Monday, June 12, 2017

The Blessings of Therapy

I have been challenged over the past several weeks by a significant case of vertigo.  As my doctor and physical therapist have explained, a virus attacked two nerves in my inner ear, resulting in a loss of hearing and a loss of equilibrium.  The hearing loss is thankfully minor, though most likely permanent.  The loss of equilibrium is more bothersome, but treatable and correctable with vestibular therapy and time. 

Vestibular therapy is a wonderful example of the Lord’s glorious creation of our bodies.  It depends on the brain and nervous system’s ability to develop alternate pathways to regain balance and coordination when those abilities have been compromised by damage or disease.  In my case, the initial severe vertigo—I was unable to read the clock while lying in bed because it appeared to be spinning around the room—resolved without therapy as my brain recognized that the signals it was getting from my inner ear were not correct.  But to fully recover, I have needed the focused exercises prescribed by my therapist to help my brain learn to disregard the incorrect messages from my damaged inner ear and to develop new mechanisms to correctly determine my orientation in space.

As I have embarked on this therapeutic adventure and experienced the awesome recovery work of my brain, it has occurred to me that my experience in working to overcome vertigo is very much like the recovery work needed to overcome the spiritual and emotional damage we sometimes experience in our sinful world.  When we suffer neglect, abuse, and/or trauma, especially as children, the “inner ear” of our heart becomes damaged, and it receives messages that are incorrect: “I deserve this;” “This is my fault;” There is something wrong with me;” and “I am bad” are a few examples of the default emotional responses that some of us have developed as we have listened to the lies created by abuse or trauma.  And these responses remain intact into adulthood as our hearts continue to respond to faulty perceptions driven by lies from our past.

Vertigo recovery begins when the brain begins to recognize that the messages it is receiving from the inner ear are faulty.  Emotional and spiritual recovery begins when the individual begins to recognize that his or her default emotions, self-talk, and perceptions about self and others cannot be trusted.  This is truly as disorienting as vertigo!  And just like I have needed help from a vestibular therapist, an individual recovering from abuse or trauma needs others to recover.  Sometimes a therapist is important; but with or without a therapist, these individuals need relationship with others who can help them experience God’s truth about themselves.  Slowly, over time, the lies of shame can be recognized as lies and rejected, and the truth of value before God can be embraced.

I have found vestibular therapy to be amazingly helpful but also agonizingly frustrating.  Even as I make significant progress, there are times each day when my brain becomes confused and I become disoriented and/or unbalanced.  It is frustrating to know what the problem is, to be working on treatment, and yet to continue to experience episodes that are less than coordinated.  My therapist assures me that this is “normal,” but it seems and feels to me that I should be making better—and faster—progress. 

The same is even more true for the individual recovering from past negative experiences.  We may feel that once we know the truth, we should be able to apply it consistently and therefore recover quickly.  But the distance from head to heart can be a very long one, and it takes perseverance over time to reject lies about who others say we are (either directly or by their treatment of us) and embrace who God says we are.  My therapist tells me that the strategies that I am learning now will become automatic.  The same is true for recovery.  The strategies that we work so hard to learn will eventually become automatic, and we will regain the spiritual and emotional balance and coordination that we’ve lost.  But again, both types of recovery occur most effectively in the context of relationship.  Just as I need my vestibular therapist to help me reteach my brain, so those who are recovering need others to help them experience the truth of God’s personal love and grace so that their hearts may re-learn—and then live in the light of—truth.






Friday, May 19, 2017

Today

"Today you are you,
That is truer than true.
There is no one alive
Who is youer than you."

                      Dr. Seuss

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Building of a Temple

I find life as a Christian to be an awesome privilege, an amazing adventure, and an awful lot of hard work.  It is not easy to maintain spiritual growth as I contend with my brokenness, manage my responsibilities, and negotiate relationships.  And although I very much appreciate the support and active help of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the fact remains that I have work to do.

In his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul has this reminder for them: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  The mysterious synergy of the Holy Spirit and my own will is an incredibly powerful concept, but it still leaves me wondering what it is that the Holy Spirit does and what it is that I am supposed to do. 

It has recently occurred to me, though, that the question is not what I do, but rather how I do it.  Do I approach my Christian life as one of the builders of the Tower of Babel or as one of the builders of King Solomon’s Temple? 

If we look at the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, the people chose to build for themselves a city with a tower that reached into heaven with the expressed purpose of making a name for themselves.  The entire operation was their plan, for their purposes, and for their glory.

The building of the Temple by King Solomon was almost certainly a project of much greater proportions.  But it differed from the very beginning.  Solomon initiated his project in response to the LORD’s giving him rest on every side of his kingdom, for the expressed purpose of building a house for the name of the LORD his God, and according to God’s plan.  While Solomon managed the project—for seven years, the entire operation was according to God’s plan, for His purposes, and for His glory.

I find that the comparison between the Tower of Babel and the building of the Temple by King Solomon is compelling as I approach my own Christian life.  It allows me to appreciate that God has made me to be intense, energetic, and focused even as it reminds me to submit those gifts to His sovereign will and to use them for His purposes and His glory. 

It is easy to think that the building of my life pales in comparison to the building of the Temple.  I do not have King Solomon’s resources!  It is impossible to imagine that my life will be any bit as glorious as the Temple.  But the Temple was not eternal.  It was destroyed, as was its successor.  My life—and yours—is eternal.  In fact, the Apostle Paul taught the believers in Corinth that each of them was a temple of the Lord, filled by the Holy Spirit, and holy to Him. 

May we not take lightly the privilege and responsibility of working out our salvation under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit, as we become eternal holy temples to the glory of the Lord our God. 



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Thought For Today

There is no such thing as private sin.  All sin twists the sinner away from God and others, making it more difficult to love others and easier to cause pain.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Easter, Indeed!

Easter, Indeed!


“He is risen!”  “He is risen, indeed!”  With these words, we greet one another on
Easter morning.  It is an appropriate way to celebrate the most important truth in all the world for all time: Jesus Christ died for us and then rose from the grave to purchase our redemption: our relationship with the Trinitarian Lord of the universe is officially and eternally restored.

But believers have always struggled with doubting and divided hearts, and we live in a culture in which truth is relative and subject to alternate perspectives.  So then, our Easter morning proclamation is an invitation and an opportunity to exercise faith and encourage one another in the Truth.  The Resurrection is not merely a belief, subject to personal opinion or desire; it is the Truth that drives our lives of faith. 

The Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthian believers of these very truths in his first letter to them:

            If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people
            most to be pitied.  But in fact Christ has been raised from the
            dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by
            a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection
            of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all
            be made alive.

So as we celebrate Easter, let us not lose sight that our words and celebration plant a flag in eternity as well as mark a pivotal day in history.  He is risen, indeed!