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Sunday, September 5, 2010

In Defense of Inner Healing.

There comes a time in a man's life when you just have to say something; you can't let this one go by. To do so would be a missed opportunity at, best, and cowardice at the worst.

This, for me, is one of them.

Almost 2 weeks ago I was at a "school" of sorts held over a long weekend in southern Connecticut. I'd been invited by a friend to be a part of the worship. I was glad to do it . . . always a chance to play the instrument God fashioned me for.

During the course of the extended teaching, the speaker (who has a growing influence), at least 5-6 times denigrated and mocked a mode of healing Tricia and I've been closely associated with for 25 years. Some history:

In my 30's, through a series of God-orchestrated "circumstances," I spent a year going through inner healing with a very brilliant and spiritually gifted Episcopal priest. I went weekly for the duration. God let me know in no uncertain terms, I was going under the "spiritual" knife over issues which dogged me since my teens. Prior, I doubt I'd heard of inner healing. If I did, it registered little meaning with me.

My year of emotional, psychological and relational healing set me free to such a degree if I'd not gone through it, I'd have never been a counselor, or spiritual director. I wouldn't have led retreats or been sitting at my desk writing this blog about my thoughts and experiences planting imagine/Northampton. Ministry, at all, would have been a distant and far off land traversed by others.

The healing I received through the Holy Spirit from stifling memories and quietly suppurating heart wounds liberated me in a manner nothing else had. It was a redemptive, internal unbinding which opened authentic emotional manhood to me. Prior, I was a boy inside, a 35 year-old boy. He died when I could finally forgive my father for what his brokenness did to me. My anger was cut from its blood supply and I unlocked. I healed.

In fact, I so unlocked that God soon sent folks to me for inner healing. I was so enthusiastic about my experience of the process that I studied with this priest after our work together, and did extensive reading. Studying with him felt akin to being in graduate school, so extensive was his mastery of theology, biblical and cultural anthropology, psychology, and Christian spirituality, especially related to healing. I was able to trust the Holy Spirit, access my own healing and what I'd learned to help people overcome sometimes devastating wounds.

For the last 25 years to the present I can testify God works through deep healing in ways only he can.
I'm not sure what experience the speaker had to so categorically mock the inner healing ministry, but he must have seen abuses or gross ineptitude. From my experience and watching Jesus use Tricia brilliantly to heal deeply scores of women crushed by the sin of others committed against them, I'm bewildered by his position. Frankly, this teacher is completely in error with his blanket denunciation.

So in defense, I need to lay out a few key inner healing principles:

1. Healing, in general, has always been a critical component of the Gospel message: healing of the catastrophic separation from God because of sin, healing of relationships, healing of the body, and healing of the heart and mind, of nations: (Ps. 103:1-4; Mt. 10:8; Lk. 9:6; Mt. 14;14; Mt. 24:14; 1Cor. 12:9; Rev. 22:2) A key reality of the Kingdom of God is access to healing. Jesus demonstrated it in the Gospels as a means of establishing his identity as God's Anointed One ushering in a new way of life; the way of the Kingdom of God included healing.

2. Inner healing applies the Gospel to the experience of, and how a person thinks about or responds to his or her most emotionally crippling experiences in life. Biblical truths about forgiveness, salvation, redemption from sin, and the radical love of God illuminate a person's perception of his or her intrinsic worth. Wounding experiences always threaten to steal the truth of how God values each one of us. What happened in the past obstructs our ability to apprehend the beauty God sees in us. As that occurs, we disengage emotionally from the wonder of God's gracious gift, and settle into living an emotional half-life preserved by a noxious tangle of lies. Worse, we disappear and pose or find an acceptable persona behind which to hide. The authentic self is suppressed and held at bay for to avoid true intimacy and vulnerability at all costs.

Here's what inner healing accomplishes:

Isaiah 53:4 asserts Christ bore our griefs and carried our sorrows on the cross. He took them completely and opened the possibility of healing from their deleterious effects in our hearts so we might be freed from re-living horrors for a lifetime. Miracles occur through inner healing because what he bore on the cross and accomplished through the resurrection; miracles which overturn the emotional lordship of abuse, neglect and violation.

Psalm 247:3 states simply that God "heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds," because of human cruelty, indifference, lust, oppression, and deceit. It's not hard to break a heart or crush a human spirit, especially in the tender and trusting years of life. A broken heart dims the light of life in a person, muting their unique voice, and subverting their power to truly live. Through inner healing the Holy Spirit neutralizes the domination of evil and restores a person's ability to pursue living life to the full, a gift Jesus said he came to give (John 10:10).

In Luke 4:18, Jesus quotes Isaiah, declaring in the synagogue, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor; he has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those that are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." People who need inner healing are held captive to what others have done to them, or to the sin for which they are most deeply ashamed. Inner healing through the Spirit gradually unbinds people to live at liberty from the wounds they suffered or oppression they lived under. They don't pretend it "never happened," rather Jesus confronts and removes the fear, shame, unforgiveness, anger and condemnation infecting and ruling their hearts. His love helps them internalize God's favor.

One of the most powerful passages undergirding the efficacy and practice of true inner healing is 2Corinthians 10:4-5, "For the weapons we fight with are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ." What it says regarding the inner healing process, although admittedly in the context of Paul's letter he's not addressing the process of inner healing per se, is that even lies which grow from being hurt, defiled or abuse by others must submit to the lordship of Christ through inner healing. There, he asserts authority over the distorted, anguished thinking of people who've had their sense of self radically altered by sinful acts and the lies attached to them. When terrible memories are healed internally it's because Jesus makes them submit to him and replaces what occurred with love and utter acceptance for the wounded one. Emotional a re exposed and strongholds are destroyed.

Romans 5:1 "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Not only is the person made spiritually whole from the substitutionary atonement of Christ on their behalf so that positionally they're at peace with God by faith, but they experience peace from tormenting memories of terrible things. Inner healing leads to peace because the destructive power of what people did to (or withheld from) them loses its force through Jesus taking authority over it. Subsequently, peace with the past settles in over time.The peace given through justification sinks more deeply into the heart of the wounded because it can be more clearly seen. Guilt, shame, and fear can't stifles its presence.

Paul speaks of an existential/spiritual transformation in 2Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new." The healing is so existentially profound and complete that a new way of being is created by regeneration. Inner healing revives the grasp and deepens the reality of being a new creation to the person devastated by abuse, neglect and hatred. This transformation from old to new to which Paul refers occurs instantaneously at the point of new birth. However, sanctification is the process by which we grow into our new creation relationship with God and others; we learn to live love and service as our primary way of being. Inner healing becomes necessary when people are emotionally, physically or spiritually traumatized and can't embrace fully this new creation way of living. They need to be freed and settled into the new way.

Ephesians 3:17-9, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God." At the heart, inner healing slowly opens people to being firmly established in the passionate, affectionate love of Abba Father. Being filled with the fullness of God is his longing for his Beloved that we might be unleashed to receive and share such love from what we've experienced in him. Inner healing lowers a person's guard so he or she better receives love and gives it with growing generosity and abandon. A guarded heart is a heart rooted in the shallows of God's healing love. Healing helps people be less defensed and protected; less hidden and opaque. They become conduits for unconditional love in ways never imagined because that same love freed them to healthy vulnerability.

Inner healing exposes and defuses the toxic, cancerous fear that overtakes the heart of someone who's been terrorized and dehumanized by human evil. 2Timothy 1:7 proclaims, "For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and love, and of a sound mind." God himself has graced us with an ability to think soundly (from a firm grasp of the truth), love well and live in the vivifying, fructifying power of the Spirit. Inner healing attacks and exposes the sources of malignant, abiding fear. Fear is a cruel taskmaster keeping people enslaved and irrationally confined to what appears safe, but actually just imprisons them in an illusion of self-guarded safety. Inner healing opens people to the unparalleled power of Christ over life and life's enemies. It also opens people to the power God has placed in them to live their lives in freedom and life-giving enterprises. Crippling fear teaches people to stay away from life; inner healing unchains and beckons them to an authentic present and promising future. Fear is gradually silenced by the gentle, peaceful, but authoritative voice of the Spirit in the jangling memories of pain and terror.

3. Inner healing takes advantage, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, of the incredible power of imagination. It's that creative faculty of the mind which makes mental images, creatively formulates or signifies the minds conversation. Ideas, concepts, experiences, mental constructs and thoughts of all kinds can be pictured through the imagination in some form. It is the imagination that the Spirit employs to vividly depict memories, painful or otherwise, and then provide a way the mind can bring Jesus into the middle of the painful remembrances such that people "see" his Lordship over the offenders, and offenses against the person. Being able to put ones self back into the horror and "see' Jesus in the midst of it powerfully makes real the healing of the ordeal which has paralyzed the person sometimes for decades. Not only that, but healing actually occurs. The terrible sting and binding power of what happened is neutralized, and the person gradually emerges authentically from it's taint. 

Tricia and I've witnessed this hundreds of times as counselors, and we've kept a pile of cards and letters from over the years testifying to the lasting effect of God's work in the deep heart. Inner healing is a powerful means by which God frees the captive. While there are all sorts of counterfeits and inanities practiced in the name of inner healing, to be sure, the inner healing we've experienced, were taught, and practiced is at the heart of the applied Gospel of Jesus Christ

We also know many gifted and spiritually mature Christians around the country who are serving the Kingdom of God beautifully by helping heal crushed hearts through inner healing. They are hard-working bringers of the Good News and bearers of hope to the voiceless, feeble, maimed, and broken in our midst.

The teacher I heard recently denigrate this ministry of healing just doesn't realize how sadly far off the mark he is, and what a disservice he does to the Body of Christ.

May Jesus open his eyes.
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