August 04, 2014
Healing isn’t something that I naturally associate with church, or even God. I grew up in a church that seemed concerned about evangelism to the exclusion of transformation and was not very aware of the supernatural or the work of the Holy Spirit. So, when my husband and I registered for the Healing Conference at Rez, I was nervous. I knew that I need healing, but I did not dream that God could heal in the ways that I am actually broken. “Healing” only conjured up wild images of beating demons out of people and whatever “slaying in the Spirit” means, snake handling, and a celebrity TV preacher full of false hope and false promises.
Who met me there, instead, was God. It was at the Healing Conference this year that I finally connected healing with the sweet presence of God. Rather than theatrics, the conference was filled with prayer. We were led in connecting with God through the open posture of our bodies and through our senses and imaginations.
I had learned to stifle my emotions and imagination pretty early in life because they made me feel vulnerable, and I’m not well connected with my own body for the same reason. Asking me to hold out my hands in a posture of receiving, and appealing to my emotional and imaginative self was poking at all my vulnerable places. It was the first time I had actively tried to accept those parts of myself in order to allow them the possibility of connecting me with God. Slowly, my invulnerable heart melted wide open toward God. I was learning to receive him in a new way.
In the past, when I’ve become aware of an area of deep pain or brokenness inside, I might yelp a little prayer of desperation at God, picturing him far off and mostly doubting that he’d want to do anything to help. But at the Healing Conference, I was shown a better approach. Instead of waiting to see if God would after all enter my tiny heart and mend it, I learned to lift my pain and brokenness out of myself and place it squarely in God’s hands, expecting and believing that God would take it and do his good work of restoration. I learned to trust that God truly desires to make me whole.
I have an image, a snapshot memory, that surfaces from time to time, of my parents and me sitting at the dining room table after a Sunday lunch. My mom is crying and her face is buried in her hands against the table. My dad and I are silent, and our stares are silent, even vacant. That image is a paradigm of pain for me. I hurt for my mom; I hurt that my dad was emotionally unavailable, and, even more, that I had learned to be the same way. I have few memories that fill me with more grief. There was a moment during the conference when Val asked the Lord to bring such an image to mind. Val encouraged us to imaginatively place that image in Jesus’ hands and watch to see what he would do with it. That memory came to mind, and to my utter surprise, I saw Jesus wrap his arms around my mom and dad in his loving embrace. I finally understood that Jesus takes care of my mom like I wish I would have, and that he has compassion for my dad in a way that I can learn. The burden of guilt and grief tied to that paradigmatic image was released.
Who knew that God could use my own imagination to speak to me in such a powerful way? There is hope for me yet! Like Father Stewart said in his closing homily, I know that complete healing will only come when Jesus returns and we are face to face. I yearn for that day. But what good news it is that God is in the business of healing even now. My first Healing Conference was not the detached, cynicism filled experience I had anticipated; it beckoned my participation and drew me into the presence of God, my Savior, my only hope for transformation.
July 29, 2014
A year ago, I met the true and living God. When I gave my first testimony at my baptism, I had no idea what to expect of the future. All I knew was that I was in great need of healing. Nothing worked in the past to heal my wounds. The Lord waited to show himself to me until I had exhausted all other avenues of happiness and fulfillment.
My life was in a state of despair. No job to make money; no money to buy a car; no car to find a job. Not only had my destructive behavior compelled my wife to leave, it also alienated my friends, who had little patience for my hysterical phone calls. I was utterly alone. Because so much of my life was dead, I was desperate for real warmth and life. I was desperate to be human. Having never experienced personal wholeness in my family, my encounter with the person of Jesus became my only frame of reference for health.
Over the last year, I've tried to understand the process of redemption. Here's the best way I can put it: the light of God's presence is more than a glimpse of His love, it is also a call to repentance. This repentance is simply realizing that God loves you and has placed a call of holiness on your life and that your sin is preventing you from experiencing it. My despair was a dreadful and crippling incapacity to receive love and forgiveness from the Father. This is the linchpin. How do you stop holding onto the world and start holding onto God? Receiving from God can't be thought about, it just has to be done.
And now, I am really living on a prayer—a prayer that is hope, and this hope is deeper than anything else. The answer to despair is hope. God's love is real, and I am dying to the old self. I am believing it, and I am receiving it.
This has been a year of unforeseen blessings, which include a wonderful job, an older Christian couple taking me under their wing, and flourishing, healthy relationships with those in my life, including many of you at this church. The destructive coping patterns of the past have been largely replaced by tools of spiritual growth—such as listening prayer and confession. I am convinced the sole reason these things, the things I've always wanted, the things I was made for, have been given to me is because God is coming to live in my heart, replacing the despair with his presence. This is what Jesus means by the crazy promise in the Gospel of Matthew: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
I cannot express the depth of my gratitude for Church of the Resurrection. When I come here, I meet Christ. At Rez, we see and meet real people, not personas. We see the miracle of new life. God working in me and God working in us, the church, to redeem the world.