Friday, January 07, 2011

Ten Reasons we Have Toxic Conflicts

So far I have posted three times on this topic and it has received a good bit of interaction for which I am thankful. Most of the comments come on Face Book. My last post focused on the fact that many people in the church suffer from deep emotional, relational and spiritual wounds that lead them to be reactive to people, events and ideas that are similar to the things that initially wounded them.

Many years ago a researcher by the name of Dr. Penfield wanted to better understand how our memories worked. He opened up the skulls of several patients and gave very, very slight electrical charges to different parts of the brain. Each time he stimulated one of the patent's brains, a memory was brought back. Interestingly enough, that patient upon remembering had similar or same memories and feelings as he/she did originally.

What does that mean? One important implication is that our current memory bank contains locked in it almost every event that has ever occurred in our life. Not only that, but the feelings that accompanied the event is also lying in wait of something in real time to awaken it.

Now fast forward to the present church where Pastor Johnson is readying his sermon for Sunday morning. During his preparation the Pastor decides to come down very hard on sexual sin and shouts that such people will not inherit the Kingdom of God. In the church that morning is Gina Thompson, a young mother of three who has been struggling with low grade depression and burn out.

Gina has never told anyone that she had been dating a man who practically raped her while at college. Afterward, thinking she was a ruined woman, Gina had sex often with her boy friends and got pregnant and had an abortion. She had carried a terrible weight of guilt, shame and condemnation ever since. The scars of her terrible experience were deep and well hidden until Pastor Johnson's exposition that day. As soon as he began to share Gina became extremely uncomfortable and agitated. Memories of her sad experiences are forced to the surface and are mixed with guilt, shame and anger.

What should she do?

1. Go see a Christian Counselor who could bring healing to those deep heart wounds;
2. Go see Pastor Johnson and confess her sins;
3. Tell her unsuspecting husband of her past behavior;
4. Accuse Pastor Johnson of being a cruel legalistic hater for his harsh sermons;
5. Push her guilt and shame farther down and hope it goes away;
6. Drop out of church and never go back;
7. Add a couple of glasses of wine to her nightly regimen of ice cream and cake;
8. Withdraw from any more sexual relations with her husband;
9. Get more angry, depressed and difficult to deal with;
10. Any combination of the above options.

Unless churches become a "safe place" for people such as Gina Thompson, they will never be able to be free from the past trauma. So much current toxic anger actually arises from pain of the past that has never been healed. Jesus came to heal the body, the soul and the spirit. Gina Thompson's soul was deeply wounded as a young woman and desperately needs the church to be a place of healing. Otherwise, how will she ever be able to be a healthy parent, healthy wife and healthy Christian?

We can easily see the current symptoms of earlier trauma. Gina may be depressed, angry, sexually frigid, overeating, etc. And, these will continue and even worsen unless God's people actually follow in the healing ministry of Jesus. Jesus commanded His followers to "Do everything He did" but I do not see many churches actually helping people with wounded souls.

And, until seminaries start training new Ministers how to "Care and Cure the Souls" their flocks will go on carrying the pain of past assaults with little relief. No wonder so many Christians give up and try Yoga, meditation and secular psychology.

I challenge all of your Christians who want to help others to learn how to share God's truth, love and power with mercy, grace and the fruit of the Spirit so people like Gina Thompson can be set free from those past traumas.

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