Haven’t we dumbed down faith into clichés of, “moving on” without focusing on the past? There must be something really scary about looking into our pasts if we can’t do it as a body of believers. After all, many of us have come from dysfunctional families into church so we can make sense of what happened to us as children; we seek family in others by starting relationships of love and acceptance all over again. Yet, we lack grace and understanding for the one with an eating disorder, the one who looks at porn, the victim of abuse, the one caught in adultery, the one who is too emotional, the one who is less fortunate, the one who is sickly, the one who is obviously addicted, not to mention anyone who seems unlovable. And I’ve heard it preached from hundreds of pulpits, “forgive and forget, move on, otherwise your whole life becomes sin”. I hardly find that motivation for seeking out a loving Father who understands where we have come from, what we have come from and what He calls us to. This blatant disregard for the childhood pain we hold in our bodies as adults is exactly why hearts remain cold and fearful of intimacy. We manifest in coping mechanisms that bring us shame and sorrow, so we repent like good little Christians only to fall again the next day. Nobody truly knows how to live life through freedom if he applies the Word without a relationship. Freedom is a result of the inner child being healed so he can maturely walk in faith as an adult. Getting over the past requires breathing life into the parts that died in you long ago.
Trying to end my healing process became the focus for way too long. I thought I could purge all of my pain if I focused on it and got rid of it quickly, just like I had done with food so many times. Much of my cycles of starvation, bingeing and exercising were fueled by the intensity of my anxiety and extreme self-hatred. For most of my life I was trying to perfect myself with reminders of failures and condemnation to keep myself in check. If I was aware of my sin then maybe I would sicken myself of it and change. But contrary to church beliefs, choosing not to sin is a subject too deep to grasp. If repentance and choosing to be different, were steps toward wholeness, than every believer would overcome sin through knowledge. Isn’t that what we have made it? Don’t we westernize religion through acknowledging a wrong, turning from the bad behavior and walking out in freedom after breaking vows, renouncing curses and mourning what we’ve lost? Yet even if we go through all the programs and pray the right prayers, we still hurt and hurt others. However we choose to sin, our actions are just revealing a symptom of deep-rooted beliefs that fight for our attention. If our basic trust needs weren’t met when we were little by those who were supposed to meet them, we came up with substitutions on our own. Many of us are walking wounded because coping mechanisms have replaced our ability to feel connected to God, others and most importantly ourselves. My eating disorder kept me from dismantling lies I had about myself because food numbed my emotions. I wasted years going through my judgments and breaking curses related to my “sinful” behavior because nobody in church was equipped to lead me into the presence of Jesus and find healing for my inner self.
It was about “getting right, and getting over it”, so I could apply scripture to life and get on with ministry. If I indulged in a sundae but didn’t gain a pound I could wipe my brow and think, “I got away unscathed”, until the next situation occurred that triggered a memory and made me feel small again. I didn’t always have words for what I was struggling with inside, I just knew it felt familiar. It didn’t dawn on me that my reactions were childlike because I was in an adult body, but my fear, panic and anger represented the cry of my inner child. I was so hungry for love and acceptance, to be able to trust myself, that when it seemed impossible, I would act out. It wasn’t just with food, it was with everything. I was afraid of making decisions and many times feared making the wrong one. Trusting my ability to discern often became overwhelming and not choosing made me susceptible to feeling powerless. I could turn anything into a habit, hang-up or sinful thought, which greatly influenced my inability to function as a grown-up. It wasn’t until many people in church gave up on me, counselors referred me to different specialists, friends stopped talking to me and I finally stopped fixing myself, that I met myself.
There I was, small, little Angie. I could see her in my mind as I closed my eyes and felt around for a descriptive emotion. Adult Angie was bloated, even though it was mid-afternoon and she hadn’t eaten anything yet. She hates breakfast; something about it makes her gag reflex jump a million miles a minute, not to mention her stomach pangs reminding her of the extra ice cream that sits in it from the night before. As little Angie got in touch with these routine symptoms that felt too heavy to carry, she wept in defenselessness. Torrents of apathy, confusion and fear began to beat wildly in her heart, she felt as if she was suffocating, so her thoughts began chasing any relief like a back and forth wind. She collapsed, mourning another episode of detachment and abandonment from people she longed to know intimately, who could not give her what her inner spirit, desperately longed for. For the first time, the adult Angie went to her inner child in sympathy and with an empathetic gesture. Present Angie knelt in front of her inner child and touched her chin, lifted her head and gently wiped her tears away. Then she held her inner- self tightly, she didn’t dare want to let go. All of her sadness and grief, disappointment and fear were lifted off the confused little girl who believed something was wrong with her, and they both wept. Big Angie would pull back between squeezes to look little Angie in the eyes and affirm her, telling her, “it wasn’t her fault”, while reminding her how precious she was.
Under the blue sky that Sunday afternoon, Daddy filled my heart with such peace as He ushered me into my past memory. Jesus was there and it became an introduction to knowing me for who I truly am. It was so satisfying to trust His lead and visit the pain that I was used to denying. Sure, I had sifted through my life events before, but it was always from a perspective of the wounded adult trying to assess my life from a cognitive approach so I could be in better standing with God. I had done more repenting than I could shake a stick at, but it never brought me closer to the inner child who was calling out to me my whole life. I wasn’t able to “just get over my past” through a blanket prayer of forgiving it, because Daddy’s still, small voice was silenced each time I tried. He was with me through every circumstance I endured throughout my life that built a barrier to finding my true self. Yet, His compassion and understanding for the places I’ve been, directed my heart toward the inner voice that often went unheard. I had no idea that a few hours basking in the sun would be the key that unlocked a lifetime of childhood pain.
The more I listen to my inner child’s voice, the stronger her advocacy becomes for me to exercise decisions as an adult, because I will never have to live through that childhood experience again. Now I get to heal it as I look back on it. No longer will I have to quiet her voice as she tries to get louder through my actions, demanding to be heard or seen. I can participate in validating her little emotions trapped inside my adult body so that ailments, hyper-vigilance and avoidance, no longer remain necessary. Her voice is talking and it is telling me to open up to Daddy’s healing in a brand new way instead of trying to end it. I get to nurture myself as a loving protector and be my answer. For all that I lacked I get to give back: a mother, a friend, a teacher, relief, healing, peace and joy. I can even introduce her to Jesus, who helped me see my Heavenly Father differently from my earthly one. And I can keep on doing it, as many times as needed.