“If you are human, you have experienced trauma,” I heard the professor say to the class. I was sitting in a graduate level counseling class, one that was needed in order for me to take the state licensing exam. It was strangely comforting to hear my professor’s statement. I knew I had experienced some traumatic events in years past, but because I kept them private, I often felt alone and isolated in dealing with the after effects. Has every single person really experienced trauma? If so, then I wasn’t alone, I thought. But why did everyone else seem so….fine? Even, happy? Well-adjusted? Normal? And I did not? At least, I certainly didn’t feel that way on the inside.
I realized once again that we all use different coping mechanisms, strategies of behavior, to survive in life. Behaviors that might look to others like we “have it all together.” Of course, I took part in that mirage, as well. I wore a mask in order to appear “fine.” Only those closest to me knew the struggles I battled on the inside. For example, the fear of failure, fear of rejection, a perfectionistic approach to my work and home projects, the criticism that I heaped upon myself daily. It was as if I believed deep down that if I could be perfect (whatever perfect is!) then bad things wouldn’t happen. If I wasn’t perfect, then I felt vulnerable to the possibility of being rejected, shamed, tossed aside, and left feeling unworthy of love and acceptance.
Being aware of these inward beliefs and behavior patterns did not set me free from their bondage. The thing is, I knew the Gospel, I had tasted the love and mercy of Christ, I had served and volunteered in my church. Yet I had not experienced a deep level of transformation to where I could be free to take the mask off. A deep root of fear still operated in my life.
God speaks to Israel in Isaiah 43 during their captivity in Babylon. He reminds Israel that He created and formed the Israelites; He is their Creator. He says to “fear not, for I have redeemed you.” In other words, “Don’t give in to fear, don’t let it overwhelm or control you. Trust in Me, My voice, My love that never fails. I am FOR you. Not only have I redeemed you, but I have redeemed everything you have been through. I have already paid the price for you to walk in freedom from your past.”
Spiritual and emotional transformation requires us to bring these hidden parts of ourselves into the light…into the light of God’s healing presence, and the light of safe and grace-filled community. When we acknowledge our needs, mistakes, wounds, and fears, and let ourselves receive acceptance from others, we experience a little more freedom. When we begin to hear the gentle voice of the Father, who reassures us of His unconditional love and delight, we experience a little more wholeness & healing on the inside. When we imagine the tender embrace of God, or sense Him weeping with us over our wounds or mistakes, we experience a little more comfort and joy on the inside. Fear continues to loosen its grip on the inside of us as we choose to connect with the experience of God’s grace, through His presence and His people. Because God has done this over and over for me, I have a passion to help others experience this same level of soul healing. While I have not “arrived” (we never will this side of heaven), I’m not a captive to my past hurts and fears like I used to be.
What wounds or fears linger in your life? Are there disappointments, mistakes, or hurts that keep you from experiencing freedom and healing “on the inside?” Take the next step, and trust God to meet you through counseling or spiritual direction. He is waiting, ready to wrap His loving arms around you, and set you free on the inside.
Karen Weeks is a Professional Counselor whose passion is to help people achieve wholeness and wellbeing through pursuing a right relationship with God, self and others. She finds it rewarding to help people improve dysfunctional communication patterns with significant others and to connect with each other in a way that brings greater emotional intimacy & harmony. One of her favorite scripture verses is John 10:10, “ The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”