I remember one specific experience trying to pray in college. I had recently given in again to viewing pornography and I was feeling particularly ashamed. God seemed so distant and I had this picture in my head that he was turned away from me, and he had his arms crossed and an angry expression on his face. I’d experienced this before, but that particular day God’s voice broke into what I was experiencing in an unexpected way:
“That’s not Me,” He said.
It caught me off guard. “What’s not You?” I responded.
“That image you have of Me. That’s not me. That’s not how I’m feeling about you right now.”
“But if that’s not You, who is it?” I asked.
Our past life experiences serve as the ground from which we grow. When we are affirmed and loved, we are more apt to know ourselves as loved and loveable. When we are raised by a mother and father who are each healthy and holy, we’re more likely to grow up knowing how to live a healthy, holy life. How our parents interact with one another also plays into this.
When we are wounded, either through abuse or neglect—whether from mother, father, siblings, teachers, peers or others—those wounds have power to speak to us, to influence our deepest held beliefs. For example, the absence of a father speaks significantly to a boy’s sense of self worth. Though he may not be able to articulate it, he may think, “If I was a better son, my father would be here.” A mother who offers little or no comfort to her son may leave him thinking subtly, “I must not be very loveable.”
The wounds, in essence, come with messages—powerful messages—about himself, the world, men, women, relationships, God, and on and on.
When these messages are believed, and they frequently are, they harass the child as he grows, and the child learns to view the world through a grid of these messages. Unnoticed and unchallenged, these faulty messages still rule our unconscious beliefs into adulthood, sometimes severely marring a person’s view of himself, others, and God. We allow our lives to be ruled by the following formula:
Past Wounds → Beliefs → Thoughts → Feelings → Actions
People who struggle with sexual and relational sins each have core beliefs that feed into their addictive patterns, and these beliefs find their beginnings in our pasts, as described above.
Jesus is willing to uncover the messages associated with these wounds and replace them with new messages—messages that are true. The question is will we let Him? Will we avail ourselves to Him in this way? Will we walk with Him where He leads, even when into the wounds and words of our pasts?
Our pasts play a powerful role in establishing what we really believe, deep down, under the surface. This is not about trying to conjure up something that doesn’t exist; it’s about giving Jesus room to go with you to the roots.
We might actually amend the formula above to more accurately express what I mean:
Past Wounds → Faulty Beliefs → Defective Thinking → Hurtful Feelings → Sinful Actions
Jesus will not re-wound you. So be gracious and gentle with yourself as you face your past wounds. And tenderness is called for as you notice and challenge the faulty messages you’ve been hearing and believing. God is not scolding or demanding. He is listening, seeing, loving. His invitation to look back is an invitation toward greater freedom.
Question for you: How can you challenge the faulty messages in your life this week? If you’ve never taken a look at how your past is impacting your present feelings about yourself, others, and God; if you’ve never explored how your past is impacting your present relationships, your sexuality, or your emotional life, I want to invite you to schedule an appointment with one of our staff members for spiritual direction/coaching. We’d be honored to walk with you. You might also find our upcoming Path through the Wilderness programs (click here for Northern VA or here for Baltimore particularly helpful.
Thanks for this great and timely message Josh.God’s timing is perfect.I also really relate to your topic personally.My father left the day I was born and my mother said I wouldn’t amount to much in life.As a believer in Christ my thinking is still distorted at times of how I see God, myself and others.Praise God for His loving compassion and the truth of His word to transform me daily.2 Cor 3:18.Thanks again brother Josh.
Amen to that, Paul. Thanks!
It seems so much of our wrong thinking comes from a wrong view of God. Thank you for reminding me that God is not scornful or demanding but is listening, seeing, loving. Makes me want to draw close.