Maybe Jesus teaches this process of confrontation and reconciliation because there are such cosmic consequences to ignoring conflict and pain. When we bury our hurts, sweep our conflicts under the rug, not only do we stay bound, we keep the perpetrators of hurts bound to us. No one is free.
I believe that what God wants most for us is freedom. I have seen the process of healing and forgiving result in amazing freedom for people, huge releasing of energy and giftedness, new ability to see, to hope, to live. As I reflect on this, I keep thinking of stories of survivors of sexual abuse and trauma. (The next two paragraphs contain nothing explicit, but if this is a sensitive area for you, read with care.)
I once prayed for months with a woman who had endured sexual abuse throughout her life – people who have been victimized as children often suffer similar abuse in adulthood. This woman saw herself more as victim than survivor, and harmed herself as well. One time I said something about moving toward forgiveness. She turned on me in fury and said, “They told me in my support group that I don’t ever have to forgive!” I backed down, thinking, “That is true – but then will you ever be free?” Forgiveness cannot be rushed, but to close ourselves to it leaves us bound to people who have hurt us.
Years later I met another woman. She and her two sisters had been sexually abused throughout childhood by her father and grandfather, who were still alive and in the family. She had done the excruciating work of addressing those wounds and moving toward healing, and had come to forgive her abusers. She did not trust or get close to them, and worked to ensure the safety of children in the family system, but over time she released the awful burden of their crimes. And then she was no longer psychically connected to them – forgiveness meant freedom from them. Her sisters refused to do this work; one was deeply alcoholic and the other suicidal. As brutal as it is to work at healing from trauma, it is a movement toward freedom, and life.
Many of us have not experienced trauma this severe – but we might feel bound in some way by a hurt we have suffered or anger we continue to hold. Usually the anger is justified; it can still be corrosive over time. Today, we might let some of those stuck places come up in our mind, and pray about forgiving people who have hurt us, or ask forgiveness of those whom we have hurt. If we ask the Spirit to show us those things, they often emerge from the muck.
Inner healing is a powerful process of bringing the love of God to bear on our emotional wounds. I have witnessed tremendous transformation result from the healing of memories and specific areas of woundedness. (If you want to know more about this process, please contact me.)
As we release that healing stream of God’s love and power to soak into hidden wounds and resentments, life returns to parched places, and old knots become unwound so that peace can flood in. “It is for freedom that Christ has made us free,” Paul wrote. Jesus has won for us freedom to release ourselves and others. Let’s set the captives free.