good thing. (I'm adding this because I have no background in psychiatry or counseling. I'm a theologian when I'm not changing diapers. Sometimes medical expertise is the answer to your prayers.)
So back to theology, which is what I'm reasonably good at.
It would be easy, and not incorrect, to say that are many, many ways of imagining being in God's loving arms. If the image of a child peacefully sleeping in a parent's arms ins't helpful then by all means don't use it.
But this woman's e mail really struck a cord with me. Her concern wasn't about the imagery. She understood her reaction to it and why. The underlying questions were how can I heal from being misguided about love as a child. How can I heal and feel love and cared for at the most fundamental level? Why can't I rationalize or will myself out of this feeling of inadiquacy?
Ladies, these were the exact same questions I had been grappling with and pretty much for the same reasons. I don't have all the answers but I feel confident in writing a fuller response than "change the imagery".
Let me start by saying that it is not our job to heal ourselves. Yes, you heard me. We can no more heal ourselves of our spiritual wounds than we can will a broken leg to heal. The best thing we can do is get the experts to set the leg, elevate it, and take pain medication. Then sit back and let it heal. If you have pain in your leg later on in life you can reasonably say "oh, I injured it years ago. Now it aches every time it rains". But talk about emotional scars? We feel bad every time we feel a twinge. Hadn't we 'taken care' of that issue already? So why is it bothering us now?
Let's get back to that broken leg. Do you break the cast open every day to analyze the progression of healing? Do we pick at it and berate ourselves for not healing faster?
Enough with the broken leg. You see my point.
We can't heal ourselves. But we can't go around being the emotionally walking wounded. And it isn't what God wants for us, either. Being the theologian, I ask, who healed Jesus? God did. And Jesus even bore the scars of His passion and death.
Think about this for a moment. Or two.
Ladies, if there is evil in this world, it whispers that we and those around us are not worthy of love. This is the root of all of our brokenness. We are broken. We are broken through original sin. We are broken because of the sins of others. We continue to break because we do not believe we are worthy of being healed.
Now take a deep breath. God breathed life into us. Jesus breathed on people in order to heal them. If you have ever been married, you gave your spouse a kiss - the breath of life. Sometimes all you can do is breathe through the pain. Whenever we encounter discomfort, whether mental or physical, we are told to take a deep breath. Have we ever taken the opportunity to invite the Holy Spirit in as we breathe? It's not like we don't breathe, anyway. It's practically a habit.
But what do we pray for during these times of pain? Who is wise enough to know what is best to wish for? What if you're so lost and confused that you don't even know how to begin?
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:26-27 NRSV
That's it, ladies. Breathe the Spirit in and then let things be.
I'm going to tell you a secret that will shock those of us with Western sensibilities: We can't do it all. Nope. We can go only so far on our own power. That's pretty insignificant before the power of God. Yet we can achieve miracles if we allow God to work through us. As we breathe the Spirit in, we are cleansed. It is not our actions which make us closer to God, but our reliance on Him.
The only way to make rapid progress along the path of divine love is to remain very little and put all our trust in Almighty God. - St. Therese of Lisieux
All I need is a quiet corner where I can talk to God each day as if there were nothing else to do. I try to make myself a tool for God. Not for myself, but only for Him. - St. Edith Stein
Ladies, if I have learned anything in my life, it is that we either have faith in God or we don't. We either believe or we don't. Most of us are standing at the edge of the pool of faith, daintily dipping our toes in to make sure the water is warm. What use is that? And what does it cost us to hold on to our insecurities and pick at our wounds? Sometimes it's just best to get out of the way and let things heal. You will be amazed. And you will also be healthier and, dare I say, joyful. This is the promise of Christ.
Just a different way for looking at things.
May God continue to bless you!