Healing Life's Hurts
hen I first met Jennifer at a seminar that I was leading, she was very withdrawn and her face, apart from sad eyes, was expressionless. She said little all day but her body language spoke volumes. It didn't take a great deal of insight to realize that Jennifer was in incredible pain.
I was quite busy and didn't give any more thought to Jennifer until a few weeks later when she turned up a thousand miles away at a more intensive week-long counseling workshop. Here her story unfolded.
Jennifer was at breaking point. She had a young son and was about to give him up for adoption. She told us she was so afraid to be touched she couldn't stand her own child hugging her. It was no surprise to learn that Jennifer was a rape victimórepeated rape. In fact, her son was a child of rape. It started when she was very young and left her paralyzed with fear.
Like a lion in the forest preys on wounded animals, perpetrating men saw Jennifer as easy prey and had been violating her for much of her 40 years. She came to our counseling week as a last hope. Since nothing else had worked, she determined that if she didn't find help here, she was going to take her life.
Fortunately, Jennifer found a place where she felt safe to share her story and express the incredibly painful emotions that had been bottled up inside since she was repeatedly raped as a small child and as an adolescent. Time and again she had been used and shamed. She felt ugly, dirty, unlovable, and despised.
She felt that suicide
was the only way out.
To be healed Jennifer needed to share not only what had happened to her (where she had been sinned against) but also all of the hurt, shame, anger (rage), and terror she felt. Although her painful emotions were justified by the horrible mistreatment she had suffered, Jennifer had turned these emotions against herself and they were destroying her.
Cautiously, Jennifer began to share. Then her feelings came rushing out in torrents. It was the first time in her life she completely shared her bottled-up emotions. This catharsis (emptying out) was essential to open the way for Jennifer to begin to heal. Without first taking this step, she couldn't be freed from the past so she could, in time, move to a point of forgiveness. After three days of painful sharing, we prayed for Jennifer. She went back to her room and returned some time later looking like a different person. She put on a pretty blouse, makeup, fixed her hair, and came in wearing a million-dollar smile. She had a long road ahead but her healing and freedom from the past had begun.
More than a year after the seminars I ran into Jennifer again. She had sought out Christian counseling and although her progress was slow, she was doing incredibly well. Her spiritual and emotional healing was well underway.
Jennifer's story is by no means unusual as there are millions of others who have been sexually, physically and/or emotionally abused. Others of us, while not suffering such extreme abuse, still have plenty of wounds and unmet needs. We live in a sinful, fallen world and none of us escape the ravages of sin. Every family has some "dysfunction." True, some families are more dysfunctional than others, but every family has been affected. Some of us are either co-dependent or overly independent. Others of us are detached, perfectionistic, prone to anger, excessively anxious or sad. Each of us needs some spiritual, emotional, or relational healing.
5. All articles on the ACTS International website are by Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise noted.
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