This message is the fifth in a series I have named, ‘The Unoffendable Heart’.The core idea is that it is not acts of ministry, gifts, callings, abilities or even behaviours that finally identify us as Disciples of Christ. Ultimately it is the state or condition of the heart, i.e. attitude and character that finally defines me as a true follower of Christ. This means that I am only like Christ to the actual extent that the heart of Christ (the attitude/character of Christ) is formed in me. If you want more background there are CDs available.
I want to return to Proverbs 18:19. This is a picture of the heart that is most unlike the heart of Christ. From the Amplified Bible: A brother offended is harder to be won over than a strong city, and [their] contentions separate them like the bars of a castle.
The picture is that of a person locked away behind walls; a person totally bared in. Those bars are of his own making and consist of his contentions, arguments and unyielding positions of attitude and thought. All of these positions are defensive in nature; self-protecting and self-preserving. In locking himself in he has locked all others out. This person is isolated, lonely and relationally disconnected. At heart we have a person incapable of trusting; a person who cannot trust.
How does this happen? This person did not just wake up one morning and find himself unable to trust. Almost always the inability to trust is rooted in the fact that your trust has been violated, and almost always that violation relates to an authority figure.
This truth is graphically communicated in the following song: Because of You.
If that song describes where my heart is then I need to consider one core question: How do I get beyond this place? How can I ever break free of this fortified citadel? How can I ever trust again?
The first thing I must do is honestly acknowledge where I am. As long as I am living in deception regarding the truth of the state of my heart I cannot come into healing. Or perhaps I am not deceived concerning the state of my heart but I choose to deny the state of my heart. This is where we must be very careful that ministry does not become a cover we hide behind with respect to the truth of our heart. What I do know is that when all the acts of ministry wind down, when the shouting and singing and declarations wind down I am still going to be left with the truth of my heart.
The second thing I can tell you is that the heart is not revealed in a vacuum;it is revealed in the context of the details of the journey we are living out. God allows the particular details of our journey to be what they are for the purpose of demonstrating, revealing, exposing the truth of our heart. That “truth of heart”is revealed in our reaction to the details of the journey.
The third thing we need to know is that there is nomoment of magic in which we are suddenly transported from where we are to where we need to be. I do believe in deliverance, but deliverance primarily has to do with the breaking off of demonic influence and strongholds.What we need to know about those strongholds is that almost always they are tied to or built upon a deep wound within the heart. The breaking of the stronghold can be instantaneous but the healing of wound in the heart is usually progressive. There is a continuous supply of grace to make the journey of our healing.
Dealing with the wound means exactly what it implies – dealing with the wound. I can tell you this is the most difficult and painful part of the entire journey of healing because it means going back to the actual hurt itself and engaging it. The problem in engaging it is that all the feelings and emotions around it are revived and come flooding back into our consciousness.
What really complicates this is the fact that most of this wounding takes place in childhood or even while we are in the womb. Because as children we have no power to deal with the hurt we tend to (without knowing it) bury the hurt in the subconscious mind. That means we are literally unaware of it, and yet from that place in the subconscious mind it continues to control our feelings and emotions as well as patterns of behaviour.
Have you ever felt certain things and behaved in certain ways for which you have no conscious explanation? You do not want to feel what you’re feeling; you do not want to behave the way you’re behaving. But for all your “Christian disciplines” you continue to feel and behave the way you do.
There is a root to our feelings and behaviour. That root lies in the heart. That root is a place of wounding within the heart, and until that place of wounding comes into healing those feelings and behaviours are going to continue.
In the early 1980’s PBS presented a series of programs by a psychologist – Doctor Bradshaw. The presentations were based on a book he wrote called ‘The Homecoming’. The basic premise of the book was that psychological health depended upon a homecoming; i.e. the journey back to those events and issues that wounded the soul. I was fascinated with this and bought the book.
While reading the book I found a strange thing happening. Without any consciousness of it occurring I would suddenly be overwhelmed with very powerful feelings and emotions; fear, sadness, anger, sorrow, loneliness and sometimes joy and peace. There were times when the emotions were so intense I had to close the book. For awhile I was very confused about this and even wondered if there was demonic influence associated with the book.
At some point I began to understand that the book was opening up memories that I had buried deep in my subconscious realm. And with those memories came all the feelings I just described. In that sense I had come home to realities, hurts and wounds I didn’t even know existed.
That was the critical point in the journey. Once I was face to face with the hidden issues of my soul I had a decision to make: would I deal with the wound, or would I deny it, bury it deeper in my soul and add one more bar to the fortified city of Proverbs 18? The choices I made around that book kicked off a journey of healing that continues to this day.
I passed that book along to others who requested it and after about the first two chapters they passed it back acknowledging that they could not deal with the pain. A very good friend of mine (lives in another country) told me that he was presented with a major promotion with his employment. When he took it on he found major anxiety issues begin to develop. His company paid for treatments that involved a psychologist. After the second meeting he could not return. He reported to me horrific memories of unbelievable abuse and abandonment – memories he had totally buried. And yet although he was no longer conscious of the actual memories those memories were manifesting in the form of black nightmares just about every night of his life.
Why do we insist on reading a book called ‘Broken Children, Grownup Pain’? Why do we insist that people go through our ‘Cleansing Steam Study’? And why are people often resistant to do either?
Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don't get hurt
Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me Because of you I am afraid.
Look at those lyrics and consider the following questions: 1) How am I going to venture beyond my own sidewalk? 2) How am I going to get beyond playing it safe so I don’t hurt –which is just another way of saying – How am I going to give up control? 3) How am I going to come to a place of trusting my own heart and those I’m in relationship with? 4) How am I going to get beyond relational fear?
The answer has everything to do with the opening phrase: ‘Because of you.’ Until we deal with the “you” who wounded us, who violated our trust and spurned our love – the “you” who first caused our heart to be offended, we will never come into healing. Dealing with that “you”involves one core reality: FORGIVENESS.