Guest post: by Ed Cyzewski
Do you have any moments from your past that make you cringe or recoil in fear and shame?
I have a running list of these moments that range from times I publicly embarrassed myself in front of friends and family to the times I’ve deeply wounded friends and family with my own selfishness and anger. I can whip myself into a frenzy of guilt and shame with remarkable efficiency.
One afternoon I sat down to pray because I’d had enough of the shame I’d been carrying. While I don’t always have profound experiences with God when I sit down to pray (that’s the understatement the century), this moment of surrender brought God’s presence like a great big “WHOOSH!”
It was like a private Pentecost. I sensed God’s Spirit dwelling with me and comforting me. I saw that confessing my shame became a kind of highway that helped me immediately connect with God.
I brought the stuff to God that I felt like I needed to hide, even if it sounds foolish to think I could ever hide anything from God. God had been willing to heal me all along, but I first needed to extend an invitation through honesty.
My greatest leap forward in prayer required unflinching honesty about my greatest sources of shame.
Here’s the thing about the pain of our pasts: we can’t really escape it no matter how many defenses we adopt or how far we run. We can’t completely ignore it. It has a way of unsettling us and showing up at the most inconvenient times.
I face the fall out of my anxiety and anger every single day whether or not I act like it doesn’t exist. It’s far better to acknowledge that we’ve been wounded or have failed others so that we can forgive and begin to heal.
In one of the stories where Jesus healed a paralyzed man, he asked the man a fascinating question: “Do you want to be made well?”
We would think that this question hardly needs to be asked, but we quickly learn that the man had bought into a local legend about the healing power of a nearby pool of water as a way of explaining away his pain. He was so absorbed in muddling along as things were that he couldn’t see an opportunity to be set free. He found a way to cope and limp along.
If we don’t seek God’s healing, we’ll find our own ways to cope, distract, and limp along.
As we pray, we have an opportunity to open our deepest wounds to God in order to receive healing. However, if we want to be healed, we have to move beyond merely believing in God’s power to heal. We have to actually open ourselves up to God.I have personally found that saying something out loud can help. If I can hear myself saying that I was fearful, angry, and worried all of the time as a child and teenager, I can no longer deny it. That means I’m digging up all of that pain and fear all over again, and it’s pretty much the worst thing ever.
This is all of the stuff I want to forget and bury. Nevertheless, each day I spend struggling with anxiety and fear is a reminder that I haven’t fully dealt with these issues from my past. God has brought healing to these areas of my life, but only when I have been fully honest and open about the extent of the pain when I’ve prayed. In fact, some of my most profound experiences in prayer have been directly related to voicing the pain of my past.
Our culture provides every tool we could ever need to avoid facing our pain, praying about it, or writing about it at length.
The noise and pace of modern life can fast become ways to medicate ourselves from our past or present pain, but so can drugs, alcohol, sex, and entertainment.
There’s a new app every week that provides yet another way to escape the most difficult parts of our lives. Distraction is the key to many technology business plans these days, providing apps, games, and information that will prevent us from taking time for self-reflection–the very practice that could expose the most difficult parts of our lives.
Perhaps we aren’t able to think of ourselves becoming well because we haven’t stopped long enough to consider things could be any other way. And even if we can imagine freedom from our pain and shame, it’s a leap of faith to face all of that pain and trust that God can do something, if anything, with it all, let alone provide the healing and peace we crave so badly.
This has been adapted from Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together.
Ed Cyzewski is the author of Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together, A Christian Survival Guide and Coffeehouse Theology. He blogs about prayer, writing, and imperfectly following Jesus at www.edcyzewski.com.