Jan Frank, a terrific author, speaker and therapist dealing with women’s issues, made a point decades ago during one of her presentations that I’ve never forgotten.
While teaching a workshop to counselors on surviving sexual abuse, she pulled out three little dolls. One of them had an upraised fist, one was tied up with a rope, and the third had its arm in a sling.
“Each one of these has a problem, right?” she asked the audience, then took the doll with the wounded arm and said “Let’s make this one repent!”
We all booed – why should someone who’s been injured need to repent of her wound?
“OK, well then let’s deliver this one from her bondage,” she suggested, pointing to the one with the upraised fist. Several of us shook our heads, because the upraised fist was a sign of rebellion, not bondage.
“Ah!” she said, placing the dolls in front of her. “You’re getting the point. When someone’s wounded they need healing, when someone’s in rebellion they need to repent, and when they’re bound, they need deliverance. So before advising what action to take, be sure you’re noticed what the need really is!”
That stuck with me. To this day, I hear people refer to rebellion as something a person needs to be healed of, or wounds as something someone needs an exorcism for, or bondage as something to repent of. In all these cases, the proposed cure isn’t applicable to the problem. An approach that matches the need is critical, whether we’re dealing with someone we’re ministering to, or dealing with ourselves.
I need to keep this in mind today as I strive to keep it clean. I have old wounds that are still healing, slowly but surely, and sometimes they make themselves known. When I feel insecure with people, I can usually point to my old “You’re Just a Stupid Jerk Who’s Always in the Way and Has Nothing to Offer” wound as the culprit. It’s an irrational voice from the early years that has faded quite a bit, but still interrupts me at times. And when it does, the last thing I need to do is repent of having an old hurt. By the same token, I can’t give myself permission to lust as a way of medicating that old wound, because if and when I lust that’s a deliberate sin to be repented of, rather than a hurt to heal. Making and keeping these distinctions is important.
Of course, the three problems – sin, wounds, and bondage – are often interrelated; intertwined like a tangled ball of fishing pole wire. So a person may deal with his old hurt by medicating the pain through deliberate sin, creating a strong bondage. I’ve seen this time and again, and have done it myself, in fact. Sexual sin, by its hyper-stimulating and comforting nature, seems like a handy anesthesia for emotional pain, and when the anesthesia is discovered it’s often deliberately repeated, the repetition creating an eventual bondage. When I realized that I had all three to deal with, I then had to identify what I was responsible for (my behavior in particular) and repent of the sin, then look for professional help in dealing with my wound, and get prayer for the bondage I’d created for myself. All three issues had power over me; all three needed an individual and unique approach.
The hurt in your life, to whatever extent there is such hurt, may well have been inflicted on you. There’s nothing to repent of in that case, but there’s much to seek healing for. The decisions you may have made to medicate that hurt in the wrong way is unquestionably a sin you need to take responsibility for, by renouncing it, turning from it, and staying away from it. The bondage created by the repetitive sin is a power God can and will break, but one you’ll need to bring before Him while crying for deliverance.
Try not to mistake the one for the other. Each is serious; each can be dealt with successfully. Do so today with the God given wisdom to identify and turn from sin, nurture and get nurturing for wounds, and seek deliverance from what binds you. Because then you find that holiness, healing and freedom come intertwined as surely as sin, wounds and bondage do. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has set us free,” Paul reminded the Galatians. (Galatians 5:1) There’s a good reminder for us as well, while we’re striving for both health and holiness today.