I had no idea I had so many unhealed wounds, and never suspected how they could be used against me. I’ve just returned from a 2-month sabbatical that Gateway Church gives our pastoral staff every 7 years. I feel like I’ve learned so much, but it’s still a bit raw and unrefined—and feels vulnerable. I plan to teach on it in the future. But it also seems SO important, that I’m just gonna do my best to let you in on what I’m learning now–a bit stream-of-consciousness-style. I hope God uses it in the next few posts to speak to you like He has to me.
Life is hard! Ministry is hard! That’s not a new lesson. Hurt people hurt people. That’s also not a new lesson. What was new was the realization that over the years, I’ve gotten lots of “paper cuts.” You know, a paper cut is not a big deal—it’s a tiny little cut you don’t need to worry about…but get hundreds of paper cuts that go unhealed, and you can lose a lot of blood, a lot of strength, or even bleed to death.
I didn’t see how lots of “little wounds” that were “no big deal” could add up to rob me of joy and steal my strength as a leader. Each personal “paper cut” I would slough off, or just forgive, or try to reconcile and move on. I have always been good about going after interpersonal conflict, not letting things build up, forgiving. So naturally, I didn’t think there was a problem.
I hadn’t thought much about the importance of the heart, nor of the dangers of living out of a wounded heart. Reading Waking the Dead, by John Eldridge, reminded me of Scripture’s teaching about the heart and the spiritual battle raging for the hearts of people—leaders especially! We are to love God with all our heart…(Matt. 22:37). We are to guard our heart because everything we do flows from it (Prov. 4:23). It’s what comes out of the heart that defiles a person (Matt. 15:18). The condition of our heart determines whether we have spiritual ears that can hear and eyes that can see (Matt. 13:15). The heart (not the physical, but the spiritual heart) is the center of our being—where we relate to God (1 Sam. 16:7). I could go on and on—keyword search “heart” on Biblegateway.com and study it for yourself!
Jesus came to heal our wounded, broken hearts. To bind up our wounds so we wouldn’t act and react out of them—inadvertently wounding others: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3, Isa. 61:1). But time does not heal. And denial does not heal. God’s Spirit heals. I didn’t think I needed to heal.
But there were Signs, Warnings, Symptoms of a wounded heart. I didn’t know to call it that, but I now see much more clearly. Strap on the heart monitor and see if you have some of these danger signs of a heart that needs God’s healing. Consider the dangers of leading out of a wounded heart:
Loss of joy – I used to experience so much joy from the Lord, but it seemed much harder the past four years to experience that sense of wonder, awe, and beauty, celebrating the goodness of life. I feel it coming back as I heal—spontaneous joy.
Protecting myself – I didn’t have much to give, so I found myself not wanting to initiate with people. Dreading being with people because they might drain me of the little I had left. My desire to love people became a desire to avoid people. This weekend I couldn’t wait to be at our Leadership Getaway and loved being with them—a sign of a healing heart.
Deep sadness – For a while, I couldn’t spend time alone with the Lord, really opening my heart to Him without feeling a deep sadness, like grief. When a memory still feels sad, painful, terrifying…it’s a sign it’s still not healed.
Defensiveness – I found myself more easily hurt, defensive, reactive because I didn’t have a reservoir of a full heart to draw from. My Leadership Coach asked me this summer as I was ranting, “Whom is the Lawyer in your head arguing with, and why?”
Easily Offended or Frustrated – when you carry unhealed wounds, it doesn’t take much of a jab to feel a lot of pain or anger or frustration.
Agreeing with Lies – Making agreements is a huge one I’ll devote a blogpost to, but I realized I started believing lies of the evil one because my wounds reinforced the lies: “You’re a bad leader,” “God’s not guiding you anymore,” “He’s not speaking or you can’t hear His voice.” All lies, but I started to agree with the lies because of unhealed wounds, and it undermined my leadership.
Lack of Love for People – ultimately, unhealed wounds rob us of the ability to love people. People have hurt us, we still feel the hurts, so we are unable to love people because that requires proximity and vulnerability—which unhealed hearts fear.
There’s more, but that’s enough. Do you see the signs of a wounded heart? Can you see how dangerous it is for Christians, leaders especially, to ignore the signs and pretend it’s not there? Our enemy can use that to steal, kill, and destroy the Life Jesus wants to give (John 10:10), or severely undermine our effectiveness, or tempt us into some stupid way of escaping the pain that takes us out completely. I’ve been vulnerable, now it’s your turn. What symptoms do you see of unhealed wounds?