“You can’t heal a wound by saying it’s not there.” -Dr. S.J. Taulbee, who wrote a book by the same title, said that to me after a seminar I did. It stuck with me. I don’t think we mean to live in denial—I think it’s how the old nature operates. To admit your heart has been wounded feels like a weakness, a concession, a vulnerability that could be exploited and used against us. “Real men (or strong women) don’t talk like that—about wounded hearts.” That’s why many Christian leaders press on, hurting their families, their staff, or volunteers—we don’t mean to, but hurt people hurt people (and deny it!).
I went mountain bike riding with Danny (my friend from Norway), Vince and Greg (two avid bikers). Vince warned me the trail was “kind of technical.” The last hill was a steep drop that turned left on the way down. The “technical” part was that if you didn’t make the turn, you’d hit a tree. I found out that tree is well rooted in the ground as I smacked my shoulder into it full speed and rolled into a briar patch. It hurt—but it was “no big deal,” I said. Until later that morning, Jon Evans gave me a big bear hug across my wounded shoulder, and I reacted—I pushed him away as I winced. He had no idea why I pushed him away, until I told him I had an unhealed wound. Imagine if for some stupid reason, I thought it was unmanly to admit I had a wound, so I blamed Jon for my reaction.
That’s exactly what happens when we deny the signs and symptoms of a wounded heart . We withdraw from a spouse or children. We protect ourselves from people. We blame others for our over-the-top reactions to some little comment that pokes at the unhealed wound. Satan uses it against us because he’s got us alone in the dark. This is how evil works in the world—using wounds to manipulate us with lies tied to fear, anger, or self-protection.
It’s why we are told: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and…see to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:14-15) “’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27) Hurts, anger, bitterness left unresolved give the evil one a foothold in our lives. And denying the signs that we need healing is denying our need for Christ.
“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.” (1 John 1:5-6) Jesus told us, “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted….” (Isaiah 61:1) Yet he can’t (or won’t?) do this healing work if we hide our wounded hearts in the dark due to pride or fear of being weak. So what do we do to identify any unhealed wounds that can and will be used against us? I’ll tell you what I did:
Spend time in solitude or doing things you enjoy with the Lord. Like a bottle of muddy water, your soul needs to be quiet and unshaken for an extended amount of time, otherwise the silt never settles out and it’s hard to find clarity to face reality (more on how to do this in upcoming posts).
Do the Grocery Store Test. If you turned down the isle in the store, and there in front of you was [fill in the blank], but he/she didn’t see you—your fist inclination would be to turn around before you had to meet eyes with them. Don’t evaluate why, just write down that name.
List every person or event that might possibly have wounded you. I say “might possibly” because our tendency is to over-spiritualize and say “I forgave that” or “that didn’t really hurt me” and so we ignore the cumulative effect of all the “paper cuts” still oozing. So no spiritual editing—just put them all down. “People leaving and not telling me.” “Hearing from a 3rd party what someone said about me.” “When my spouse said or did…” “What my dad said…”
Go back through the list, asking the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth and help you walk in the Light. Don’t try to be strong or brave or forgiving (that can actually be a mechanism for denial because it’s easier than facing the truth). Just sit with each memory in the Light of God’s presence and let yourself feel how that originally felt. Write down what happened and how that felt—“I felt intense sadness,” “I felt betrayed,” “I felt angry,” “I wanted to get back at her,” “I wanted to hurt him.” Be honest before God.
The memories where the sadness is still fresh (emotion wells up and you push it away), or the hurts are still raw, or it still makes you angry, or you REALLY don’t want to think about it—these are still very unhealed places in your heart. That doesn’t mean you’re a horrible Christian, it means you need God’s grace and healing that Jesus paid a costly price to give you. Don’t deny it, receive it. But it may take some time. So first, just acknowledge what’s still there unhealed. That’s a courageous step of faith.
By the way, I thought this part of the process would take 15-20 minutes. It took me 3-4 hours! Next post I’ll talk about what to do with those memories. I’d love to hear comments—how does the thought of doing this strike you? What did you discover as you did it