Brace yourselves for yet another embarrassing revelation. As an advocate for the practice of recognizing and getting healing for childhood wounds, it’s humbling to have the darn things slap me upside the head on a regular basis. The most recent hit was just two days ago. Jeff and I were listening to a podcast about artificial intelligence (AI) that he wanted me to hear. Even though this is a topic that I have little interest in, Jeff asked that I listen because he finds it exciting, and he thought it could help my business. Okay—that’s fair enough on both counts. When Jeff shows interest in things I love, like coffee (which he doesn’t drink), walking (when he barely can keep up with me), and my endless pursuit of the perfect ice cream, it makes me feel seen and valued. (To me, nothing says “love,” like my husband trying to find a parking spot for the AirStream in a busy downtown area while I run into the local homemade ice cream shop.) As the podcast begins, I try to channel that kind of sacrificial spirit while also reminding myself that the podcast is only thirty minutes long. Sadly, my display of sacrificial love didn’t last as long as I had hoped: a fight broke out ten minutes into the podcast. Oh, dear. This is where it gets embarrassing.
Although I had committed to listening to the podcast without distractions, when the podcast suddenly stopped playing, I seized the opportunity to send a text to my client. Jeff was not amused. “I feel like you’re not interested in this podcast when you get on your phone.”
Suddenly, I wasn’t amused either. “Oh, come on,” I shot back. “The podcast stopped, so I just sent a quick text. I’ll listen now.”
It was too late for that. Jeff’s heart was hurt, and he shut down. “Forget it. We don’t need to listen to it.”
Suddenly, I felt like someone lit a match to a pool of gasoline in my heart. I was incensed. The toxic cocktail of feeling judged (you don’t care about me), manipulated (I won’t share the podcast with you anymore), and shut out (I’m mad, so I’m shutting down) sent me from 1 to 10 on the emotional Richter scale in seconds. However, instead of letting Jeff know I felt hurt and very angry, I immediately judged his heart by telling him he was trying to manipulate and punish me. Take it from me: judging someone’s heart never ends well. Jeff poked his head out of his shell just long enough to unleash his frustration and anger. Within two short minutes, we went from happily listening to a podcast to barely containing our frustration and anger with each other. Thankfully, we were able to recover pretty quickly by processing what happened, and we apologized to each other for where we got it wrong. Full disclosure: Jeff apologized first and then did a great job expressing his emotions about how he felt sad that I didn’t apologize to him in return. Although I was guilty as charged, I decided at that moment that I was not going to land in prison for my mistakes. I took myself to rehab instead.
Although I could quickly discern that Jeff’s hurt prompted him to respond as he did, I wasn’t sure why a land mine went off in me. I’ve done enough work on my emotions to realize that my getting triggered by his response had almost nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. I had no choice but to head into my prayer closet—aka the front of the trailer—at 6 a.m. the next morning. I made a strong coffee, pulled out my journal (and tissues🙄), and got to work. Rehab was about to commence.
“Pain denied is pain multiplied.” Dr. Anita Phillips
“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” (Prov 15:13)
“Your heart can determine the state of your spirit.” Dr. Anita Phillips
For those new to this blog, for the last several weeks, I’ve been writing about how the untreated wounds of our hearts inform how we show up in the world and can limit our God-given design and giftings. Indeed, an unhealed heart drives us to behave in ways that God never intended. (Ahem…kind of like Jeff and I acted toward each other in the car.) It’s also important to recognize that the state of your heart can determine the state of your spirit. So, when I went into my prayer closet with the goal of receiving rehab, I was counting on the Holy Spirit to shine a light into the recesses of my heart to reveal any area that needed to be healed. As usual, God met me in a way I didn’t expect… but not before I allowed myself to have a full-blown tantrum.
Before I describe what happened in my prayer closet, I need to emphasize this point: if we want to stop being triggered by the hurts and wounds of our past, we first need to notice and be curious about what is happening inside our hearts. If we don’t, it will surface and impact our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. When I reacted so strongly to the disagreement over the podcast, I knew there had to be something going on deep in my heart that needed to be revealed and healed. I no longer want to push down negative emotions at the cost of my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Emotional disconnection is not a fruit of the spirit. As Dr. Anita Phillips, trauma therapist, life coach, and minister, writes in her book, The Garden Within, “pain denied is pain multiplied.” I am done with denial. How about you?
As I sat in my prayer closet the day after the podcast incident, I asked God to shine a light on the angry part of my heart that popped up in the car with Jeff. Almost immediately, I sensed the Lord was inviting that part of my heart to speak. He definitely was there to listen. I grabbed my journal and let myself drift back to how I felt in the car the day before. As I began to write, Jesus showed up…
“I am SO sick of tiptoeing around other people, trying to make them okay when they don’t care one iota about me! I am furious about this! I don’t want to make others okay anymore. I’m done!!” In my mind’s eye, I can see a young girl angrily pushing over tables. I feel that anger deeply. Suddenly, I am reminded of Jesus pushing over tables in the temple (Matt 21:12-13). Jesus came to join me in pushing over tables and immediately, I felt seen by him. When he glanced over and smiled at me, I sensed he understood exactly how I was feeling. I noticed that the intensity of my rage disappeared when I got close to Jesus. My heart felt surprisingly calm. As Jesus came over to hold my hand, I noticed Jeff was holding Jesus’ other hand. I heard these words in my head: “Jeanie, I’m so sorry no one taught you how to stay safe. The only way you knew how to feel safe was to try to make everyone else okay. That is a huge burden. No wonder why you get so angry! You can trust me to help you.
If you are trying to make sense of the above, it’s really quite simple: my angry heart had an encounter with Jesus. To be specific, as I sat with God in prayer, I saw my angry younger self interacting with Jesus in a “movie” in my head. And that encounter with Jesus simply changed everything.
If you are ready to let the wounded and angry parts of your heart encounter the prince of peace, here are a few suggestions to get you started.
- Find a quiet space to sit with Jesus. I like to journal what I hear, see, and sense; you may want to consider doing that too.
- Invite the Holy Spirit to come and show you the parts of your heart that are in pain. You may already know that your issue is anger, or it could be something else like fear, loneliness, or anxiousness. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you.
- Allow your heart to be completely honest with what it’s feeling. It’s only when we are honest before God that He can meet us where we are. (The Psalms model this raw vulnerability with God so well.) Remember, God is big enough to handle the worst parts of ourselves. When Jesus joined me in pushing over the tables in my encounter, I immediately understood that He was with me in my pain. That felt incredible❤️.
- Journal about whatever you see, sense, or hear.
- If you prefer to get help with this process, consider booking a heart-healing session with a minister or trained professional (like me🙋🏻♀️).
If you have had an encounter with Jesus that brought healing to your life, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a 🙋🏻♀️ emoji in the comments below.