I imagine myself walking in this beautiful garden with the Lord. The physical beauty of each flower, the various hues of color, and the splendor of light is no match to the interior feeling of love that enters my heart as I walk. His voice swirls around me in the wind, and He is everywhere. Every part of me feels His presence. I am safe, happy, and so abundantly loved. There is no fear. My mind does not move into worries or distractions. I am completely at peace. This is how I imagine walking with the Lord in the Garden of Eden. During the times in my life when I feel unloved, my heart returns to that garden. This little “heaven” where God awaits me.
Sister Miriam James H refers, in this video, to the “ache” in our heart for communion. This “ache” to be united with God the Father. She gives us this beautiful description of the “echo of the garden” that remains in our soul. We have this longing for the intimacy and connection that our first parents had with the Lord in the garden. We want to be restored to the intimacy we once held before sin entered the world.
Restoration has been a frequently used word in my vocabulary for the past three years. Through my studies with Walking with Purpose, listening to numerous Abiding Together podcasts, working in prayer ministry, and now my work with Little with Great Love, the Lord has taken my soul on a journey of healing and restoration. When we do “little with great love,” we begin to see how love can change us, and how God’s love can restore years of hurt and pain.
Since my early days of high school, He has been slowly unraveling the bandages around my heart to reveal areas of woundedness and places where I have felt shame. The Holy Spirit, ever so gentle, unraveled the easy wounds first, but as time has gone on, we have been looking at some of those wounds that have been around for a long time. Uncovering those old wounds is a little tricky because they are messy and complicated.
In the past few years, the Spirit has taken me back into my own childhood to uncover areas and events where I became wounded, and to facilitate healing. In order to understand why I respond in brokenness, I have to go back to where those feelings began.
I think for many of us Catholics and Christians we have a hard time acknowledging areas in our early childhood or adolescence where our parents’ actions or inactions may have caused us pain or rejection. However, acknowledging that we had a need that was not met is the first part of healing. We have to be able to accompany our younger selves and get to the root of our behaviors and actions.
In the above video, Sister Miriam Heidland speaks about this need for restoration, and how integral it is to our becoming whole. She states, “I believe in love.” She believes that we all want to be loved, and we want the deeper parts of our hearts to be seen. We want a “love that heals.”
How do we experience this love? The first is to acknowledge that the love God offers us is unconditional. It is perfect and life-giving. It is freely given and unwavering. It is poured out on everyone. From our earliest interactions in the garden of Eden, the Lord seeks us out. Genesis 3:9 tells us that the Lord was looking for Adam and Eve. “Where are you?” God says. “Why are you hiding?” God knows that shame and sin has entered their minds and hearts.
The Lord continues to call us to Himself throughout the scriptures. He reminds us who He really is. “I am who am” (Exodus 3:14). “I will be your God and you will be my people.” (Exodus 6:7). I have “called you by name” (Isaiah 45:4). I “knitted you in your mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). “ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:7).
Sister Miriam calls this a “divine initiative.” The Lord does all the “heavy lifting” in the relationship. He draws us to Himself, pursuing our hearts. We need only to respond to the love that we are being offered. There are no conditions, no demands of us.
But what happens when we risk opening up the deeper parts of our hearts to others, and we feel rejected or unimportant? What happens when the sharing of our hearts leads us to feeling more insecure and unwanted? What happens when we realize that the love that we get from others is conditional?
Our parents are our first experience of love. The way that they nurture and love us can either elevate our view of love, or make us feel like all love is conditional and unobtainable. Our father is our first model of God the Father. How our earthly father responds to our paternal needs will impact how we believe God will meet our needs. If our earthly father does not engage us or desire a relationship with our heart, we will hold the belief that this is how God sees us, as well. He will not engage us or desire a relationship with us. We ignore any desire to respond to God the Father. We fear the rejection of another love. Likewise, if our mother does not honor our feelings or engage in an attachment with us as children, we feel unwanted and unloved.
Sister Miriam refers to this as the “family of origin” wound. Our parents can not meet all of our needs because of their own woundedness. We have to “honor the truth of what was lacking in our own life.” We are not whole. However, God wants to restore us to the fullness of who we are meant to be. He offers us his unconditional love, and He shows us that He can heal our woundedness if we allow Him to bring His healing.
In my life, this healing has occurred when the Lord has taken me back through memories and offered me a different adult perspective. I have been able to look at my parents, as not just people who neglected my needs or seemed indifferent to my emotions, but as imperfect and wounded individuals as well. The Lord has shown me that, as a child, I was unable and unwilling to share my feelings and emotions when I felt that emotions were not welcomed in my home. I can look back at monumental times when I needed a different response from my parents and how that created a wound of rejection. I can find specific times when their inability to meet my emotional needs created anger, frustration or a hesitancy for vulnerability.
As an adult, I have the ability to choose to change my interactions. I can decide to risk rejection to gain deeper friendships. I can lean into vulnerability trusting that the Lord will provide me with the paternal care that I need. I can trust the fatherhood that the Lord offers me regardless of the actions of my earthly father.
I recently had a conversation about restoration with two girlfriends at lunch. Each one of us has been on our own journey of restoration, uncovering adverse ways that we have handled moments of stress, anger or frustration. We have been learning that our coping mechanisms are learned behavior stemming from areas of woundedness. We discussed how our adverse responses like anger, frustration, or a desire to isolate are coping mechanisms that we can choose to change. We can lean into the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, choosing to use the grace that He offers us to create peaceful homes. We sat sharing our own concerns about the hurt we had and the pain we were causing our children because of our own brokenness. How can we break the cycle?
As parents, we can become so concerned about not damaging our own children that we fail to work on healing our own woundedness. Jake Khym, one of the podcasters from the podcast, Restore the Glory, had this to say about restoration, “As a parent, one of the best things you can do for your kids is for your heart to be free. The less amount of wounds you have, the better it is for your children.”
What would it mean for your heart to be free? How would it affect your relationships if you had the freedom to openly share your heart with others? If you could be free to act without tethers to your past hurts?
We serve a God of love. He wants this freedom for you. He wants to offer you a restored life here on earth. Let him slowly unravel those bandages and let healing begin. So you can begin to restore a little piece of the garden within.