Tag Archives: Healing

Toxic Religious Communities: Where Is The Balm?

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful evangelism training event that helps to prepare and equip believers to be more effective witnesses for Christ. We discussed ways that we could be more natural and conversational in our approach to sharing the love that Jesus modeled for us while he lived in the earth some two thousand years ago.

During this training, I was up earlier than usual every morning seeking God in prayer because I am constantly searching for ways to be a better human being in the presence of people across all cultures. This was a four-day training. I assembled for morning prayer with others who wanted to experience God’s blessings daily for the entire training session. But something happened in me during prayer on the last day as I was preparing to leave. I got in my car to drive to the airport but I could not because the tears would not stop flowing. A full hour passed before I was able to drive. While in prayer, it seemed as if the heavens opened and the Spirit of God spoke and said, “Now be released from your pain; the pain you have carried being a part of a particular religious community.” In one brief moment, God flicked through those experiences like a quick movie flashing in my mind’s eye. I have chosen in this writing not to name that community as I do not desire to hurt anyone by the things shared. However, I do want to enlighten people through awareness of the many ways we inflict pain on others who are a part of our religious communities and those who come seeking healing. We understand that there are no perfect religious communities, but there should be evidence of the fruit of our love and forgiveness in the way we treat others.

It is only because of the grace of God and good friends that I have been able to stand, as many others have, through unkindness, unjust suffering, rejection, labeling, persecution, sabotage, lies, disregard, being hindered from advancement, and ill treatment toward our children. I have had many opportunities for advancement beyond the religious community I serve, but I believe God uses our experiences to help others. He taught me how to be continually engaged in the practice of Radical Hospitality in spite of ill treatment. I am fully aware that Jesus had to do the same thing. Let me say also, that there are beautiful people who I personally share with in the same community that have known firsthand the things I and others have suffered and they found ways to encourage us and also let us know that they were praying for our families and our fellowship communities. For them I am grateful.

Through my personal experiences with humanity and having been a practicing Mental Health Professional for more than twenty-five years, I have had the pleasure of being seated in sacred spaces with people who have been so wounded by religious communities that they no longer wanted to be a part of them. Many of them sought out alternative environments because they still had a hunger in their hearts for spirituality. At times my heart was broken just hearing about their pain and suffering. They had been controlled, manipulated, abused emotionally and physically, blocked from advancement, exploited financially, and raped of their gifts and talents. Some of their experiences reminded me of my own, but I listened with compassion and the desire to help them work their way through the pain.

Religious communities should make every effort to be havens of consolation where people can come and find a real healing balm. In the natural, a balm is often an oily, fragrant substance that is used as a comforting, soothing, restorative ointment for wounds, cuts, and bruises. It is known for its medicinal value. Ideally, this is what religious communities are supposed to represent – an anchorage where people of all nations can have soothing experiences and find comfort and restoration for their hurting souls.

I have never understood why there is such tolerance for inappropriate behaviors from leaders and other participants in religious communities. I believe we all have a duty to address the wrongs we can clearly see. However, if we become mere beneficiaries of perks, then there is silence while people are being injured – some who may never recover.

The weight of my pain is lifted. I forgave the persons who hurt me at the moment of the injury. What I did not realize was that I still carried the pain. I have released it. I have learned that God will never waste my pain or yours. God will use everything that you and I have gone through for destiny and for His glory. I have to continue helping others to overcome their pain and to share with yet others how they can survive maltreatment and hurt, and still move forward with God’s purpose and plan for their lives – even when their hearts have been broken in a religious community.

If you are reading this and you are connected to a religious community that has hurt you in any way, know that God’s love is greater than what you have experienced. If you will remain open in your heart to the awesome power of God, your pain can be healed.

To Religious Communities everywhere; leaders and laity, I ask you,
“Where is the balm in your community that can heal any soul?”    Peace

Bring Healing

Heavenly Father,

Today and everyday we commit to living healthy lives, mind, body and spirit. We ask that you would give us the wisdom necessary to help ourselves and others to practice healthy living.

Help us to live with more awareness as to how we treat ourselves and others, understanding that we release into the atmosphere sickness and disease even in our thoughts.

Heal every unhealthy thing in our lives right now. Heal the people, places and things that have wounded us. Heal our families, communities, religious organizations, businesses, schools, and gatherings. Bring healing in Jesus name, Amen!

“He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions.” Psalms 107:20 NKJV

Don’t Ever Be Ashamed of Your Story: It’s About Destiny

 

What I have discovered on this journey of life is that reaching my destiny will require something of me that will necessitate my having to be transparent and vulnerable in order to become transformative. (I learned this from a great teacher.) I also learned that I can impact my family, friends, and even strangers by the testimony of my story. As I have reflected on the world from my point of view, I can see that people really do want to maximize their lives to the fullest. Many just do not have the knowledge, the wisdom, or the opportunity to move their lives toward their destiny and purpose.

I grew up in a clean, loving, and orderly home. However, there was not much money flowing through it. I was being raised by a mother who was 14 years old when I was born and a 16-year-old father. They were young y’all! I knew they both loved me and wanted to do the right thing for my well-being, but there were challenges. It took years for me to understand that they did their best to try and work out their new marriage and life together with a young child. Because of their choice to have premarital sex, their youth and their lives would never be the same. There was sadness and many frustrations that at times affected my state of being. I found myself feeling isolated and sad inside, but I did not know how to explain the sadness that was forming and developing in me, and I had no confidant to share those negative feelings with.

There were some things I tried to fix in my mind, but I did not quite understand what needed to be fixed. Those feelings kept overwhelming me. There were many people who appeared to be interfering with the way my mother and father were managing things and that seemed to create more frustrations for them.  So three more babies later, my father felt that he had enough and he left home. I was five years old. What I had experienced with him was his gentleness and his brilliance; he was one of those Cornell West types, but he just could not seem to figure out how to use his brilliance and make his life move toward the destiny for which he was born. He aborted his brilliance through a life of drug addiction that led to a diagnosis of drug induced Paranoid Schizophrenia. He lived in a constant state of fear, mistrust, and double mindedness.

When I had to deal with him after he left our home, I often felt that I was parenting him. I would help him to redirect his thoughts to keep them connected to reality. I had this unusual patience and calmness with him that required me to help him understand that his fears and suspicions had no basis in reality. However, I became angry, resentful, and ashamed of his life and the impact that his selfish addiction had on his family, so I distanced myself from him and only reached out to him periodically. In an effort to handle these feelings of anger, shame, and resentment, I began engaging in unhealthy imaginings to try and put him and my life in a light that made sense. The doorway of those unhealthy imaginations opened other doors to unhealthy thinking patterns in my own life that led to great emotional and mental challenges for me. How could I, as a young child or young adult, tell people that my father was mentally ill and that I was facing some challenges myself? The feeling of shame gripped me, but I found hope and deliverance through a spiritual encounter and relationship with Jesus the Christ. Jesus brought meaning to my meaninglessness and healing to my broken heart and soul. For this spiritual transformation, I am eternally grateful. My father passed away in 2007, and I took the responsibility of managing the last moments of his medical care and to see to it that he was buried with dignity, respect, and love. I held no more anger in my heart toward him. I was able to see him with new eyes and with the understanding that he really wanted more for his life and his family. I will always remember his gentle way and his struggle and desire to have a meaningful and successful life.

Still in our society today, mental illness affects so many families. It introduces an array of emotions into the family that produce feelings of confusion, anger, fear, resentment, frustration, hurt, devastation, and shame. As painful as it has been to go through the process of overcoming the perils of my family and my negative emotions, it has led to the fulfillment of my destiny to become a Mental Health Professional in support of others who struggle with the devastating pain and shame associated with mental illness. My aim in life is to use my story to help others overcome their pain and live the full life that God has predestined for them. In spite of feeling trapped in the unhealthy world of their minds, people with mental illness want to be loved, accepted, and treated with respect. I believe I am on a journey to help them know that they can find communities of people that will love and accept them, and walk them through their challenges into wholeness. It has taken some years for me to rise above the shame of my story of family and personal mental illness. Today, I am free internally and not ashamed of where I started or what I have walked through in my own family and life. My destiny now is to help others to get free and live their lives with purpose. My life is all about destiny!

 

 

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