My heart was racing, my neck and shoulders tense; my body was filled with adrenaline. My fight or flight response had been activated. I fled the room. What was causing this? Believe it or not a cartoon show my kids were watching on the television. In this particular scene was fighting and in response my desire to flee the room arose in me. I walked away to the kitchen and made myself a coffee. “This is ridiculous, it’s a cartoon show!” I said to myself. Despite it being just a cartoon, my visual brain plunged back into my childhood. Without meaning to I was reacting to the cartoon as if it was the scary violence that I witnessed as a child. In a desire to move beyond this control, out of my mouth came the words, “God no more, help me face this pain. I want to go into the pain so I can be set free from it”. I spoke some words people may find difficult to speak, like I am inviting pain. However, these are words that I have spoken many times before. I know from experience that God will be with me in the pain and he will bring healing to the pain.
I have learned along my life journey that avoiding the past doesn’t lead to freedom. The past is always there, and when you least expect it, it arises to greet you. Often in quite crippling ways.
My journey back into church, after the most amazing revelation of God in counseling, involved facing a lot of pain. Initially I was filled with the awe of God. I was love-struck; in absolute wonder of his love. I wanted to tell all about his love and wanted people to experience it to. I truly believed that Jesus’ love could set people free. Despite things not going exactly how I expected, I still believe this. To the church I attended at the time I guess I was interesting. They liked what I was saying, but they wanted to harness it to what they wanted to do. I spoke about God’s freedom, but they just wanted me in their programs. I wanted to do their programs, but when they asked me I would seek God and he would say no. Not how to win friends in churches! I tried to interact with people in the church, but it was like I was on a different page. I tried to be ‘normal’ like them, but I just didn’t fit the mould. I wasn’t good at conforming to the rules of the then church. I am also not a person interested in pointing out church problems. As a Pastors child I see no value in doing this, it achieves nothing but hurt. My heart was then and still is now for the church to experience God’s love. The only way I knew how to do this was to go to God and ask him what he wanted to do. God’s heart for me at the time was to sew seeds of faith. To speak out against what I was seeing the enemy do in his church and to speak his words of life through prophetic prayer into the church. Most of what I did no-one saw. I was hidden in my room praying, or I prayed during the church service I attended.
I was incredibly naive. What I wasn’t prepared for was the rejection and abuse from the church. I have gone over my time in Penrith and my experience with the church many times; more times then I should. I have spoken the ‘if only I did this, or didn’t do this….’, but in the end what it comes down to is what God is saying and what God is doing. During my journey out of the pain, I have had moments of asking for forgiveness and speaking out forgiveness. It has been a long journey. For a time I ‘hid in a cave’. I stopped being able to function; I couldn’t even go to the shops for fear of being attacked by a Christian. They may seem illogical thoughts, but they were truth to my hurting brain. In the end I learned to rest in my time out of the Church. God was still with me and he nourished me in the desert place that I was in. He is so beautiful. I had to push through the pain to find God and with him my way out.
It took a long time to get back into doing practical things like food shopping. In the beginning it would take days just to do the weekly shopping. I would always need someone with me. When I actually got to the shops I didn’t last long, panic would take over me and I would rush to the counter, pay and go home. Slowly God would touch on the areas of my soul that needed healing. The other day I was shopping in Penrith’s large shopping centre hub alone. Something that I hadn’t been able to do for years. I was leaving the building when I person from a church that I attended (and experienced pain in) walked past. When they did this indescribable joy came over me. I raced over and said hi and embraced them. We chatted for a bit and I headed for home. I was so excited that I wanted to share with everyone what had just happened. I didn’t, I kept it to myself and just thanked God. I know that joy I felt was God’s. His joy enabled me to do something I had so long feared.
I think though the hardest thing that I have had to face was fear of the church and the leadership, the vessels that had brought the most harm. When I started this journey through the pain, I made a choice to trust God for my healing no matter what. I had felt for many months God asking me to go back to attending a church. My heart didn’t find this easy. In spite of my uneasiness, I trusted God and was willing to do what he was asking. I had an impression of what sort of church he was saying to attend, but for all of my looking I couldn’t find a place which was matching what I saw in the Spirit. By accident my husband and I literally stumbled upon the place. It was so left-field, there was no way I could have found it with natural eyes. Each week for me has been hard with constant triggers. God has faithfully been helping me through each one. One week he asked me to agree to attend a prophetic retreat. I am not a fan of such things; reluctantly I agreed, saying to God, “I trust you, you have never let me down”. I didn’t know where this retreat would be, I just figured God’s plan was perfect. One day the location of the retreat was emailed to me. The location was written in bold capitals. When I saw the name of the campsite, the air literally left my lungs and I collapsed to my bedroom floor in deep emotional pain. By attending this retreat God was taking me back to the place/location where I was harmed. The moment which led me to ‘hiding in a cave’. Despite everything inside of me wanting to withdraw my attendance, I reminded myself that I was choosing the path of healing laid out by God. That evening after lots of conversation with God I arose believing that God was going to help me face the fear and set my mind on attending no matter what.
Going to the retreat was like going to a counseling session. I never enjoyed my sessions. My mind would fight me and I would want to turn the car around and go home. This felt the same way. Not only that the weather seemed to match the storm in my soul. It was so windy that it was literally blowing my car all over the place. It took a lot of concentration to keep the car on the road. It was over 3 hours of driving like this. I was exhausted when I arrived.
When the first session started I wanted to leave. I actually said to God, “I can’t do this I am leaving!” When I did, I heard God say, “Cheryl I am here, don’t leave.” I then saw an image of him. He was dressed in this glorious armour. It was golden and he was radiant like the sun. In his hand was a spear. I leaned on his shoulder. Even though the armour looked hard, it was soft and warm to lean against. I felt his presence around me. I sobbed on his shoulder, telling him I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t stay. I was completely overwhelmed and I had no strength left to stay, I needed him. I heard God speak softly to me with soothing words. Then suddenly I went from leaning on him, to being hidden inside of him and his armour. I heard him say, “Cheryl you are hidden in me. My armour is your armour, my spear is your spear. You are safe in me”. All of my fear melted in his presence. He was my protector and his swift word was my spear.
Did I suddenly find my time at the retreat easy? No. But I stayed and God spoke deeply to me and ministered healing to my soul… As an aside that moment I spoke of before where I met the person in the local large shopping centre hub happened after the retreat. God had to take me back to the source of the pain so I could move beyond it. In that retreat God made something I found impossible to do, possible.
Blessings, may you find God in your pain and with him your healing xx