The Ugly Truth

It just kind of came to me one day, this ugly truth, after months of intensive emotional healing through therapy, transformation prayer, reading Emotionally Healthy Spirituality or EHS (Peter Scazzero). It was a long time coming, but it also seemed to come over me all at once in a single moment of revelation. I am a co-dependent person, attracted to controlling, emotionally manipulative, needy people. They fill my need to be savior, and I fill their need to be agreed with, praised, and approved of. I flinch even as I type it. Is it so bad? Am I quite so bad as to really think that I could play the role of savior? For the majority of my Christian life, that is how I lived. Now, I never in a million years would have termed myself savior, but the ugly truth was that I was in fact living that way. My heart was invested in my important relationships as the savior. I enabled, never challenged. I sought to keep the peace. I tip-toed around issues, trying to think of the response desired so that I might not disrupt the false peace that I had created all around me. Meanwhile, there was no peace inside.

I first realized that boundaries must be put in place in order for me to heal. I am not playing a victim card here. Co-dependency is a sickness in itself, and it is no better or worse than control and abuse. My greatest sin, and the one that colored every aspect of my life, nearly every relationship I had, was undoubtedly Co-dependency. In order to heal, there first needed to be a separation. Someone once told me that trying to heal a relationship while you’re still in it is like trying to fix a car while you’re flying down the highway. The truth of this statement has stuck with me. In order to heal myself and turn from my own sin of co-dependency and enabling behaviors, I had to first take a break from the relationships in which I was making a practice of this sin.

During the break, it was time to heal my mind…to go back in order to go forward. I had to stop denying the impact of the past on the present (another phrase taken from Scazzero’s EHS series). The impact of the past on the present is strong, whether or not I am conscious of it. I had to explore the roots of my co-dependent feelings and behaviors.

Having come to the place in my healing journey where I could understand the roots of my behavior and the lies that I was believing about myself, God, and others, it was time to begin to form new patterns of thought and behavior. This was the most grueling part of the journey. I was deeply embedded in the sin of co-dependency, hateful self-talk, and gaining a sense of worth from others. These patterns were not easy to break, and even today I can find myself easily slipping back into this destructive and sinful thought life.

I taught myself to recognize the warning signs of spiraling into these patterns. Once I could recognize the warning signs, I could make a conscious effort to combat the lies with God’s truth. No, that is not true. You are not stupid and worthless. You are cherished. You are loved. You are adored. God doesn’t make garbage. He has a plan for you. You are his precious daughter. He is captivated by you. He has forgiven you and sees you as perfect and holy, covered by the blood of Jesus. 

At times, I chanted these truths to myself over and over. At times, I cried out to the Lord telling Him what I believed about myself and asking Him to speak truth to me. At times, I listened to a few key songs over and over until I began not only to know about God’s love for me in my head, but to feel it deep within my soul. More often, I listened to or read the Psalms throughout the day, over and over. In a few months, I read through all of the Psalms a number of times. They were like my life support in these days that felt like the valley of the shadow of death.

After a significant amount of time healing, some of my former relationships were able to be restored. Others were not. It really depended on the person’s response to my newfound ways of relating with people. My relationships with other people now flowed from a new confidence in Jesus. I did not need the approval of others any longer. I did not feel a need to preserve false peace. I did not feel like I had to tip toe around people, say the right thing, and keep people happy. That kind of enabling behavior was behind me, and I was working to make sure it stayed that way.

Some would respond well, adapting to the challenges of the new me, realizing that I was no longer simply a “yes-woman” but an empowered woman, a woman with her own mind who was confident enough to speak her true feelings in kindness and compassion.

One of the most important parts of this journey was the process of giving myself grace for mistakes. I did not go about this process perfectly. Looking back, I can think of so many things I would have done differently. I would have been more gracious with the people from whom I needed to take a break to heal. I would have communicated differently. At times, it was difficult not to slip back into self-hate because of these mistakes.

The healing process was pretty rocky as well. I did at times fall back into old patterns of co-dependency and self-loathing. I did at times seek approval from others. It would have been easy to get into an even deeper rut when I slipped back into my old patterns, telling myself that I would never succeed at changing.  But I knew that I was not going to change overnight, so over and over, day after day I fell on my face before the Lord and asked Him to change me, to speak to me, to remind me of my identity in Him. Day after day, I immersed myself in the Psalms, songs, and prayer.

Forgiving self was the key component to successfully allowing God to heal and change me. Some Christians hear about therapy and inner healing, they immediately think that it is wrong or irrelevant because it is all about “self love” and that is clearly not biblical. But I challenged that view in my own heart. Self love is not the same thing as selfishness. And it is in no way exclusive from loving God and others. In fact, the way that I understand self love, is actually just allowing yourself to recognize and be aware of the presence of God.

I fondly remember my grandpa telling me to “practice the presence of God”, but I never really understood it until now. To practice the presence of God is self love, or rather recognizing God’s love for you on a regular basis. Throughout the day, in the still moments, I remember that He is right there with me, that He cares for me, and that I am His.

Scazzero suggests that people who are hateful, critical, harsh, and judgmental to themselves will unwittingly be so to others. To love and forgive yourself is not selfish, because love and forgiveness for others will flow from that. To recognize God’s love for you and His forgiveness of you and to make an effort to stop the hateful self talk and self criticism is, inadvertently, to love others. Because ultimately, you will treat others the same way you treat yourself.

These changes felt so very slow, but looking back I honestly can’t believe how quickly God changed me. Nothing is quite so difficult to change as the mind and soul. It is quite easy to move locations, to end relationships and begin new ones, but it is not so easy to change your mind. And wherever you go, your mind will be there.

To free your mind through healing in Jesus is the only real way to be liberated, free, and whole. I use to long to escape from myself. But Jesus gave me something better. He gave me healing so that I could forgive myself, recognize His love for me, and experience true freedom and joy.

I understand that not every day will be pure joy and wholeness and happiness. There will be days where I am tempted to slip back into self-loathing, and there will be days where I succumb to temptation. There will be days where I behave in co-dependent and enabling ways. There will be days where I seek approval from others. There will be days where I skirt issues to preserve false peace. I know that I will not do this perfectly, but now that I have the power of forgiveness buried in my heart, I can get through these days and move on toward a brighter and more hopeful future in Jesus.

So, yes, the ugly truth is that in the flesh, I am a co-dependent and enabling person. But the beautiful truth is that in Jesus, I am forgiven and cherished, confident in my identity as a daughter of the King.

 

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Transformational Prayer Ministry

When my husband and I found ourselves in an unexpected storm, a Pastor introduced us to a form of therapy called Transformational Prayer Ministry or TPM. I had heard of others finding freedom, peace, and success through TPM before, but I had myself been unwilling to try it. The reason I was unwilling is because I did not like the idea of going into my emotions and memories. The past is the past, right? Why worry about it? Why dig all of that up? I was so wrong. I did not realize just how much my past was affecting every single part of my life. It was affecting my relationships. It was affecting the way I was parenting my children. It was affecting my marriage. Finally, when I all but lost everything, I realized that the past cannot be ignored. It was a lesson I probably should have learned the first time I watched the Lion King, but I digress.

After having experienced something that was nothing short of a total life transformation, I began to eagerly tell people how God had healed my heart through a Christian therapist and Transformational Prayer Ministry. The type of healing that took place in my heart was deep enough to go back to my earliest childhood memories. I was healed not only in the present situation, but from words that hurt me as a child. I began to look at the world in a whole new way. I saw people as hurting, rather than antagonistic. I saw myself as valuable independent of anyone’s opinions of me. My relationships began to flourish. My children changed. My marriage changed. My heart felt light. I felt closer to Jesus than ever before.

So you can imagine my surprise when I was met with some resistance from fellow Christians. Some of them believed that a person should be able to find that complete sort of healing from reading the Bible alone. I have been a lover of the Word of God for many years. So why did I not experience healing change until I was willing to go into my memories?

I believe it is because as much as I read the Word of God, God was not going to force me to open up the areas of my heart that I was not willing to open up. He was not going to force me to go places I did not want to go. I had to make the choice to go there. And when I did, I saw that God was there waiting for me all along.

To practice TPM or go to a therapist does not in any way undermine the authority of the Word of God. It does not take anything away from sound theology. It is simply a method,  and one that works, to open our hearts to the voice of the Holy Spirit in a way that coincides with God’s design of the human mind.

TPM does not command the Holy Spirit to do our will….to drive out demons or to heal a sickness. TPM simply assumes that the Spirit wants to speak to us…. and asks Him to do so.

As medicine and knowledge of the physical body peaked, many Christians and church leaders resisted it,  believing that it somehow undermined the authority of God and believing in Him as the Great Healer. However,  as time went on, we are now able to see that God has designed our bodies a certain way, and given us this knowledge through discovery of His creation.  We know that if we break a bone, it must be set and put into a cast to heal. We don’t resist this, opting to read the Word of God and memorize scripture instead.  Could God heal that broken bone without a cast? Of course. But it is nonsensical not to use our knowledge of God’s design of the human body in order to seek healing.  

The same is true of the human mind.  It has a design. It works in a certain way.  Our memories are tied to emotions because God created us that way.  The human mind, heart, emotions, and body are designed by God in His image.  Whatever we discover of the way that it works causes us to marvel at His greatness and His intelligent design.  Therefore, to discover the way the human mind works and to invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts and minds through prayer is not to undermine the Word of God but to obey it. 

This is not to say that the TPM method is the only method and that all who do not practice it are in disobedience to God. No,  I don’t mean that at all. But I do mean that it is a good way. It is a way that works. It is a way that is backed by science and all that we have discovered about the emotions of humankind.

I have visited a Christian Psychologist and therapist quite a few times in my journey of emotional healing.  Having never heard of TPM before, this therapist has asked me the very same questions you see on the TPM prayer map. Why? Because she has devoted her life to the study of how God designed the human mind and hopes to use that knowledge to help people heal from emotional pain.  She knows that certain questions will guide people to the deeper memories and emotions they will need to access in order to heal. TPM does the same thing. 

My grandfather is the founder of Recovery in Christ ministries,  a program much like AA designed for addicts in recovery who are seeking to live a life surrendered to Jesus.  I showed him the TPM map. He nodded and said, “Oh yes, this is all very familiar. I’ve never seen it in a map format, but I ask these questions probably a hundred times a week”. He is a substance abuse counselor and follower of Jesus.  He took a picture of the map to take with him.

My point is this: TPM is not the one and only method of hearing from God. That being said,  it is an effective method of digging up emotions and seeking healing in a way that works because it is based on what experts know about God’s design of the human mind and emotions.  

To be opposed to the practice of TPM can be equated to being opposed to modern medicine.  God designed the body. God designed the mind. There are methods to discover His design and work in cooperation with it.  

Consider the following passage of Scripture:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,  even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.  “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.  In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”  Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 14:15‭-‬27.

If you are in Christ, the Spirit of truth is within you.  Does it not make sense to quiet yourself to listen to that Spirit? Jesus himself said that he would manifest himself to you through the Spirit of truth He has given you! He also said that the Spirit of truth would be your teacher, the Spirit that would bring to remembrance all that Jesus has spoken.  You can see that He is talking about the voice of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the Word of God. Study His Word. Obey His Commandments. Listen to His Spirit.

To believe that the Holy Spirit can and will speak truth to you and bring to remembrance the Word of God at just the right moment is every bit as Biblical as reading and memorizing scripture.  Both concepts are embedded here within the same passage,  because they are meant to work together. We do not simply read and memorize and expect that to change us without opening our hearts to the Spirit of God and believing that He can and will teach us.  

TPM is simply a method of inviting the Holy Spirit to do just that in a way that coincides with God’s intelligent design of our minds.  We are made in His image. TPM is a way in which to cooperate with God. Please note, I did not say it is the ONLY way to do this. But to be opposed to the practice of TPM is to be opposed to a practical and effective method of understanding our minds and emotions and inviting His Spirit in to heal.

Do you have another effective method of tapping into your pain and emotions and inviting Jesus in? Wonderful if you do! If you do not….if you have never made this a practice of your life… then TPM is a simple way to begin obedience in hearing from the Holy Spirit,  that Helper He sent to be with you forever. That Teacher he promised would bring to remembrance all that Jesus taught when He walked the earth. We have the Spirit of truth in us. Take the time to get before God, open the rawest of your emotions to Him, and invite Him in to heal.  

If you are interested in learning more about Transformation Prayer Ministry, visit https://www.transformationprayer.org/