I cannot pinpoint when my journey of inner healing began. Born a sinner, the Lord has surely been working behind the scenes in drawing me closer to His heart from my very first breath. Along this path, I’ve noticed surprising connections between our physical, spiritual, and mental health. In full disclosure, I cannot offer you credentials, study, or real expertise on these matters. What I can offer is my own life experience and my walk through mental, spiritual, and physical healing.
The moment I most clearly recall that jumpstarted this process for me was at a young adult book study. A group of us from church gathered frequently to discuss a book of choice. A young man in the group shared that while it’s common for many to examine a “father wound,” he felt that he was most affected by a “mother wound.” His father died when he was young and he painfully recalled the promiscuous relationships his mother engaged in after his father’s death, ones that he was exposed to in his own home.
When this young man shared this experience in our prayer group, something big tugged at my heart. I realized, for the first time, that while I had spent years telling my mom I had forgiven her for past hurts and that I was “fine,” this couldn’t be farther from the truth. I immediately called my mom after the meeting, and quite bluntly told her, “Mom, you hurt me back then. And it’s not OK.”
I realized that up until that point, I was mostly unaware of the profound mental, physical, and spiritual impact of my early experiences. Not only by my mother but by my father and others. I really thought that I had it together, that I was strong, and that my past didn’t bother me that much. I was wrong.
Please understand–I don’t wish to paint myself a victim here. Everyone battles crosses in their life and I am an imperfect human who has both been hurt and hurt others. I am sharing this to suggest that we do not have to remain negatively stuck in places that we are not meant to. While we cannot necessarily wish or pray our crosses away, we can surrender them to Jesus so they can be transformed. I’ll share more on this later.
The truth is that I was not free. That tug on my heart stemmed from unresolved things in me. Unresolved pieces in my mind and heart, which I would argue also impacted me physically.
As I mentioned in my intro post, I made unhealthy vows and decisions as a kid. At times, my environment seemed too scary to handle, and I needed a coping mechanism, a way out. In my head and heart, I dug tunnels, hid in dungeons, and locked things up. I was “safe” and protected from any new threat.
The weird, challenging thing to navigate through is that I shaped my beliefs and thought patterns in those early times. I made innocent choices as a six-, seven-, eight-year-old that became habitual ways of thinking and feeling, with lasting consequences in my adult life.
But I realized that it didn’t have to stay that way.
A truly holistic approach to health includes the physical, mental, and emotional. If our minds and hearts sway with every worry, trauma, sadness, doubt, fear, anxiety, and depression, it affects the rest of our bodies functioning. The body will suffer. Sleepless nights, sickening-pit-of-the-stomach-fear, suicidal thoughts, addictions.
Just as the Lord desires the body of the Church to be healthy and whole, so does He wish for us to be healthy and whole members of that body. The better we are individually for Christ and the Church, the better off the Church, and the rest of the world. If one of the members is sick, the whole body suffers (1 Corinthians 12).
As someone trying to follow Christ, I knew deep down that I couldn’t just move on as usual and let these unresolved things remain forever.
I had a friend who was going through an inner healing prayer ministry at church, something I had never heard of before. I knew from listening to her experiences that this was something I needed.
I began the process with fear and trembling. I knew I was venturing into a place that, up until that point, I avoided. I had heard and believed that it’s not good to focus on the past and all the negative stuff. “Look at the good, be grateful for all you have, and don’t focus so much on your feelings.”
I’ll admit that there is truth in these ideas, in different times and circumstances. But—I’d also say that it’s not always the best roadmap and can accomplish exactly what Satan wants: to stay locked in the bondage where he helped us chain ourselves.
Bishop Barron talks a lot about our lives being “ordered properly” for and to the Lord. I will only find the deeper intimacy, joy, and wholeness I long for by facing the roots of disorder that have grown in me, and by digging them out. You see, I have the freedom and power to overcome these trials. Freedom and power as a baptized child of God.
As a child, I was baptized into Christ. God adopted me as His daughter and sent His indwelling presence to rest in me. But, with experiences of fear and insecurity early on, I did not know how to rest and trust in this loving presence within me. I could not recognize it or receive it properly.
In opening myself up to healing over the last nine years, God has worked miracle after miracle in my mind, heart, and body. He’s compassionately taken me to those tunnels and dungeons and shared, “Danielle, you weren’t helping yourself when you secured yourself in this hidden, impenetrable place. You are not protecting yourself. You are locking yourself in your own pain and not letting yourself receive the love I have for you.”
And these are the miracles God is working for me. Taking me by the hand, place by place, memory by memory, and undoing the damage. Knocking down the boarded doors and windows and letting the light shine in again. Dusting the furniture and rebuilding the house.
I am developing the courage and strength to claim His power and let loose of the heavy burdens dragging me down: fear, pain, bitterness, control, pride, unforgiveness, a hardened heart, an identity crisis, etc.
As I learn how to let go more, God remains kind and gentle and patient. His presence remains in me, and He waits as I continue on this journey of being able to rest more peacefully with Him and in Him.
Healing also requires that I atone for damage I’ve done. I have hurt people in my life, I have hurt myself, and I have hurt God. I haven’t forgiven people 77 x 7 times. I have held resentment towards others. I have closed my heart off to genuinely giving and receiving love.
These are all things that hurt the body of Christ. Sin works like a disease and a cycle. It starts somewhere and manifests in different ways from person to person, generation to generation.
As I started to face these inner demons instead of running away from and squelching them, or just pretending like they weren’t there, I’ve noticed changes in my life. Changes that, for me, clearly demonstrate that what is in my heart is directly linked to what I think and how I feel.
It hasn’t been an easy road. Surrendering my heart to God and letting Him sort through all the clutter is no bowl of cherries. I decided to take the reins of my own life when I was a child, and the undoing of this decision goes against everything the control freak in me wants.
Thankfully, God’s mercy is unending. He is there with me and allows me to go at my own pace. Since I’ve been on this journey, I am less afraid, anxious, and worried. I feel more capable, more confident in my abilities and gifts and talents. Memories that used to plague me have less power, or none at all. I have opened my heart in ways I never have before.
I am more at peace. I can better rest, and “just be.” There used to be something in my flesh that always felt like I had to do more, go faster, be better, get the next thing done.
I’ve realized that it’s possible that the people who have hurt me have also loved me. Despite some rocky moments, I am so grateful for my mom, for the many ways she has been a beautiful and irreplaceable mother to me.
I am growing a more positive and loving narrative towards myself. An identity rooted in beliefs of “not enough, worthless, unwanted, unloved” has shifted towards “enough, worthy, beloved, favored, desired, and very good.”
For the first time, I’m learning to feel good in my skin, to look in the mirror, and feel joy and pride that the Lord called me by name and created me. These might seem like small things, but they are life-altering for me; small miracles that I continue to experience daily, where God’s power frees me and moves me from darkness into light. I praise God for this.
I used to think of God as a grumpy father, one who was waiting to catch me in my sin or point the finger at me when I messed up. But those are Satan’s tactics. He stands before us, always trying to seduce us into giving in to sin, and standing after us, always then accusing us of what we’ve done. God does not work this way. He calls us in love to follow Him and turn our hearts away from sin. When we sin, He has mercy on us and calls us to reconcile ourselves to Him.
I’ve come to more fully realize that God is for me, and not against me. That God is on my side every day. He loves me. He wants what’s best for me. And He wants to help me get there. He is not reading all the accounts of my sin at the beginning of each day, so I can sit and brood at what a big sinner I am. He is waiting for me to turn away from sin and live in the joy and peace of being His child.
Why am I sharing all this with you?
Because life is better than it used to be! While I am still on the journey, I have let go of so much pain, fear, heaviness, and negativity. If there is anyone who has similar struggles, take heart. God has worked miracles for me, and He wants to do the same for you.
Do you want peace and joy? None of us are exempt from life’s trials, but God wants to teach us how to find peace and joy amidst them:
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”John 10:10
God wants all His children to be free and live abundantly. It’s not enough to just get by and go through the motions.
However difficult and painful the process, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I am happier, lighter, less inclined to envision every doomsday scenario, and a little freer to throw caution to the wind. It feels good to be me.
If you can say the same, praise God. This can be an invitation for you to help someone find their own deeper peace and freedom. If it is not you, take one small step towards freedom today, even if it is just saying, “Lord, I need you. I surrender. Here is my heart. Take it and do what you need to.”
Each one of us carries some rubble. If we hand the rubble over to God, He truly can create diamonds out of it. And what was once broken and ashy, can become shiny and precious.
So why not do something about it now? You have nothing to lose, except your chance for God to make diamonds out of dust.