My journey in spiritual and emotional healing ...
Recently, I read Proverbial Wife's very insightful post on her personal experience of counselling, and decided that I would share my own journey in this regard. In fact, one reason for me to start this blog is my desire to share and journal my life-journey through the pain and hardships as well as the blessings and joys.
A few years ago, I was taking an online course from FullerOnline, an excellent course authored by Bobby Clinton on Leadership Development. Clinton is the author of such books as The Making of a Leader and co-author of Connecting: The Mentoring Relationship you need to Succeed in Life.. Part of the course requirements included writing a personal biography and applying the principles of leadership development learned in the course onto one's own life story. I found it hard going as I reflected on what God had been teaching me over the course of my life. Halfway through the course, I found myself bawling my eyes out each time I went to my computer to work on the lessons. Towards the end of the semester, my instructor advised me to go for therapy as she said that she had never read anyone's life story with so much incidents of "loss" in it, and suggested that it is probably a good idea that I seek counselling to process my past and pain. I did not realize how important those words were. While on the one hand, I realized that it is probably prudent to take the advice of a professional who has "been there and done that," I was also a little hesitant about the costs of counselling sessions.
Not long afterwards, I visited a church fellowship that sponsored a series of teaching sessions from Resurrected Life Ministries on the healing of the body, spirit and mind. Through the teachings of Molly Sutherland, I came to a whole new appreciation of the meaning of Christ's death and the efficacy of his healing, not just physically and spiritually but also psychologically.
In fact, one of the constant struggles I had during that period was griefing for my mom's death which ocurred a few years prior to that. My grief was not just for my mom's passing, as painful as that experience was, but also for some very perverse and selfish reasons. Let me explain. A recurring image in my mind was a few days before my mom slipped into eternity when she was hanging onto my arms and screaming at me to "Save her." I felt powerless as I saw the fear in my mom's eyes. I was paralyzed. I wanted so much to ask her to trust in Jesus, but words couldn't come out of my mouth. I was devastated that as a filial son of a Chinese family, I wasn't able to save my own mom. I felt ashamed as a Christian in a non-Christian family that I was unable to lead my mom to Christ. Even after a report by the missionary nurse who shared that she was able to share with mom the following day, and mom had then acknowledged Christ as Savior, the joy was only momentary. As soon as we heard the news, we organized for a Chinese speaking pastor to come to the hospital bed to speak to mom. She was already in a coma by then, but she was able to initially respond to our calling out to her. We asked mom to blink her eyes if she could hear us. She did. We introduced the pastor and the pastor proceeded to talk to mom. The pastor explained if she so desired and if she acknowledged Christ as Savior then he would baptise her. No response. He tried a few more times, but there was no response from mom. We called her name. No response. Did mom hear us but refused to acknowledge Christ? The nurse had reported that she did acknowledge wanting Christ in her heart the day before. Did she make the commitment? Is she really saved? Those questions haunted me. I felt miserable that as a Christian, I had not been able to lead my mom to Christ before she died. Perhaps all this has to do with my evangelical heritage and makeup. So, as you can see, I was carrying a lot of baggage, although most of it can be attributed to self-imposition and pride. Whatever the source, it was real pain and grief that was haunting me daily. I was also hurting from the fact that mom's death was untimely, that she had to suffer so much pain and agony in the last few months of her life, that dad and the rest of us missed her so much. I was grieving from inumerable hurts and pains.
The way the healing took place was especially significant to me. Molly had just completed her first teaching session. During the session, I had heard her teach about the power of Christ to heal and about the need for us to appropriate the healing power of Christ to our lives. She also referred to the need for us to stand in Christ, independent from our adolescent dependence to our parents, and be our own adult person in Christ, in fullness of adulthood and making a conscious decision in our minds to follow Christ and allow His Spirit to rule in us. In fact, as I tended to do in those days, as I sat there listening, I had analyzed her lesson in my mind, offering silent critiques and ways to improve and organize the lesson, or to put things in a different way, sometimes questioning the theological basis of her assertions and other time, the logic of her presentation. As I sat through the session, very little was happening at the heart level. It was at that point very much an intellectual, cerebral exercise.
At the end of the lesson plan, Molly said that her lessons are incomplete without practical application. She asked for a volunteer to come forward to the front for "prayer ministry" so that she can pray for that person and for her to demonstrate the application of her lessons in holistic healing. In a very strange but vivid way, I heard the Spirit prompt me, "I want YOU on that chair!" I dismissed it immediately as this was the first day that I had stepped into this church and the people there were strangers to me. "All the more easy for Me to work with you!" I heard the Spirit nudge. I ignored Him. I veered my eyes when Molly's eyes made contact, as she scanned the room, looking for the elusive volunteer. The Spirit's urgings were firm, constant but gentle. I could feel my heart pounding and see my shirt throbbing along with my chest. But still I resisted. Finally, someone put up his hands to volunteer, followed by another. I let out an inaudible sigh of relief. As the class broke up for ten minutes of coffee break, I rose from my seat, and as I did so a smiling cheerful lady sitting in front of me turned around, looked me in the eyes, and sincerely asked, "Hi, would you like to have prayer ministry today?" I looked at her, hesitated, smiled and said sheepishly, "I wouldn't mind, I suppose!" So, she went up and said, "Hey we have another volunteer here." Initially I thought I was safe since strictly speaking I was the third to volunteer, when Molly said that we really only have time for one person for the practical prayer ministry. But then she said, since we have three volunteers, we will draw lots. We will put a number each on three sheets of paper, fold them up and put them in a basket. She would then lay hands on them and pray over them. Then we will ask the three volunteers to pick one piece of paper each. The person who picked the number "1" will have the privilege to take part in the practical prayer ministry. When I heard that, I knew in my heart that it would be me who would be picked. And, sure enough after we had gone through the motions, mine was the one left with number "1". The Lord works in mysterious ways!
Molly had us all re-arrange the seating, so that she and I were seated in the center with the rest of the group seated around in a circle. She commenced by asking a series of family of origin type questions, and then proceeded to zero in on my issues - which had to do with my grief, my recurrent flashbacks to my mom's cries for help and my helplessness, and most of all, my guilt about being an unfilial Chinese offspring and unworthy Christian son. She then asked me to visualize the putting off of my "generational" sins and idol-worship of my ancestors. She asked me to visualize the breaking away of the spiritual umbilical cords that bounded me to the emotional and spiritual generational ties with my father and mother. She asked me to visualize the putting off of the guilt and sin of my past and the putting on of the grace of Christ my lord. She further asked me to visualize handing over to Christ the burden that I had carried all this time with me in regards to my mom's death and the question about her salvation. "It is no longer your responsibility. Hand it over to the Lord. And realize that He has died for that grief, that pain and that guilt too." She then asked everyone in the room to extend their hands towards her as she lay hands on me to pray for me. It was a moment of release for me. It was a moment of deep healing.
Ever since my mom passed away, I had not felt as free from my grief and my pain. It was a burden lifted away. As I handed my burdens over to my Lord, I was able to deal with what happened and was able to hand it over to my Lord to take care of the past, and release me to be more effective for him in the present and the future. I honestly felt I had recovered and I did not need any further counselling. I thought that from then on I was able to go on my merry way! In fact, it was quite smooth sailing. I was able to apply the principles in my daily walk. I no longer had those painful flashbacks of my mom's desperate cries for help. I was able to place my mom in my Lord's hands and I was able to enjoy the blessings of a closer walk with Him.
However, as the years passed, I gradually found other issues re-surfacing that were hurting my relationship with my wife, my children and people around me. I had to face my demons again. And once again, I was encouraged to seek counselling. This time around, I decided to make an appointment to see a counsellor. I will share a little more about my journey through the counselling experience in a later post.