Healing Hurts

I am sharing this experience and the theology behind it with you in the hopes that it will be helpful to you. It represents a powerful healing experience for me. I hope you find the experience and the thinking behind it helpful.
In September, I attended a workshop at an Episcopal church on healing ministry. I thought I was going there to learn about healing others. I soon found out that I was going there to learn about myself. We learned about journaling and reflection. During a period of reflection, memories of past hurts came to the fore. I had thought about some of these things before and had never resolved them. They came together this time in a powerful way that was almost overwhelming. I shared what I had journaled with members of the teaching team and they invited me to meet with members of a prayer team at a later date to deal with these things.
I began to attend the soaking prayer services on Tuesday night at the church. I prayed and was prayed over for inner healing.
Then, I met with two members of the team. I shared my emotional wounds with them. They told me to close my eyes and go to a safe place. I found myself back in the kitchen at my Nana’s house (maternal grandmother). She had fixed me a bowel of her corn pone soaked in milk and covered with honey. I can taste it now as I write. Hmm! So good! In a little while, Jesus came into the kitchen. Eventually, we went to another safe place. I was sitting on a large rock with Jesus. The rock was in a valley and the ground all around was carpeted with beautiful, colorful flowers. High majestic mountain peaks ringed the valley. Jesus had his arm around my shoulder. He looked me in the eye and told me that he loved me. I breathed deeply and soaked in the love and peace.
When I returned from a visit to Florida, one member of my prayer team asked whether I needed to meet with them again. I did. In the first meeting they had told me about generational healing. It comes from the “sins of the fathers’ tradition.” Stuff gets passed on in the family from generation to generation. I studied the genogram and then developed my family genogram. It helped me identify patterns and events that were causing the emotional pain. I met with them. I shared my genogram. One member of the team wisely observed that I still had to deal with issues of forgiveness for past hurts. They invited me to go to my safe place. I was back in the flower carpeted valley. The mountains were high and majestic. The smog free sky was clear blue.
Soon though, I was no longer in the valley. I was on the mountain where Jesus was hanging on the cross. I was drawn to Jesus on the cross. I morphed into him and became one with him on the cross. I turned within Jesus and faced the way he was facing. I stretched out my arms and said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they did.” I felt the release of forgiveness. I was so peaceful. I was one with the nonviolent Jesus. I had absorbed the pain of the past and let go. Forgiveness led to resurrection. I was no longer on the cross. I was one with the Risen Jesus. My arms were stretched out in triumphal joy. The next day I forgave a family member and sought his forgiveness. Our relationship is healed.
A few days later I attended a healing Eucharist at the church. I placed my genogram on the altar. After the healing Eucharist, the priest and I went outside. I had been raining all morning. Now it was not raining. We were able to burn the genogram. The past is history—all smoke. I can now get on with writing my own life story. Praise God!
The Gospel reading for the third Wednesday of Advent is the oft dreaded genealogy of Jesus, the Messiah, from the very beginning of Matthew’s Gospel. Preachers eschew it because the stumble over the strange names. The begats and begots become repetitive. Father Raymond Brown, Christ in the Gospels of the Liturgical Year, gives us great insights into the infancy narratives, the passion narratives, and the four Gospels. Much of what follows is borrowed from him.
I wonder what Jesus thought about his forebears. Most of them were unsavory or unknown. Matthew’s genealogy is divided into three groups, each having fourteen generations. This is Jesus’ genogram. Note who is in the family tree and who is not. Matthew chose Isaac not Ishmael. To say that Ismael’s mother, Hagar, was abused is an understatement. He chose Jacob over Esau. Jacob deceived his father to secure the inheritance. Ishmael and Esau were written out of the will, so to speak. Judah is chosen over Joseph.
We move to David and the dynasty which eventually led to the exile—a “corrupt and venal” monarchy as Brown describes it. David was an adulterer and a murderer. Like many a tyrant, he arranged for the assassinations of his foes. Out of the long lineage of kings, only Hezekiah and Josiah ware faithful to God. God can even work with corrupt power structures.
In the final group, we encounter many unknown, ordinary people. Do not forget to look at the women. Tamar posed as a prostitute to seduce Judah. Rahab was a prostitute. Ruth was a foreigner, a Moabite. Bathsheba was an adulteress. Then comes Mary, who had a “peculiar marital situation.” Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel are not even mentioned.
Matthew’s point in all this begetting and begatting—God works with the weak and the sinful to bring about the reign of the Messiah. If push came to shove, I seriously doubt that the Messiah, who dined with tax collectors, prostitutes, drunks, and sinners would have changed any of his ancestry. Jesus knew that Abba God can write straight with crooked lines. He will lower every mountain and make smooth the ways. He uses the weak and sinful to confront the haughty, the rich and the powerful.
Americans have had a keen interest in genealogy ever since Alex Haley’s Roots was broadcast. Who am I? Where did I come from? Who were my forbears? Our sons scoured every cemetery in Ireland looking for tombstones which read “Mahon.” Genealogy services have multiplied as people have quested to discover their roots. I just saw an ad for Ancestry.com on television the other night.
When we go back through our family trees, our family history, we discover many things. I have discovered that my paternal great grandfather, Patrick, and his wife, Catherine, were immigrants from County Mayo in 1860. Patrick was a coal miner in Scranton, PA and was killed in a mining accident in 1880—so much for the hopes and dreams of a refugee from the Great Famine who had survived passage on a coffin ship! My German maternal ancestors came in the early 1700s to Pennsylvania. They farmed land stolen from the Indians and then had to petition the governor for protection from the Indians.
The Bible refers to the sins of the fathers. When we study our ancestry and our developmental experiences, we, like Jesus, often find out that all was not well. At one time or another, almost everyone laments the fact that God did not give them perfect parents. We know the foibles of our parents only too well. That is why Indians look to the grandparents—their sins and peccadilloes are much less obvious.
Alice Miller has spent her career as a therapist trying to help people unravel the hurts of the past. We parent the way we were parented. If our parents were physically or psychologically abusive, for example, we have a tendency to follow the same patterns with our own children. Why? Because, as children, we could not fight back; therefore, we repressed our anger. We repeat the sins of our parents. Patterns of addiction may also appear from generation to generation.
The genogram is a useful tool for generational healing. It enables us to look at our family tree and discern patterns and relationships. It can be a powerful tool for healing past hurts. We have to identify and embrace our hurts before we can let them go. We have to recognize that we are our fathers’ and motehrs’ children.
Thich Nhat Hahn encourages us to smile when past hurts come into consciousness. We cannot fight them. Fighting them just makes matters worse. We have to acknowledge them—smile at them and then let them go. This is what Father Thomas Keating teaches about centering prayer. In centering prayer, we place ourselves in the presence of the Divine Physician. When hurtful memories merge from the past, we acknowledge them and let them go. God is at work healing us. Participating in centering prayer, in a generational healing service and burning the genogram are powerful tools for letting go of past hurts and getting on with writing one’s own life story.
Back to Matthew. Like Jesus, we cannot change the past. We have to acknowledge it and get on with living. Jesus was true God and true man. As a man, Jesus bore the sins of the fathers in his genealogy; however, he did not wallow in the past. He transformed his past into loving service. Understanding the love and compassion of Abba God, Jesus too was merciful and compassionate. Love one another as I have loved you. He partied with sinners. He forgave prostitutes. He welcomed tax collectors. He healed the sick. He gave sight to the blind. He gave hearing to the deaf. He gave strong legs to the crippled. He invited the least to the banquet table.
In spite of the unsavory characters in our family tree, we too can transform our past hurts into loving service. Once we recognize past hurts, we need to find ways to deal with them. Part of the process is the grieving process. We must grieve sufficiently and go through all the stages of the grieving process before we can let go and forgive. We can unite our sufferings and the pain we willingly absorb with the pain and suffering of the Crucified One. Jesus did not come to die on the cross to satisfy an angry God. Jesus came to reveal the face of Abba Father—the loving God who pursues us up the nights and down the days like the Hound of Heaven. Jesus reveals a merciful, compassionate God. On the cross and in the Eucharist, Jesus tells us to “do this in memory of me.” Do what in memory of Him? Love our enemies. Pray for our persecutors. Forgive seven times seventy.
Forgiveness is the key to letting go of past hurts so we can be healed. Jesus, the nonviolent Son, absorbed pain and suffering on the cross rather than retaliating and inflicting pain on his persecutors. When we embrace past hurts and let go, we can then forgive. The cross is all about letting go and forgiving. Like Jesus, we can become one with him on the cross, stretch out our arms, and say of those who have hurt us, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they did.” Then we will experience the gift of resurrection, new life. Our arms are no longer stretched out and nailed to the cross. Our arms are the arms of the Risen Jesus which are now stretched out in triumphal joy.
Jesus in John 10:10 assures us that he came so that we “might have life and so that we might have everything we need.” Jesus wants us to let go of the past, to forget about our ancestral trees and forgive so that we can get on with living life fully in the Spirit who gifts us abundantly. It is grace and Abba God will give us “everything we need.”

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