by J. Veltri
By faith and by reflection on some of the experiences of my life
I know that God loves me and is with me
during every step of my life journey.
What then of my experience of brokenness -- those experiences of separateness, experiences of being rejected and hurt, experiences of evil, experiences of being sinned against and experiences of bondage which flow from these? As I reflect over my life I discover some areas that are so hard to look at that I wonder how can God love me through and through when I experience so much in myself that is unlovable?
Each child is born into a world that is broken and into an environment in which something has gone wrong. However loving and caring one's environment was, inevitably the dysfunctions of the world and one's family affect one. Frequently we react to these dysfunctions by making matters worse. Often in ignorance and sometimes even in full consciousness we contribute to the brokenness from which we were trying to escape. All this in turn has left us hurt, rejected, resentful, and anxious.
In addition to all the ways in which we have been broken through various forms of abuse there is a certain kind of brokenness which only those who belong to unique minorities have experienced -- those born of parents of different races (Remember the pejorative term "half-breed"!); those with a different sexual orientation (How often do you hear gays and lesbians still being called "queer"?); those who have fled from oppressive government regimes, etc. Often through the very fear of being rejected, they have had to hide their very nature and pretend to be someone else. In the process of being oppressed by a non-accepting environment many have ingested the very racism or homophobia they were trying to escape. In that process many have come to hate their very selves, and distrust and deny their most precious feelings. They have developed subtle ways of evasion and protective devices from being further hurt. Some have experienced rejection even from their own mothers and fathers. Many have thought that God hated them as they begged and prayed to be different from who they were. As a consequence many have often rejected, in their very persons, the beautiful gifts God gave them. In that process people become deceitful, perfectionistic, and hateful of one another.
In desiring to become free from the rejection of others many of us have become very unfree. In the sheer attempt of seeking to be loved and to know how to love we have often repressed our very justifiable anger and rage and have unwittingly heaped this on others. Just like the slaves of yesteryear, like our dispossessed native people, like the Jewish people , like women who have been told lies about their roles, like Palestinians, like gay men and lesbians, many of us have experienced more than our share of brokenness.
Yet the overwhelming truth remains that God is love and loves each person in every aspect and detail of one's life. If one thing is clear from the gospels it is that Jesus came to bring good news of reconciliation and healing. In Jesus we see that God wants to heal us, that is, to help us deal with our brokenness -- by coming to accept what has been and by becoming freer with respect to its effects now in our life. We can do this by bringing together in our inner life the experience of brokenness and the experience of God's love. We are being called to let God's love into every nook and cranny of our heart.
The first moment in this healing process takes place when I openly face my need for healing. This means (1) admitting my need to myself and to God and (2) name my need more accurately or with more focus. For example, my experience of shyness may really be the fear of criticism or the inability to know how I feel about anything.
In another example, I may be coming to terms with my fear towards a parent that started when I was very young; as I look for greater understanding I discover my so-called fear needs to renamed as anger. Perhaps this anger has to be embraced and acknowledged and somehow expressed to someone before one can be healed from what looked like "fear." If the first moment of healing is to admit one's need, the second moment is to name this need more accurately.
Another moment in the healing process is telling my story to someone. Often the telling of my story in a caring environment, in itself, brings a large measure of healing while, at the same time, it helps one to name one's need more accurately.
Prayer helps in many different ways. When I ask for God's help in naming my need more accurately I am opening my heart to the possibility of enlightenment and healing. I no longer want to "love the darkness "(Jn 8). I am willing to be helped in seeing through the deceits and evasions and secrets that are affecting my ability to live life more fully. Thus I seek to participate in the human enterprise with greater joyful responsibility and ease. As I pray the "secret emotions of the heart" are revealed to me (Heb 4:14-16) and little by little my real need surfaces and I can begin to be more honest with myself. Little by little I learn to let go of my resentments and anger. As this happens healing happens. Telling my story to another helps the process of my prayer; my prayer helps me recount my story; both further the inner healing taking place.
A very important part of this process is the healing of one's distorted images of God. Our behavior can be effected by deep feelings about God as an abusive father, or as a harsh judge, as a mad scientist who plays games with the world, or as a trickster who hides and teases us to find God's will. Hopefully through the healing we receive we may come to appreciate more truthful images of God such as that of a loving parent, or lover, or liberator, or friend.
There are many different ways of bringing the "stuff" of one's life to one's prayer so that inner healing can take place more fully. Here are listed some methods of prayer that may be of help:
Or you can choose a text of scripture that seems to fit your experience and somehow use that text as a vehicle for healing:
- At times it is helpful revisit in imagination the scenes of your hurts with Jesus the risen Lord taking you by the hand. Be with him there and share with him your feelings and memories of these scenes.
- It may help to sit down opposite two empty chairs. One of them stands for the person involved in the particular hurt. The other chair stands for Jesus. Enter into dialogue with them about the hurt. In your imagination, tell your feelings to the person who hurt you as Jesus quietly listens and supports your expression of honestly. Explain your understanding of how the hurt took place. Then with the aid of the imagination listen to the person who hurt you. Listen his/her feelings and understanding.... Then both of you together talk all this over with Jesus.... Imagine Jesus asking questions about the issue.... Imagine Jesus expressing his concern to both of you and eliciting the truth concerning the event from both of you....
- Or make use of the image of the "Wailing Wall." Simply weep before the Wailing Wall! Allow your pain to come to the surface. Repeat a text of scripture that especially appeals to you.
Whatever method you use, it is helpful to stay in God's presence until for some time with wounds. The historical facts don't change but you inner attitude and experience can be alleviated.
- if, for example, you experience yourself somewhat confused in a kind of blindness, then you can become the blind person of Mark 8:22-26
- Or if you experience yourself as a leper then in your imagination you can be the leper in the story from Mark 1: 40-45
- Or if you experience yourself being controlled by an alien force like the demoniac then, in your imagination you can be the demoniac in the story from Mark 5:1-20
- Or bound up like Lazarus in the story of John 11:1-44
- Or paralyzed like the paralytic in the story of Mark 2:1-12
- Or deaf like the deaf person in the story of Mark 7:31-37
- Or crippled like the physically disabled person in the story of Luke 13:10-17
- Or degraded or exploited like the prostitute in the story of Luke 7:36-50
After such prayer for healing, it happens quite often that a past hurt no longer has as strong a hold on you. It no longer stifles your spirit in quite the same way. Thus you are more open to God's love.
Some of your hurts may come back again, but if they do, it will be in a less powerful way and you can repeat the process of the healing prayer. Through this prayer you can know experientially that "nothing can separate me from the love of God!" (Romans 8:35) and that "the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).