Becoming an Adult
…Becoming more aware of our condition as adult children helps us realize that healing is necessary if we are going to grow up and become functional adults. As we begin to change the internal structure of our lives, external changes will also occur. As Christians, we know that the Holy Spirit can assist us in making these changes. We need only to be willing to receive his help and that of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We have already looked at possible areas where our wounded ness needs healing. We might realize that we lack healthy role models or need to view life from Christ’s perspective instead of our own. We may want to recover from touch abuse and deprivation or let go of childish and self-centered behavior. As we come to see and touch Jesus personally, our lives begin to reflect the grace of his healing love. It is revelation to understand that God actually wants us to be whole! He wants us to experience wholeness and wants to help us change our inner structure.
The idea of finding healing through Christ might be hard to comprehend for those of us who are still licking the emotional wounds of our childhood. It may seem too good to be true, for many of us have adjusted to lives filled with hurt. For some of us, pain has become normal; others may be numb to the reality of our suffering.
In an attempt to protect ourselves from pain, we may have built a wall of denial around ourselves. Through our denial, we are able to pretend that things are not as bad as they seem or that our imagination is just too active. Because we were hurt too much as children, we decided long ago either to ignore our pain or to deny it until it stopped.
As hard as we try to hide our discomfort and appear normal, others often notice that something is wrong with us. Perhaps they tell us we are not in touch with our feelings or that we do not realize the extent of our destructive behavior. We may be accused of reacting too strongly, making a big deal out of normal pressures, or being too inflexible. We might hear that we always appear sad, depressed, and negative. Our families may tell us that we seem happy and content in public but behave differently in private. We could be accused of being distant, uncaring, and incapable of
Close or intimate relationships. Or we might hear that we smother those close to us. People who live and work with us may tell us they feel like hostages. They may see us as making crazy demands, saying one thing, and meaning another. Perhaps we hear that we act as though we are being driven by something inside-that we do not ever seem to relax, laugh, or have fun.
However painful it is to hear such statements from those close to us, we need to listen to what they are saying. Frequently, it is those who are closest to us who can most clearly evaluate our behavior for what it really is. Their advantage is that they are not surrounded by a wall of denial like we are. To the degree that we are willing, hearing their views can help us make the important changes necessary for our healing.
Our denial, projection, defense mechanisms, and self-deception need to be broken through before true healing can occur. As damaged adults, we require a great deal of loving ministry to get us to the point of being treatable. By participating in a Christ-centered recovery group, listening to each other and praying together, we can slowly break through our defenses and move through healing to wholeness.
It is important that we accept the responsibility for our present condition and the problems it has caused others and us. Healing and maturity deepen as we take charge of our lives. We cannot excuse our behavior by projecting the blame for it outside of ourselves and onto others. We need to see that many of our present problems result from past painful situations over which I have had no control. However, accepting and acknowledging these occurrences is only part of the process. We need to take responsibility for ourselves, and then share our insights with others in Christ-centered recovery, as well as with God in prayer.
Jesus tells us, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” JOHN 8:32 (NIV). We may wonder what the truth really is. We can trust that whatever God says is factual, especially what he says about us. Sometimes he even uses those around us to help us recognize reality. Jesus also tells us, "Sanctify them by the truth your word is truth.” JOHN 17:17 (NIV). God’s truth may not necessarily be consistent with our present perceptions, but as we learn to trust in the outcome, we begin to see that it is often our perceptions that are incorrect.
When we are accountable for our own actions and stop defending ourselves or projecting responsibility onto others, we are in a position to receive forgiveness, cleansing and healing. That is the real truth that God reveals to us. Our reactions of bitterness, judgment, anger, resentment and hate are created by us and belong to us, not to others. We cannot excuse our behavior, we can only alter it. We "…are without excuse." ROMANS 1:20 (NIV).
Our parents do not stand in our place before God-we do. We have no justification for our dysfunction as we stand before Christ. We are judged by our own behavior, and God is principally concerned with our words, thoughts, attitudes, habits and actions. We answer for all that we have thought and done, not for what someone else did or did not do. We can be grateful that we stand before the same Christ who shed his healing blood for us. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." ROMANS 5:8 (NIV).
As part of becoming healthy adults, we need to realize and accept our present condition as adult children. Isaiah gives an apt description of us in the midst of our dysfunction, pain and reaction to our past, "…makes the heart of this people calloused; makes their ears dull and closes their eyes. Otherwise, they may see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their: hearts, and turn and be healed." ISAIAH 6:10 (NIV). "Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness-only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil." ISAIAH 1:5-6 (NIV). Admitting that we are in a similar condition can be a big step toward our healing. Rather than rebelling against God, it helps to trust that he can and does understand our predicament. He knows better than we do that ours is a delicate condition and does not blame us. God does not in any way assault or abuse us. "…For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones." ISAIAH 49: 13 (NIV). "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…he was Pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities…and by his wounds we are healed." ISAIAH 53:4-5 (NIV).
God does not forget us or abandon us even when our lives seem bleak. He "…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, Plans to give you a hope and a future." JEREMIAH 29:11 (NIV). God loves us so much that he sent his son Jesus to minister to us-to show us his compassion and concern. Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah to help explain his purpose here on earth. "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor." LUKE 4:18-19 (NIV).
God alone can right the wrong done to us. If we open ourselves to him, his Holy Spirit can heal our grief and pain. The Holy Spirit comforts those who mourn the losses of a painful childhood and brings to maturity those who did not receive an adequate foundation for adult life.
It is God’s will that we become whole. Our responsibility is to face our pain, be responsible for ourselves, admit to our rebellious behavior and accept the offer of Christ’s healing. When we are able to fulfill these requirements, we will be able to live a functional life. "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." I JOHN 1:7 (NIV).
We can gauge our progress by the degree to which we are becoming transparent. As we continue to break out of our denial and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we can receive and enjoy continuous healing. We become aware of our feelings and begin to learn how to be our true selves with others. As we face our truths and live in the light of our reality, we become real to others as well as to ourselves.
As we live in the light of God’s warmth and truth, we awaken to the reality of his love for us. We come to see that God really does love us because we are lovable. For many of us this is in stark contrast to the environment of rejection and disapproval in our dysfunctional family system where we learned that we are not worth loving. In our pain and confusion we may have judged the love of God by negative experiences, rather than by what God has said and done. We may also judge his love and intentions towards us by what others have or have not done. Even though both of these judgments may be understandable in the light of how we were raised, they could no be farther from the truth. "God demonstrated his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died
for us." ROMANS 5:8 (KJV). "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…" JPHN 3:16 (NIV). It is so freeing when we come to know that God’s love for us is real-that he will never fail us. We cannot exhaust or frustrate his love. Whether we are functional or dysfunctional, God still loves us.
To stay on the road to our ultimate destination toward healing and wholeness, we must learn to recognize and receive God’s love. In Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian believers, he speaks to us as well. "…And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love; may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." EPHESIANS 3:17-19 (NIV).
If we are going to attain wholeness and health, it will be because we are convinced of the immense power of Christ’s love for us. This devotion is evidence that healing is real and possible. We need God’s love for our own growth and nurture just as a flower needs the sun, rain and nutrients from the soil for its blooming.
In addition to becoming convinced of God’s love, we need to recognize the presence of his grace in our lives. God showers his grace upon us, even in the bleakest times. We need only be open to recognize and receive it. Even though we may be severely damaged, God’s grace is sufficient to heal all our weakness and woundedness. "Continue to work out your salvation (health and wholeness) with fear and trembling (with awe of God’s healing grace and love, and respect for God’s timing arid purpose), for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." PHILIPPIANS 2:12-13 (NIV) (parentheses mine).
Now let’s look at the Prayer of St. Francis as a tool to aid us in applying these healing truths to our lives and to the lives of others. St. Francis of
"Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace"
To receive or minister healing, it is important to first address Christ as Lord of our lives. It is only as we submit to our Lord that we function as Christ intends. St. Francis proclaimed that being an instrument of God’s peace is primary to our healing. He understood that when we turn our lives over to God, we experience great peace of mind. "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." PHILIPPIANS 4:7 (NIV). "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee." ISAIAH 26:3 (KJV). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, "blessed are the peacemakers." MATTHEW 5:9 (NIV).
"Where there is hatred, let me sow love"
To prepare ourselves for sowing love, we ask whether we truly love others or whether there is anyone toward whom we have resentment. It can be a very profound experience to release our negative feelings and pray for someone we resent. We soften our harsh feelings when we become channels for God’s love to flow to his children.
We can sow love by extending a sense of security to others. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…" 1 CORINTHIANS 13:4-8 (NIV).
Love doesn’t allow us to abuse, take advantage of, or try to control others. It is vitalized by actions of kindness. Love defends another’s highest good and doesn’t have to claim rights; it seeks to behave or act right. Love makes us servants and givers of encouragement, affirmation and support to all. It makes us feel like we belong and have purpose. Love does not fear rejection, therefore it enables us to share and be real with others.
"Where there is injury, pardon"
There is much injury in a dysfunctional family that needs pardoning. We must be aware that true forgiveness is necessary before there can be permanent healing. Jesus showed us how forgiving he expects us to be: "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, Out seventy-seven times.’" MATTHEW 18:21-22 (NIV). Christ pardons us and empowers us to forgive others. It is wonderfully healing to give and receive forgiveness in all our relationships-with God, ourselves and others.
"Where there is doubt, faith"
To restore faith into our lives, we need to remove any doubts we have developed. Skepticism can keep us locked into our wounded ness, because it prevents us from trusting ourselves and others. When we doubt God, we are implying that God is neither willing nor able to heal us.
Faith, through Christ, is as real as the doubts that plagued our lives before recovery. "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." HEBREWS 11:1 (NIV). Faith enables us to be free from the pain and suspicion that resulted from being betrayed as a child. "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." ROMANS 8:18 (NIV).
ROMANS 10:17 (NIV) tells us: "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ." Our faith can be formed by being attentive to the Holy Spirit and seeing him at work in our lives, as well as in the lives of others. Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you might have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world." JOHN 16:33 (NIV).
"Where there is despair, hope"
The sense of hopelessness and the pervasive depression that is so prevalent in the lives of many adult children is dispelled in Christ. "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." ROMANS 5:5 (NIV). Hope, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, empowers us to overcome the despair we encounter and frees us to continue on our journey to recovery. Paul stated, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love." 1 CORINTHIANS 13:13 (NIV). In Christ, our hope of having a functional life can be fulfilled as we learn to trust God’s promise of healing to wholeness.
"Where there is darkness, light"
Any Christ-centered recovery strategy involves moving from a life lived in darkness to a life flooded with the light of Christ. If we do not face the darkness in our lives, our recovery can be retarded. St. Francis realized the importance of illuminating the shadows of our existence which only precipitates further pain and confusion. "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 CORINTHIANS 3:17-18 (NIV).
"Where there is sadness, joy"
St. Francis knew the joy that is a part of healing. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, our sadness turns to pleasure. "…Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." EPHESIANS 5:18-20 (NIV).
As we become whole, we begin to draw from a new well deep within our souls. "…but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." JOHN 4:14 (NIV). With Christ in our hearts, there is literally a well of joy overflowing in our lives. "…You will fill us with joy in your presence…" PSALM 16: 11 (NIV). Our depression, anger, fear, resentment and self-pity can become transformed by the jubilation of the Lord. "…the joy of the Lord is your strength." NEHEMIAH 8:10 (NIV). In working closely with God, we can let go of our childhood pain and walk in the joy of his presence.
"0, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."
An attitude of humility facilitates our healing. Disciples James and Peter tell us that God gives grace to the humble. By that they do not refer to false humility, denying our gifts and uniqueness, but a true humbling of ourselves in service to others in the name of Christ. This healthy attitude
which helps us to console, understand, love and pardon is reflective of Christ’s attitude. "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." PHILIPPIANS 2:3-5 (NIV).
As we work to restructure our lives, we uncover special areas that need healing prayer. A prayer such as the Prayer of St. Francis can be applied systematically to the areas of our lives that are still wounded. Such areas include the following:
Grief and a sense of loss
Most of us need the healing power of Christ in this area because of the great losses we have suffered. Missing out on a normal childhood, being deprived of intimate and healthy relationships and lacking of proper training in developing adult skills are but a few of the losses that most adult children have experienced. Healing requires us to face our misfortunes and grieve them, for he came "…to comfort all who ‘mourn, and provide for those who grieve…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair… " ISAIAH 61:2-3 (NIV).
Rejection and abandonment
Almost without exception, dysfunctional adults were subjected to rejection and abandonment throughout childhood, often by people important to them, at times when crucial development should have occurred. The resulting pain is deep, and we sometimes develop a style of anticipating or precipitating rejection as a defense mechanism. We try in this way to protect ourselves from further pain. Unfortunately, it also keeps us from loving and growing. Christ’s love turns our rejection into acceptance as we surrender to the belief that he will never reject or abandon us. Christ continually accepts us where we are and takes us where we never dreamed we could go. "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you!‘ JOHN 14:16-18 (NIV).
Fear is usually present in the lives of adult children. We are afraid of rejection, abandonment, abuse and deprivation; we might even develop an array of phobias. We may have a fear of failure based on having been told repeatedly that we will never amount to anything. For many of us, this fear stopped many of us from believing that the future held any promise. Others avoid success because they feel a need to live up to unrealistic expectations. We may resist accepting responsibilities that we believe are beyond our capabilities.
Our concerns can be faced and subdued as we experience Christ’s perfect love for us. In Christ, there is no fear of rejection, abandonment, failure, or the future. As the child within us is nurtured by the Holy Spirit’s loving and gentle touch, our misgivings can be dispelled and dissipated. As children of God, we do not need to be afraid because he is always with us, guiding and protecting us. Rather than fear God, we can respect and rely on his presence in our lives. Our reverence for God can gradually overshadow our fears from the past and give us hope for the future. "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and redeemed his people…to-rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear." LUKE 1:68,74 (NIV).
Being raised in a dysfunctional home sometimes meant we were left alone to face the world. Even if we weren’t literally alone, we were often neglected or ignored. The adults around us often acted as if we weren’t even there or paid little or no attention to us. It is encouraging to realize that with Christ in our lives we never have to be alone again. In Christ-centered recovery, we become a part of his body, the church. "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one bodywhether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." 1 CORINTHIANS 12:13 (NIV). Jesus told his disciples that he would never leave them or forsake them.
By recognizing and acknowledging the presence of God in our lives, we can let go of our feelings of loneliness. We may find ourselves physically alone at times, but through prayer, reading and meditation, we can banish our feelings of rejection and come to the peaceful realization that we are never truly alone.
Roots and strongholds
In the midst of our defense mechanisms, adaptations and reactions, we may have allowed negative roots and strongholds to control our lives. Our roots may have been founded on rejection, temporal values, immorality, bitterness, fear and pride. Our strongholds may take the form of character defects, negative attitudes, destructive habits, compulsive behavior and relationship problems. Jesus came to provide new roots and build new strongholds for us. Paul said, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that. sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 CORINTHIANS 10:4-5 (NIV).
These are a few of the specific areas in the lives of adult children that require healing. Our goals should reflect a personal desire for continuous healing, not only in our own lives, but for our families. The healing we are experiencing can influence our entire household and others who are close to us. It is possible for us to become well enough that we can break the cycle of dysfunction that has been passed from one generation to another.
Finally, it is possible for us to come to a place in our lives where we can admit with confidence that we are in recovery and being healed. It is important to recognize that recovery is a slow process. It can only be accomplished one day at a time, for the rest of our lives.
As we proceed on our journey toward wholeness, we need to be aware of possible setbacks. We are especially vulnerable during recovery, for neither can we always see what is being healed, nor can we always accurately observe our progress. Some would have us believe that healing is a reality for everyone but us. But we must remember that if we honestly ask God to help us and are doing his will to the best of our ability, we can become whole.
What behaviors of yours have those close to you pointed out that you tend to deny? .
When are you most likely to blame others? Who are you most likely to blame?
What situations cause you to feel or act defensive?
Cite examples of your current behavior that indicate you are "becoming an adult."
In what areas do you wish to become more vulnerable to those close to you and to Christ?
How is the Prayer of St. Francis helpful to you in your path toward wholeness?
Recovery Tool: Daily Inventory and Quiet time
Taking a daily personal inventory is designed to help us identify both negative and positive attitudes that we may have expressed in our thoughts and behavior throughout the day. It provides a mirror to reflect the thoughts that motivate our actions. The Bible says: "for as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…" PROVERBS 23:7 (KJV). The distorted thinking and damaged emotions that are part of a dysfunctional life do not easily leave our mind and heart. Through the use of daily inventory and quiet time, we gain insight into our behavior and accept God’s grace as we experience renewal.
Included in this section is a sample of a Daily Inventory Log that can be used each day for a week. Before you fill out this sample, make extra copies for each week. The left column lists weaknesses that are common to adult children and that impede our recovery and our relationships. The right column lists the corresponding strengths that we need to emphasize or adopt to "grow up and be an adult."
Before taking the inventory, pray for guidance and honesty. To fill out the sample, mark the column for each day, top to bottom, with either a minus (-) if the weakness predominated that day, or a plus (+) if the strength predominated that day.
We can also tailor our own inventory by making a list of unhealthy
thoughts, feelings and behaviors that need to be changed or eliminated from our lives.
After completing the daily inventory, pray for insight and guidance again. It is powerful to ask specifically for the Holy Spirit to change or eliminate our weaknesses and to give thanks for our strengths and the changes we have made. The following steps are helpful in leading us into a prayerful state:
Relax and detach.
Prayer begins when we detach our attention from external distractions and focus on God. It helps to sit in a comfortable position and relax all parts of our body as we prepare to "turn off" outside noises and "tune in" to the voice of the Holy Spirit within our hearts.
Focus attention on the inward chamber room of your heart.
Imagine walking down a stairway leading to the heart’s inner chamber where Christ resides. We can ask the Holy Spirit to accompany us so that we can talk face-to-face with him. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped, the evidence of things not seen." HEBREWS 11:1 (KJV). "…he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." HEBREWS 11:6 (KJV).
Converse with Jesus.
Christ is not only our Savior but also our counselor and guide. He is always ready to forgive us when we ask. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." JAMES 1:5 (KJV). "If my people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." 2 CHRONICLES 7:14 (KJV).
Write Christ’s response in your journal
Be specific in noting insights from the Holy Spirit in your journal. After completing a daily inventory, it is often rewarding to spend additional time in meditation. Ultimately, the inventory becomes second nature and can be done quickly. As we mature in the healing process, we may wish to spend more time in quiet communion with God. This is valuable as we learn to see where and how Christ is contributing to our well-being.
Before doing the exercises, have someone in the group read the following prayer:
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred-let me sow love
Where there is injury -pardon
Where there is doubt -faith
Where there is despair -hope
Where there is darkness -light
Where there is sadness -joy
0, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled – as to console
to be understood – as to understand
to be loved – as to love
It is in giving -that we receive
It is in pardoning -that we are pardoned
It is in dying -that we are born to eternal life.
How do you see yourself as an instrument of God’s peace?
In what area of your life do you see hope, light and joy?
What resentment do you wish to turn over to Christ and ask for healing and forgiveness from?
Review your actions of last week as recorded on your Daily Inventory Log. In what areas did you perform well? In what areas did you perform poorly?
List ways in which you sensed God’s presence as you successfully faced temptation.
What losses in your life do you need to grieve? What assistance can you request from the group in helping you grieve?
What is your prayer request for yourself or others?