Naming Our Pain

Ben and I deal with problems in very different ways.

I tend to talk about them and analyze for hours. I have serious, imaginary conversations with people in my mirror. I generally put a lot of energy into conflict.

Ben, on the other had, chooses not to think about it.

When he’s facing some tough challenges and I ask him how he’s feeling about it, he’ll think for a second, and then say, “Don’t know – haven’t really thought about it.”

And then carries on with life.

This last year, I decided to try facing problems Ben-style. There were some hurts and disappointments which I would normally have taken really hard, but I flexed my brain muscles, and didn’t allow myself to think about it.

I thought it was working out pretty well…until it caught up with me.

A friend asked about a difficult situation I had gone through, and not allowed myself to think about much after, and even though it was at least six months after the fact, I suddenly found myself crying. And crying and crying.

I was very surprised. I had no idea all that emotion was there.

Apparently, the Not Thinking About It approach works for Ben, but I was disappointed to find it didn’t go so well for me.

Now what?

Well, a few nights ago, I came across a strategy I like very much. So far, I’ve found it to be quite amazing, but we’ll see how things go with time.

The idea comes from the book Naked Spirituality, by Brian McLaren, and it involves naming our hurts and emotions before God.

Naked Spirituality

“Fr. Richard Rohr says it well: Pain that isn’t processed is passed on. Pain that isn’t transformed is transmitted. So we need to process our woundedness with God, and that processing begins by naming the pain and holding it — as we’ve been holding each of our simple words — in God’s presence:

Betrayed. Insulted. Taken advantage of. Lied to. Forgotten. Used. Abused. Belittled. Passed over. Cheated. Mocked. Snubbed. Robbed. Vandalized. Misunderstood. Misinterpreted. Excluded. Disrespected. Ripped off. Confused. Misled.

…So, just as through confession we name our own wrongs and feel regret, through petition we name and feel the pain that results from the wrongs of others. And just as we rename our anxieties as requests to God, we translate our into requests:

Comfort. Encouragement. Reassurance. Companionship. Vindication. Appreciation. Boundaries. Acknowledgment.

It’s important to note that we are not naming what we need the person who wronged us to do for us. If we focus on what we wish the antagonist would do to make us feel better, we unintentionally arm the antagonist with still more power to hurt us. Instead, in this naming, we are turning from the antagonist to God, focusing on what we need God to do for us. We’re opening our soul to receive healing from God’s ever present, ever generous Spirit.”

Something happened to me when I read through that list of words describing pain and disappointment. Some of them perfectly described what I was feeling. By naming it, and taking the time to acknowledge it, I felt as though I was giving myself permission to admit I was hurt – to admit that something had happened which shouldn’t have happened.

I know there are many times when I mess up, and hurt other people when I make mistakes. I recognize the need to name and confess those things, too.

But I had never thought of confessing other people’s sins. I had no idea it would give me the permission to struggle – to allow myself to feel hurt and wronged, and not to try denying it.

But not to stay there! Rather, to name it, feel the pain, and then hold it up to Jesus. I love the second part – naming what I need from God, claiming the strength and provision I know He will gladly give, anytime, but which I don’t often take the time to receive, or even acknowledge my need to receive.

A passionate discussion with my reflection in the mirror may give me a private outlet for expressing what I truly feel, but it just bounces back to me, and doesn’t free me from the pain.

I want to rather hold it out to God and let Him heal it.

What do you think of the idea of naming your pain before God?

When Church Hurts

Today I’m sharing another post from the archives. I’m speaking at a ladies retreat this weekend, and want to focus on preparing for the sessions I’ll be teaching.

I’ve re-posted readers’ favorites before, but those are not necessarily my personal favorites – the ones that came from the deepest part of me, and seemed to bring some kind of healing and truth to my life as I wrote them. I hope you enjoy them, the second time around!

******************************************

words

It seems as though there are many people who grow up believing that Church is supposed to be a safe place, filled with kind, loving people who love Jesus and never make mistakes.

Church is supposed to be a place where everyone is welcome, where there is always someone ready to lend a helping hand, and where we are safe to be ourselves.

That sounds fantastic. Really. But I keep hearing about situations where Church has not been those things for people. I just talked with somebody a few weeks ago who said he had “given up on church”. And that makes me so sad.

When Church is working well, it is a beautiful thing. But when it’s not working well, it is a heartbreaking mess.

What do we do with that? Church is full of people. Therefore, there will always be a bit of a mess involved. People make mistakes, and hurt others out of their own hurt, and do things in Jesus’ name that have nothing to do with Jesus.

And then people give up on “Church”, because Church is supposed to be safe and loving and the Bride of Christ. But sometimes the Bride gets nasty.

I used to be angry with Church. I loved Jesus, but the whole idea of “membership” seemed very ridiculous to me. Why would I want to be part of it? I saw a bit too much of the painful side of Church, the side that can destroy lives. I kept attending Church, but I had pretty low expectations. Church hurt me, too.

But there’s a song we used to sing when I was in Bible school. There’s a line in it that says, “Stand up Church with broken wings. Fill this place with songs again…”

Whenever I hear that someone has been hurt by the Church, that line pops into my head, and I have a picture of the beautiful Church, wounded. She was meant to fly, but she lies there broken.

When we see Church as needing to be the perfect place, filled with perfect people, who always meet our expectations in the perfect way, and always know what to say or do, and never make mistakes, or hurt us, or disappoint us, we have made it into something that it’s not.

We will always be disappointed by people, but we will never be disappointed by Christ. When we look for Christ in people, we will have love for them. When we look for Christ in the Church, we will find Him. He’s there, amidst the imperfection and pain. He hurts, too, along with the Church and with us.

When we look to Christ to meet our needs, rather than people or Church, we will be satisfied.

I heard a message by John Maxwell once in which he talked about happiness in marriage. He said that if we look to our spouse to make us happy, it will never happen. But if we look to Jesus to make us happy, our spouse will add to that happiness in infinite ways.

That’s like the Church. If my life is full of Jesus, it makes me so happy to meet with other Christians at Church. But if I’m expecting the people in the Church to meet all of my needs and demands so that I can then find Jesus, I am in danger of being very disappointed.

I believe that there is a place in the Church for people who can’t find Jesus on their own, and they need some help along the way. But true help will only come from being pointed in the right direction.

But let’s be realistic here – with thousands of years of hurt and bitterness involving the Church, a few little words typed out here is really not going to solve the problem. And that makes me very sad. I have a feeling that “the Church with broken wings” will remain that way until Jesus comes back. He will restore His Bride on that day.

And she will be beautiful, the way she was meant to be. Don’t give up on her!

**************************************

Have you ever been hurt by the church when you were expecting comfort and safety?

When Church Hurts

It seems as though there are many people who grow up believing that Church is supposed to be a safe place, filled with kind, loving people who love Jesus and never make mistakes.

Church is supposed to be a place where everyone is welcome, where there is always someone ready to lend a helping hand, and where we are safe to be ourselves.

That sounds fantastic. Really. But I keep hearing about situations where Church has not been those things for people. I just talked with somebody a few weeks ago who said he had “given up on church”. And that makes me so sad.

When Church is working well, it is a beautiful thing. But when it’s not working well, it is a heartbreaking mess.

What do we do with that? Church is full of people. Therefore, there will always be a bit of a mess involved. People make mistakes, and hurt others out of their own hurt, and do things in Jesus’ name that have nothing to do with Jesus.

And then people give up on “Church”, because Church is supposed to be safe and loving and the Bride of Christ. But sometimes the Bride gets nasty.

I used to be angry with Church. I loved Jesus, but the whole idea of “membership” seemed very ridiculous to me. Why would I want to be part of it? I saw a bit too much of the painful side of Church, the side that can destroy lives. I kept attending Church, but I had pretty low expectations. Church hurt me, too.

But there’s a song we used to sing when I was in Bible school. There’s a line in it that says, “Stand up Church with broken wings. Fill this place with songs again…”

Whenever I hear that someone has been hurt by the Church, that line pops into my head, and I have a picture of the beautiful Church, wounded. She was meant to fly, but she lies there broken.

When we see Church as needing to be the perfect place, filled with perfect people, who always meet our expectations in the perfect way, and always know what to say or do, and never make mistakes, or hurt us, or disappoint us, we have made it into something that it’s not.

We will always be disappointed by people, but we will never be disappointed by Christ. When we look for Christ in people, we will have love for them. When we look for Christ in the Church, we will find Him. He’s there, amidst the imperfection and pain. He hurts, too, along with the Church and with us.

When we look to Christ to meet our needs, rather than people or Church, we will be satisfied.

I heard a message by John Maxwell once in which he talked about happiness in marriage. He said that if we look to our spouse to make us happy, it will never happen. But if we look to Jesus to make us happy, our spouse will add to that happiness in infinite ways.

That’s like the Church. If my life is full of Jesus, it makes me so happy to meet with other Christians at Church. But if I’m expecting the people in the Church to meet all of my needs and demands so that I can then find Jesus, I am in danger of being very disappointed.

I believe that there is a place in the Church for people who can’t find Jesus on their own, and they need some help along the way. But true help will only come from being pointed in the right direction.

But let’s be realistic here – with thousands of years of hurt and bitterness involving the Church, a few little words typed out here is really not going to solve the problem. And that makes me very sad. I have a feeling that “the Church with broken wings” will remain that way until Jesus comes back. He will restore His Bride on that day.

And she will be beautiful, the way she was meant to be. Don’t give up on her!