It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
JO ANN FORE is passionate about women walking in freedom. As an author, teacher, and certified life coach, she leads women into full, free lives–lives of joy and purpose. While her own story is one of brokenness, it’s also a hope-filled story where God’s grace and mercy run deep. As the founder of the vibrant virtual community Write Where It Hurts, Jo Ann and her ministry team inspire women with daily doses of hope, encouragement, and practical support.
Visit the author’s website.
In When A Woman Finds Her Voice, author Jo Ann Fore engages your heart and mind as one who knows your fears and frustrations. As a certified life coach, she unpacks a message of hope and freedom with a gentle boldness that can only come from one who has walked the journey.
With straight talk, insightful biblical truths, and heart-aching stories of hope, Jo Ann leads you on the unparalleled adventure of finding your voice and using it to make a difference. Jo Ann helps you find healing, then leads you to help others do the same. You will learn how to overcome life’s hurts. You will be moved to share the stories you’ve been hesitant to share—those healing stories that have the power to change both your life and the lives of others.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (October 8, 2013)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used . . .
powerlessness and silence go together.
I inched my way down the long hall, afraid to exhale. As I turned my head to make certain no one saw me, my shoulder brushed the cheap reproduction of the Creation painting hanging on the wall. I froze. My eyes locked onto the exit-door, a short five feet away from me.
I hope no one heard. I took a deep breath and another step forward.
“There you are.” My co-worker, Karen Trigg, stepped into the hallway wearing a warm smile that wrapped through to her hazel eyes. “A few of us are heading out for lunch in a bit; want to join us?”
That’s the last thing I want to do. I simply wanted to sneak out, grab something to eat without anyone noticing. I cannot believe I left my lunch at home—how stupid. I silently scolded myself—a habit that came all too easily.
“No, thanks.” I shifted my eyes toward the door and fumbled for my keys. “My lunch is in the car—forgot to bring it in this morning.”
A few weeks back, Karen had joined our office at the faith-based, non-profit organization where I worked. Things were much easier before she came; the executive director deferred to my preference to be alone. But then bubbly, I-have-a-perfect-life Karen showed up. Karen, who had a strong faith, a strong support system, and a strong marriage. Karen, who was making friends with everyone in record time.
The sun didn’t shine quite so brightly for me. Life was hard. I was married to a real Jekyll and Hyde who was sweet and charming one day and emotionally and physically abusive the next. He would ask for forgiveness and I’d give in, wanting to believe he would change. And he would . . . but not for long. I was convinced the abuse would end—that we would heal and have a good Christian marriage. But lately I questioned if anything I believed could be trusted.
My skittish circle-making around Karen’s repeat invitations continued. I dismissed her with a new excuse at every turn. Whatever it took—even if it was a lie.
As a peer, Karen was great. She was enthusiastic, detailed, punctual. Our joint projects ran smoothly; that was important to me. But those times she wanted to go deeper, that made me extremely uncomfortable.
One day, Karen stood in my office doorway. “I’m glad we were paired together on this new project. Wanna grab a cup of coffee after work? It would be nice to know each other better.”
I’d rather run, hide.
I managed to conceal my anxiety and addressed her matter-of-factly. “Karen, I just don’t have time for friendships.” I tucked my head down, looking at my day-planner, rubbing my hand over its open pages. I shifted uncomfortably in my rolling desk chair, hoping she would realize I wanted her to drop this whole connecting thing.
“Maybe there’s something I can help you do? Something that would free your schedule?”
“Thank you,” I said. “But this is stuff I have to do myself.”
“If you change your mind, I’m right down the hall.”
Don’t I know it. And how I wish you weren’t.
Words That Whisper from Within
Secretly, I envied women like Karen who were connectors. Women who had the fortunate knack of seeming to love everyone. Women with a stable husband and loving family. Women who seemed to connect with their husbands, with their children, and with, well, almost anyone, with relative ease. And perhaps what I envied most about connecty women was that they weren’t afraid to meet other women for lunch or coffee for fear of their secrets leaking out.
Karen could never understand what I’m going through, nor could anyone else. They would think it’s my fault. I was embarrassed, ashamed.
What if someone finds out, questions my position in ministry? I was a professional, a woman who held the attention of board members, CEO’s, and affluent donors at important meetings and fundraisers. I could never admit I was one of “those women”—battered wives whom others judged and whispered about, saying things like, “What’s wrong with her? Why doesn’t she just leave the jerk?”
My secret-guarding continued as I made countless excuses for why my family didn’t join the after-work get-togethers, and why I had so many hushed phone conversations with my husband during the day.
Karen’s obtrusive kindness and desire to connect ignited a familiar anxiety within me—I did not want to be “found out.”
This protective silence fell early in life, claiming its role as my closest companion. At ten-years-old, I wasn’t like the others. With my washed-out skin, freckle-blotched face, and reddish-orange hair, I was sometimes a target for the mean kids’ jokes. Oh I had friends; it’s just that I always seemed to shadow the “popular kids,” desperately wanting to be part of the “in” crowd.
But I had differences that ran much deeper than any physical appearance. I harbored some harrowing secrets about my father, and I was taught early on you don’t tell secrets. So, I faked a normalcy that hid the pain—a normalcy I would never feel.
For years silence was my willing guardian, shielding me from the shame of an abusive father, the disgrace of revealing family secrets, and the pain of a low self-worth. And now, with Karen pressing in, silence was once again my natural and welcome default—the familiar pain suppressing my heart.
There’s something that happens when silence hangs like shadows, when brokenness stains the spirit, when the lining of hope sheds from the heart.
The painful after-effects of emotional wounds permeate our souls, negatively impacting the choices we make and the way we live. When we abandon healthy boundaries at the first sign of resistance, always put ourselves last, or flat give up on our dreams, this should serve as a warning signal—an infectious silence that requires attention.
When we push aside certain wounds, they can become contaminated. Infected. These wounds then weep, leaking and spreading into other areas, requiring additional care and taking much longer to heal. Gone unchecked, these infections often become much worse than the original wound.
Do you still struggle with the fallout of a painful life event? I wonder if you have a weeping wound, an area in your life that is still contaminated.
Stepping into Our Scars
Life leaves scars—we all have our stories. But healed scars don’t hurt; they’re closed, insensitive to touch. A reminder of something that once was. I have places on my body from bike wrecks, surgeries, and maybe even a dog bite, but those wounds are healed, closed off by scars. Not too long ago though, I had an open wound on my body and when I touched it, it hurt like crazy. I was obnoxiously overprotective of my sore spot, not allowing anyone near for fear they would bump it and make me hurt all over again.
If there is something in the recesses of our minds (those places we don’t let others see) that shoots pain when it is “touched,” we are still wounded. The best way to clean this sort of wound like this is to properly flush it out.
Nature could tutor us in this area, this healing of hurts. In his book Waking the Tiger, therapist and educator Dr. Peter Levine suggests we could learn a valuable lesson from the instinctive behavior of animals. Those in the wild apparently hold an innate capacity to both process and transform traumatic life experiences.
There is a healing power that lies in the release of bound emotions.
A gradual, intentional release of energy must take place before we can be healed. Contrary to what we’ve heard, this licking our wounds is not always a self-pity thing. It is appropriate, necessary, to give ourselves room to address emotional pain so that we can heal and move forward.
In his studies, Dr. Levine noticed how most animals experience physical tremors after surviving a near death pursuit. Once they escaped becoming someone’s dinner, they ran around, shook, cried aloud—whatever it took to release the enormous amount of negatively charged emotions that had overpowered them during the chase.
If for some reason the animal failed to process this compressed energy, and tried to return to his regular life still hyped up, he simply couldn’t survive. If he didn’t do this release-dance, these fragments of trauma eventually destroyed his ability to live a normal life.
“(There has to be a) mechanism that’s there to bring us back from the brink of insanity, the brink of fear and experience of threat to balance,” Dr. Levine said. “A threatened human must discharge all the energy mobilized . . . this residual energy does not simply go away.”1
Ever hope if we ignore things long enough they will eventually go away?
Are we lying to ourselves? Suppressing unresolved hurts, believing that’s what we’re supposed to do?
If we deny our emotions long enough, our hearts eventually line up with the lie that we have to keep this pain hidden. But we can’t.
It’s simply not possible to disconnect ourselves completely from those people and things which comprise our past just by salvation or the years between us . . . they can still be affecting our attitudes, behaviors, personalities, fears, relational ability, health, or view of the world, and of God. 2
I have my days when I feel a little crazy myself, out of balance, fearful and hyped-up. It’s then I know that I’ve stuffed something, failed to process a hurt. Like adjusting a rear-view mirror to eliminate those pesky blind spots, sometimes we have to take a look back at our scars to make sure there’s nothing coming, nothing sneaking up on us that could cause a crash.
Not that we look back to hyper analyze, or to get stuck in the pain, we look back only to better understand the link between what’s happened and any negative influences that are making their way into our lives.
Those things we stuff and try so hard to ignore, they are the very things begging for release—the things that hold the promise of hope, the flame of freedom.
Winning Best-Dressed at the Masquerade Ball
“I was three when I bit my four-year-old step-sister for taking my tricycle,” my friend Lisa Easterling recently shared. “My step-father, Jim, came out of nowhere. He kept hitting me over and over; I didn’t know if he was ever going to stop. I turned black and blue from the waist down and although my mother cried, she feared crossing him. I feared Jim more than I’d ever feared anything, and hated him even more than that.”
The original lie, sewn by Jim but watered by Lisa’s wounded thinking: “I dare not open my mouth in protest. Ever.”
If any remnant of Lisa’s voice remained after Jim’s angry beating, it would soon be wiped out. Starting at age six, another family member sexually abused Lisa for five years.
If you tell on me, they’ll send me to jail—and that will upset everyone. The lie of Lisa’s abuser played repeatedly in her mind, frightening her and guilting her into silence.
That lie set the stage for a lifelong aversion to confrontation of any kind, the emotional paralysis lingering into her later years.
“Either I feared retaliation, or I felt guilty for upsetting someone or getting them into trouble. My nurturing nature was twisted like a gun-barrel back into my face. Silence was safer and kept everyone happy—or at least not angry at me.”
Manipulative fear often neutralizes the rational voice, rendering it ineffective.
Why do we so easily buy into lies? These falsehoods that paralyze us, make us feel insignificant or confused—the ones that come so easy? The things we learn at an early age can determine life-attitudes. We have to “unlearn” these things, develop new attitudes based on truth.
This fatal falling for lies was modeled for us long ago in a beautiful garden where Eve was tricked, deceived.3 Eve—the first woman, first wife, first mother, and the first one of us to fall for an ugly lie. That day Satan met Eve in the garden, he brought a convincing argument, one intended to lead her, and any of us who would follow, away from God’s truth.
I mean, really—the woman was in a beautiful, perfect environment with the perfect man. I can’t think of anything more satisfying than a clean house and a hot husband who loves you. Eve had both. And there wasn’t another woman alive that she had to compare herself with. Can we say heaven on earth? Yet Satan found a way to convince her she deserved more. That somehow she didn’t measure up, and God was holding out on her.
Unfortunately Eve’s choice to believe that lie was one emotionally expensive lesson with some far-reaching consequences.
She fell right into Satan’s plan.
She influenced someone else (Adam) to accept a lie.
She re-routed God’s plans for her, and her family.
She gave in to fear.
She withdrew from God.
She blamed someone else for her mistakes.
She, and her family, suffered long-term emotional pain.
Sound familiar? Ah, the cancerous power of lies: shame and blame, deceit and manipulation, fear and control. A life lived outside of God’s plan. How many of us are doing the same thing? Cowering to fear, falling for lies?
Sometimes we cling to silence (no matter how terrible) simply because it’s familiar. While miserable, life is at least predictable, and if we try to change, it may prove too painful, right? This is a lie; the same sort of lie that tripped Eve.
God’s not holding out on us—his plan is good. We’ve got to learn to trust him. It’s time to stop masquerading, to drop our happy-face masks and confront reality. To take a 180-degree turn toward freedom and genuine joy.
Ironically, the masks we hide behind were originally associated with freedom—the very thing we’re chasing. Masquerade balls go back to medieval times where royal families and upper class were laced in glamour and drama. Anonymously hidden behind elaborate masks, royalty escaped the strict etiquette of the day-to-day rules.
Today’s masks carry no such freedom, only a crippling pretense. Convinced we must behave a certain way to get our needs met, we stand with a closet full of ready-to-wear painted disguises.
Recognize yourself in any of these?
The People Pleaser—I will do whatever it takes to make you happy, to keep the environment calm, safe, and stress-free. I will sacrifice my own needs in order to meet yours. When I do, you will love me.
The Approval Addict—I need you to think highly of me, to always accept me. I will, at all costs, seek your approval. The more you validate me, the more I am motivated to pursue your praise.
The Performer—I need to be productive. I cannot fail, especially in front of you. I often fake a super-competency I don’t feel, because, after all, my worth is determined by my success.
The At-All-Costs Attractive—To gain your acceptance or love, I must be beautiful—or as close as I can get anyway. It is my duty. I must hide any flaws, imperfections, and anything that would not be pleasing to you.
The Perfectionist—I must stay in control. Do everything right. Regardless of the burden of responsibility I take on, I press forward. I won’t ask you to help me, for I fear you won’t be able to do it right. Yet, I crave your help. Your love. Your acceptance.
How elaborately we dance, pretending to be anyone but ourselves, spinning alongside others we think we know but really don’t. Performing for acceptance, compromising for love. Always wondering if we’re good enough, pretty enough, smart enough.
We’re not-so-secret wrecks. We all know it, but we don’t talk about it. Instead, we grab the mask that hides what we lack. And if one mask doesn’t work, we mask our masks. Everyone does it. We expect them to. If they stopped, we might have to.
We intend to hide our shortcomings and the fear inside our hearts; instead we hide our beauty, our true selves.
The View from Behind the Mask
Lord, I prayed one morning driving to work, I feel so cut off from everyone. Especially you. Don’t you see what I’m going through? How can you not intervene? Can’t you help me find a way out of this? If you are everywhere, and can do anything, where are you now?
Many times anger and confusion have driven me right into Satan’s plans, into his waiting arms where I believed his lies. Just as many times, I’ve reached for my masks.
No, really, things are okay. I can do this. Lots of people have it worse than me; this isn’t so bad. I’m capable, confident. I’m a survivor. I don’t need anyone.
False beliefs and soul-scars from my childhood had convinced me I could never measure up, but my masks promised otherwise. I could be that person others expected me to be. I could be calm and always happy. Meticulously put-together. Syrupy sweet. Wildly successful without ever being afraid.
So, I ignored the face behind these masks, the real live me. And I traded my real self for a substitute. An artificial me that cared nothing about my dreams, about who I really was.
When wounds cut deep, the opinion of others sometimes matters most.
If we aren’t careful, we will allow these triggered-by-others insecurities to rewrite our life story. Just ask Adam and Eve. Remember that fateful day Satan convinced them God was lying, that he didn’t have their best interests at heart?
Later that evening when the breeze fell among the trees in the garden, God decided it was time to talk through the mess the couple had created. Adam tried to rationalize what he had done, but God holds him accountable.4
God wants to instill a holy confidence in us that keeps us from being deceived.
“I was afraid . . . I was naked and I hid,” Adam said.
“Who told you that?” God asked.
I just love the question. God well knew the source of their shackling guilt but I believe he wanted them to consider that someone else, a shrewd and conniving Enemy, had influenced their beliefs.
Today, God asks us the same thing, “Who told you that?”
Who has lied to us, diminishing or ignoring our true worth?? Patronized or belittled us?
Who told you that you are worthless? Not good enough? Unlovable? That what you say doesn’t matter?
What life-messages are we responding to? Criticism from a cynical “friend”? A family-imposed silence? Shame from an abusive spouse? Close relationships with narcissists, know-it-alls, controlling or belittling people? A toxic religious system, even?
No matter who the messenger is, we must wrest ourselves from these grips of shame and fear that keep us from truth We must ask ourselves if these messages line up with what God says about us, with who he says we are?
Christian author and speaker Mary Demuth understands the fears of one who has had lies of worthlessness whispered to her soul. When she was only five, Mary was repeatedly raped by two neighborhood boys.
“Growing up, I had a monster-like fear of death,” Mary said. “At night, I shivered as I prayed prayers to ward off ghosts.”
A consuming fear followed Mary into her adult life, holding her hostage for years. Most nights, instead of sleeping, she imagined horrific things happening to her. Emotionally isolated and relationally inept, she walked many painful years in repressive denial—until she was willing to accept truth. Facing the truth changed her heart. Her mind. Her life.
“I avoided intimacy as much as I could so I wouldn’t rip open a festering wound I couldn’t handle,” Mary said. “But you need to be willing to ‘go there’ with Jesus. So many people aren’t healed because they are afraid to open up the can of worms of their past. I’m here to say, yes it will hurt, but that kind of hurt is what heals.
“We’ll never drink from the forest’s mountain spring if we don’t go through the tunnel. But most of us feel too afraid to step inside for fear of the dark; and the barren land—bleak as it is—has a staid familiarity about it. The truth? It’s dark in the tunnel. The hurt is intensified, especially when we can’t see the other side.”5
There are those times we’re afraid of the dark, but our fear doesn’t mean there is actually danger. God is in the darkness with us, and he can see. His very presence illuminates the dark, driving it out.
When One Lie Is Not Enough
When Satan asked Eve “Did God really say . . .” he was laying a foundation of doubt, something he could build on. From the beginning Satan whispered deception, attacking Eve’s confidence, making her question her ability to hear and understand God. With only four words he ripped a gaping hole in the first woman’s relationship with her Creator, and he’s been reopening that same wound in women ever since.
If Eve, tucked away in the realms of paradise, can be deceived, consider how much easier it is for those of us walking out ordinary, everyday lives.
Satan uses life’s hurts. From our wounds, he fashions a manipulative lie and wraps it secure around our hearts (the core of our souls). These deeply imbedded lies, planted as truth, shape our beliefs (our personalities).These lies grow invisibly in our root system, manipulating our behaviors.
What we believe dictates our behavior, training us to act, or react, in a certain way. If we are still controlled by the fallout of a particular event in our lives, chances are we never reached the bottom layer—the core lie from which everything is shaped.
I’m a recovering perfectionist. My default core lie is that I’m not good enough. My pursuit of perfection is actually a journey to somehow prove my worth. I often drive myself (and those around me) batty trying to be a super-achiever, controlling things I have no business controlling. All because of unreasonably high standards I long ago placed on myself.
While excellence is a respected virtue, it’s more than that with me. Those times I don’t have it all together, I sure want you to think I do. It’s actually painful for me to fail. (That’s when you know you’re out of bounds.) When I fail, my belief system tells me, “You see, you aren’t good enough!”
Truth is, we all make mistakes. I have to give myself grace, and respect. Do my best and not be afraid to grow publically.
The lies we believe stand behind every negative thought percolating in our minds. These beliefs limit what we think we deserve because of who we think we are.
Emotional wounds have their own convincing language, and too often we make decisions based on the voice of those wounds. It’s a survival code of sorts. For example, if someone we love betrays us, we may commit to never trust again. If someone rejects us, we decide we’ll never fit in no matter how hard we try. These crippling covenants we make with ourselves aren’t always cognizant choices, but they are choices still, and they have the power to separate us from the life God intends us to live.
Like weeds in a garden, Satan loves planting these little lies that choke out truth. And he’s thrilled when he manages to make the weeds so cute that it’s hard for us to tell the difference, hard to tell they are lies until they’ve already taken root.
I’m no gardener but I’ve learned the trick for getting rid of pesky weeds. Start with soft soil; the softer the soil the easier the process (bring your hearts tender as we dig in). Then, trace the roots back to where they first broke ground (ask God, when did I first believe this?). Gently twist the weeds and pull upwards—but not so hard they snap (allow truth to replace the lie). If you snap them off without going to the root, it only eliminates them temporarily and we don’t want these things growing back (allow God to complete the work).
The truth of God’s word cuts through the good and bad of our lives like a trowel digging up hard-to-remove weeds without damaging the plant.
Why Trusting Our Feelings Is Sometimes Dangerous
“Please, come away with me—bring your children with us.” Becky Spencer’s eyes met the plea of the songwriter she had worked closely with over the past months. Like a spike of water frozen in place, the words pierced her hungry heart. Becky had fallen in love and longed to run away.
There was a slight problem, though—her upcoming tenth wedding anniversary with her husband.
Various church projects had pitted a vulnerable Becky and her songwriter friend together. Conversations grew longer, deeper, and eventually intimate. Because of her love for God, she felt guilty, but the desire was stronger. Becky caved to the succulent feelings of validation and comfort, and found herself in an emotional affair. Unwilling to turn her back on God, she chose to remain in her marriage—but the choice infuriated her.
“God, you are a trickster—you duped me into marrying my husband. You don’t care about my feelings,” Becky said. “I’ll still read my Bible, but I don’t believe you will speak to me. Even if you do, I won’t believe you.”
Our lives are shaped by our thoughts. Focusing on miserable things makes one miserable, keeps us stuck in the hard places. There is an alternative when negativity overtakes our minds. We can switch the focus. We can allow God’s intentions to change our perspective. We must stop rehearsing the negative and reframe our lives with truth.
God’s truth dismantles a lie. Strips away its false sense of power.
I use a simple question when I’m stuck, when I need to redirect my thoughts: Is there another way to think about this?
How about we practice this? (Yes, it’s that important.)
Let’s consider some common faulty-thinking traps and reframe them with scriptures taken from The Message translation of the Bible.
Self-defeating thinking: When we default to automatic negative thoughts, when we sabotage the potential good.
Mental Trap: I simply can’t change.
Reframed Thought: When I fix my attention on God, I will be changed from the inside out (Romans 12:2).6
Emotional reasoning: When our feelings dictate our situation; if we feel it, it must be true.
Mental Trap: I must deserve this.
Reframed Thought: Through the grace of Jesus’ sacrifice, I am worthy of love. Whoever hurts me hurts God, and that can’t be good (Zechariah 2:8b).7
Conclusion-jumping: Without facts to support our assumption, we interpret things negatively and anticipate the worst.
Mental Trap: People will think I’m dumb; they will never listen to me.
Reframed Thought: God himself gives me wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30).8
Over-generalizations: When we think “always” and “never.” We tend to consider one event as the catalyst to an on-going, never-changing pattern.
Mental Trap: I can never say anything right; I may as well not ever speak up.
Reframed Thought: God will give me the words and wisdom that will reduce my accusers to stammers and stutters (Luke 21:15).9
All-or-Nothing thinking: When we think in extremes, view everything as black or white, good or bad—no gray areas. The times a simple setback seems a complete failure.
Mental Trap: I messed up again; I may as well give up.
Reframed Thought: I may not have it together, but I am well on my way . . . God is beckoning me forward. I’m off and running and not turning back (Philippians 3:13-14).10
Please don’t write this exercise off as simple inspiration, as another good-girl “to-do.” No matter how bad the hurt in your life is or has been, this is our kickoff to emotional wholeness. We will learn to control our emotions by reframing lies with God’s truth. Being equipped with the truth will give us the power to change our lives.
My friend Becky made a powerful choice in spite of her feelings—she maintained communication with God.
“That (connection) allowed me to process the pain and find answers, much like a new mother who eats properly and takes her vitamins. As a mother processes the food, she provides nourishment for her own health and her suckling baby,” Becky said. “My wounds became a window to my soul, then a door of invitation for God to move.
“God gave me promises for my marriage. And, he showed me how we can be taught, as women, to love our husbands. I didn’t know that could be taught. I thought you either did or didn’t love your husband and that was that.
“God instructed me to do for my husband the things I wanted to do for the other man I’d fallen in love with. Honestly, it made me sick to my stomach. But God blessed my obedience. My feelings toward my husband changed; and I eventually fell in love with him—and learned that God had my best interest at heart all along.”
God is greater than our feelings—the Bible tells us so.
Conditioning Ourselves for an Optimal Life
Over the years, I’ve noticed a surprising link between the numbers of women who have been emotionally wounded that also suffer with a chronic illness.
That equation includes me.
A war between lies and truth led me to my own ultimate battle for not just my emotional health, but my physical well-being.
My life had spun out of control like some tornado-ravished midwestern town. Joy-thief that he is, a chronic illness mocked my attempts at maintaining a normal life, stole my ability to travel, poisoned personal aspirations, and threatened intimate relationships. Robbed of much, I gravitated toward a dark discouragement.
Many times I recited to God, slowly and emphatically, all the hard places I’d been, all the tight spots I’d endured. I paraded before him my trophies of survival: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, depression and post-trauma stress. And now, this illness that was threatening my life?
How much can a woman be expected to endure, God?
It was time to untwist my thinking. But how?
One day as I flipped through a magazine, an article caught my attention. The author, Bill Irwin, was a certified Counselor who practiced his profession by merging a former discipline of Clinical Chemistry with counseling skills and his faith in God. In the feature, Bill explained how most health issues are directly linked with a non-satisfying personal relationship, the adverse stress serving as a negative modulator on our immune systems. Bill went on to suggest that we have considerably more control than we realize over the way we act and think, and that our total outlook directly impacted our health.
We could choose to think differently.
For someone struggling with ongoing disappointment and negativity, that sounded a little too good to me. I contacted Bill to further examine his theory; luckily he agreed to chat.
“The body has a unique ability to heal itself from most anything provided we line it up under God’s mandated balance,” Bill said. “We must bring all the elements of our basic needs into balance, the body, mind, psyche, and spirit.”
How much was I sacrificing with my out-of-balance life? The fatigue, the pain, the frustration—were they a strong enough motivator for me to consider real change?
“You have to make intentional choices,” Bill said. “The type of choices that bring your life into balance spiritually, physically, emotionally, and mentally. It’s going to take discipline. But if you can learn to hold to the promises of scriptures and make certain behavioral changes, you will effectively take control of your life.”
Living like we matter is an intentional step, one that gets us where we need to be.
For years, my thinking was skewed. I wanted to change, but I didn’t have the tools to do it on my own. A hand of hope grabbed my heart—here was my how. Bill would help me. Bill who was faith-filled, passionate, inspiring.
Yes, God’s plan was for a blind man to help me see. Made sense, really. I had many of my own blind spots; unruly raw-to-the-core emotions tucked in deep places that discredited any budding hope of emotional wholeness. But if Bill didn’t use blindness as an excuse, how could I?
How Right-Thinking Fuels Our Dreams
Although blind and dependent on others, Bill enjoyed a unique level of freedom most of us only dream of. He was the only blind person to ever thru-hike the 2,168 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
Blindness wasn’t Bill’s first taste of a handicap, though. Alcoholism, loneliness, and childhood abuse substantially impaired his earlier years. But his life was radically altered when he learned he could make a conscious choice to think different thoughts about past experiences, and that this new perspective would dramatically impact the quality of his life.
More proof (in case we need it) that our thoughts shape our reality.
It’s not our external circumstances that dictate our quality of life, but rather our response to those circumstances,” Bill said.
Every day we have a choice, and the choices we make dictate our future.
Bill’s words wrapped hope fresh around a painfully raw heart. For years, I nurtured a decided bent toward self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. I focused on my misery as I complained of powerlessness. I felt ashamed. Silenced.
To think I was somehow contributing to that unhappiness? Imagine—a chosen misery. How does one respond to news like that?
Will we focus on our weakness, the powerlessness, or will we consider it an opportunity?
I won’t patronize (I wouldn’t dare). Escaping negatively charged, emotionally disruptive memories is hard. All firsts are hard. But do you desire real change? Long to grow?
For me, a recovering control-freak and type-A over-achiever, it was difficult to accept that emotional healing was not some task-driven process. That I couldn’t just check this one off my list as I completed the necessary steps. But I could make better choices. And if God’s essential truths governed those choices, I would walk in the freedom and joy I have long craved.
I’m sharing my story and others to offer you credentials. A resume of sorts. We get it—we’ve been there. We’ve made it through this, and so can you.
But not alone.
When we’ve been hurt, it’s hard to trust. When I trusted folks I got hurt, so I learned to depend on myself. To lean on what I could do on my own. I tried to convince myself (and others) how very capable I was.
It didn’t work.
God already knew I would develop this stubborn streak. Thousands of years ahead of me, he planted instruction in a little quiet Proverb: Trust in me. Do not lean on yourself. (See Proverbs 3:5.)
Those times we think we can make it through life’s hurts without leaning on God, trusting him—how prideful of us. We can do nothing meaningful without him. Nothing. When we truly understand that, we find it much easier to lean into him, lean like we mean it.
As we fully surrender to God’s working in our lives, he somehow molds these hurts of life, uses them to chisel our voice. A voice that later inspires others to do the same.
God, are you there? I imagine we should talk.
There are these words that sit lodged in my throat, clutching at my heart, begging for release. This pain, it’s always on the verge of speaking, even when I try to silence it. These hopes and dreams for my future, I can remember them even now, though life has tried its best to stamp them out.
But I’m afraid, Lord.
It’s easier to be what I “should be,” say what I “should say,” hide away, lying to myself and trusting wrong feelings.
I need your help. Really, I’m desperate for your intervention, your healing. I want to be that woman, the one who made it through to the other side of the craziness in her life. The one who, yes, may have been hurt, but because you reworked her heart she stands whole. Emotionally whole. Free.
I don’t understand these things that have happened in my life. How do I trust you—fully trust you the way you ask—with this lingering pain, doubt, and confusion in the recesses of all that I think and do?
Help me to gently probe these deep pockets of pain that remain. Not so I can linger in the pain of the scars, but so that I can identify these negative behaviors that are blocking me from the freedom you designed for me to live in. Help me to stop living my life based on my feelings. To replace lies with truth.
I want to be whole. In fear, I commit this healing journey to you. With you leading, I will walk it. Please bring me out of the other side free. Safe, validated, and respected. Significant. Worthy. Authentic, secure, and emotionally whole.
Thank you, Lord, for the work you are about to do in me.
With an open heart I pray. Amen.
The Voice Studio: Responding to God’s Call to Develop Our Voice
Recognizing the Powerlessness of Silence
Have you ever felt forced to keep a secret? Intimidated or shamed into keeping something quiet? What was it? How does it make you feel to write it out now? Does that secret filter into your daily life—the way you see things, choices you make?
How do you handle shame? A sense of powerlessness and frustration?
Do you ever feel like you should “be over this by now?” If so, why do you think you aren’t over it? Is the push to be “over this” external (coming from someone else) or internal (coming from within yourself)? Does the notion discourage you? What is your response to this idea?
Did you recognize yourself in any of the masks—the people-pleaser, perfectionist, or others? How do these masks seem to help you cope with any lingering pain?
What mental traps are you aware of? What action steps can you take to overcome those?
Have you made any sort of covenant with yourself? Never to trust? Never to love again? What lie triggered that response?
What is your most common default thinking pattern? Example: There’s no need to try and change. Do you feel like that thought-pattern is in line with God’s Word? Why or why not?
What boundaries would you put into place if you felt like you could?
Are you ready to go beyond a routine relationship with God into a genuine healing experience? Can you think of some ways you could prepare yourself for this journey?
Why does your voice matter? Locate and memorize one scripture that reminds you of the importance of using your voice for God.
1 Peter Levine, Waking the Tiger (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1997), 20.
2 Jimmy Evans, Marriage Today broadcast
3 See Genesis. 3
4 “Genesis 3:11(The Message)” on Bible Gateway, accessed 1/13/2013, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%203:11&version=MSG
5 Mary DeMuth, “Opening the Door to Healing,”Marriage Partnership, accessed 1/14/2013, http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2008/september/14.38.html
6 “Romans 12:2 (The Message)” on Bible Gateway, accessed 1/13/2013, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%2012:2&version=MSG
7 “Zachariah 2:8b (The Message)” on Bible Gateway, accessed 1/13/2013, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Zac%202:8&version=MSG
8 1 Corinthians 1:30
9 “Luke 21:15 (The Message)” on Bible Gateway, accessed 1/13/2013, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke%2021:15&version=MSG
10 “Philippians 3:13-14 (The Message)” on Bible Gateway, accessed 1/13/2013, http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=philippians%202:13-14&version=MSG