Spiritual Resources > Healing and Health > Inner healing
The thing that people sing about most easily, even more than God, is romantic love. In fact, the entire entertainment industry is built on songs, movies, videos, plays, and now web sites about love. We can't get enough of them. Sometimes, you have love for someone, and you search for ways to express it. Sometimes, you long to share love with a certain someone you aren't sharing love with now. Or, you don't love anyone in particular, and long to do so. Romantic love hurts, disarms, excites, tears down, rips out, builds up, sends reeling, sends flying, blisses out, and in every way occupies our life. When it's not filling you up, you notice it, and especially you notice the unwholeness and the empty space within you that's made for someone human outside of yourself. Love brings us passion, and with passion can come inner healing or inner war.
Some Christians act as if God has a problem with romantic love and the related feelings. But the Christian God is not the Great Prude In the Sky, wishing he'd never had created this thing called romantic love. In fact, Christ is a lover at heart, who has a relationship with His people which Scripture reveals to be as between Groom and Bride. It is in the nature of God's creation for love to beget life, for it was God's love which brought about the creation of life itself in the first place. It's not the physical act itself that does the healing. Rather, the romance and sensuality are made by God to be a part of building up the relationship and the persons in it - part of literally 'making' (creating) love.
What God has a problem with is how far we've cheapened and corrupted such a wonderful thing. Too many of us think bonding is bondage. Unfortunately, modern media are so focused on cheapness that many people begin to treasure the cheapness and eagerly seek the gains of corruption. If we don't teach ourselves, our children, and our neighbors how to discern about what the media feeds us, we'll become so junk-filled that we'll trash ourselves. So some of us set up web filters against the junk, but also end up blocking out any site which has even a single page for frank talk in the light of Christian values to help heal the damage. (So I have to watch the words I use here, or block off the whole site from a lot of readers.)
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There's a very good word that most people associate with the occult and magic, or else old fairy tales. The word is 'enchanted'. The origin of that word is in the word 'chant', which means 'to sing, or to speak with a changing tone'. In a way, to be 'enchanted' means to be filled by a chant. If the song is a joyful one, then also to be filled with the joy which the chant bears forth. The inner bursts out! JRR Tolkien, the writer of *Lord Of the Rings*, made his career in teaching old poems and word origins, but sank his heart into wonderful tales like those of old. One of the many places Tolkien's career showed up in his books is in the story of Tom Bombadil, who lived in a forest which was literally en-chanted in just this way. Bombadil's song of raw joy and boundless love for his wife and for his section of the created world echoed all over the woods, shielded him from the gruesome pull of the deep evils of Tolkien's Middle Earth, and affected in its own small way the grand battles between good and evil. His visitors came weary, but left refreshed and joyful. They left with a song in their hearts.
That's a great description of what singing does.
Maybe it's solo music :
Or maybe it's done in a group :
This too can heal us inside, and bind the wounds of our spirits. And the healing isn't just inner. It can be shared with colleagues, it can show up at nursing homes and hospices, it can be grasped by the retarded and disturbed, it can change the whole feel of a street corner in the deep inner city. It's something Bombadil would appreciate.
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When the new breed of pentecostalists speak of their faith, there's one term which puzzles most people from other churches as much as any other -- the term "ministry". The mainline churchgoer thinks of some sort of doing good for others; the evangelical thinks of an evangelistic or spiritual mission organization; the general public thinks of some ordained person doing worship services. But the new-breed pentecostalist means something else by the word "ministry", especially when they say "I went forward and received ministry today", or "Our prayer cell ministered to Laura last night, and she's coming back tomorrow to receive more." This drives us back to the toddler's question asked so often in Luther's Small Catechism: "Was ist dass?" ('What's that?' or, 'What does this mean?')
When the new pentecostalists use the word 'ministry' this way, they at first seem to be just talking about the experience of falling down or going through a manifestation of some kind. If that were all there was to it, then it really wouldn't qualify as 'ministry'. To be 'ministry' in any meaningful Christian sense of the word, it has to somehow serve a greater good than just giving someone a laughing fit or a fainting spell. The healing needs to work its way into the whole of life. Only then can it be said to be a holistic healing.
Yet, if you listen hard enough to those who have 'received' this sort of 'ministry', a clearer picture of it begins to form. While most people are too swept away to notice what was happening inside of them, there are some people who were paying enough attention to become aware of certain things happening to them.
One woman reported that while she was on the floor, an incident from her past came to mind, where she had run over a young child who dashed out in front of her car. She had thought she had dealt with the matter long ago, confident in knowing she couldn't have prevented it. But while going through this experience of ecstasy on the floor, she suddenly saw how she had merely submerged her feelings of guilt. It was as if the Spirit had gathered all of the guilt feelings inside of her, heaped them up as if it were an object, and just lifted them off her shoulders. From then on, her life has been happier and saner, and she is full of joy about God and life.
Another example: one guy had spent much of his life trying to escape from dealing with people, so he could stop being hurt by them. When he was struck with the manifestation of holy laughter, he was suddenly able to identify the specific damage in his life, including some matters which he had long forgotten and others he didn't think still hurt. He was for the first time really open to God. Doctor God was examining each one, diagnosing the diseases, and healing each one by name. The peace and joy of such inner healing was impossible for him to describe. His bitter, sniping edge was gone.
When people have this kind of change happen to them, it indeed is 'ministry', a ministry of inner healing and renovation, given as a gift by God. It's more like the operation than the recovery, but operations can be a crucial part of healing.
But is it so all, or even most, of the time? When it happens on a large scale, like in the 1990s, there's no way to know. There's an awful lot of feel-goodism, idiotic teaching, intentional fainting, and powerful mass suggestion going around. But then, there also are many people whose lives have been changed, rocked to the core by a new (or renewed) focus on Christ. It seems the Spirit will reach into any person who opens up to the new life, even if fools rule the scene. The Spirit will use any way to get in, so great is God's love for us. In fact, the church depends on this, because everyone who does her work is a fool and a sinner. The work gets done because God is at work too.
Thus, the new pentecostals may well be right in saying they're 'receiving ministry' -- at least some of the time. The next question for each of them, though, is much more important: will they start *giving* ministry, of whatever kind is needed, with whatever gifts God has given them? Or will they just keep going to events, rolling on the floor, going back home (or to church), and vegetating? There's a whole lot of the latter going on, which stunts spiritual growth and halts true inner healing.
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Inner healing can come from change, but it also can come from constancy. Here's where old, familiar, time-honored ritual can do miraculous things. Ritual helps you realize that there's something bigger going on. There's comfort in being part of a long line where you weren't the first and won't be the last, a line made up of people praying together, taking the bread and wine, and singing out the joy and sorrow to God. You're not alone. Ritual, used in the right way, lets you focus on why you're taking an action instead of how. The pattern's set so the actions themselves can be done with less attention. Through ritual, you get a chance to act out something important about your relationships with God and other people. It gives you space for inner rest and recovery. A ritual can mark key moments and changes in your life - leaving the past behind, taking up a new direction in life. One of the most healing things in life is a sense of 'there - it's done, now I can go on'.
When we think of 'ritual', we think of 'old'. The best rituals generally are old, or are done in full keeping with an old tradition. But new rituals can be created for new or previously-ignored situations. Think it over:
Inner healing often needs something to mark the changes, some action you can remember and others can see. Rituals can be created for anything which needs structured recognition or a defining moment. For instance, ritual is useful for renouncing lies, falsehoods, and stereotypes. This is best done in a small group setting or an adult baptismal service, in a circle if attendance allows it. It's especially important for:
Speak the lies out loud, name them as lies, and then the person (or someone else assigned to the task) speaks aloud the gospel truth that most directly opposes the lie.
Ritual must never ever be used in a way that polemicizes it (especially for ideological or political agendas), because it is so potent. Polemics (the 'fighting-words' of opposing sides in a dispute) is itself a lie which deserves to be named as such, since it portrays other people as demons, exaggerates the wrongness of the opposing point of view, and allows us to refuse to listen to the opponents to see what they're driving at. It fans the flames of anger, locks up the ears and blocks off reconciliation. Polemics cuts and slashes, creating inner turmoil instead of inner healing. If all that's involved in renouncement is switching sides in politics or culture wars, then it is just a matter of exchanging one set of lies for another, making a mockery of truth and of the gospel. Unfortunately, many (if not most) of the renouncement rituals I've attended have fallen into that trap. Political thinking is not wrong, for it involves questions of right and wrong and justice and building up others, but polemic thinking is wrong. A good renouncement ritual strives very hard not to draw our fighting-words into this precious act of honesty and healing before God.
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|ver.: 15 January 2009
Copyright © 1998-2009 by Robert Longman.