One of the huge blessings in my life has been to be a part of the Healing Academy here at ATS. I wrote this originally for my personal blog, but realized that there may be others who could benefit from understanding a bit better the work and the training that Healing Academy offers, so I am sharing it here. If you are interested in the gentle way of healing, please contact the Community Formation Offices to be connected.
Whenever I see a butterfly, it delights my soul. Something about a butterfly, flitting about in a gentle breeze, alighting upon flowers, its bright colors, it all stirs within me a sense of wonder and amazement. And I know I’m not the only one. Have you ever watched a child when they see a butterfly? Almost instantaneously they feel the need to try to capture the butterfly, and will chase after it, giggling and delighted by the hunt, captivated by this lovely little insect.
Butterflies go through four life stages. They begin life as an egg, laid on the type of leaf that they will enjoy eating. Once born, they are a caterpillar, and spend that life cycle eating, and eating, growing, and eating some more. Eating and growing in preparation of the next stage are the sole purposes of this cycle of their life. Then they become a pupa, protected in a chrysalis, going through metamorphosis, and transforming themselves into the final stage–that of a butterfly.
As a pupa, this is really where the miracle of their little lives happen. Safe in the silky cocoon, the caterpillar digests itself, essentially becoming caterpillar soup. There is nothing recognizable in this goo, nothing that resembles the previous life of the caterpillar. This primordial ooze reconfigures itself, realigns, and regrows, formed into a new creation. This rebirth as a new life form, so completely different from its original state, is an amazing transformation, a tiny little miracle wrapped up in a chrysalis.
Over the past few years, since moving to this quiet little town in Kentucky, I have been blessed to be part of a healing ministry. It is through this ministry that I have grown, been shaped, and transformed. I am journeying through my own metamorphosis.
Had you mentioned the word “healing” to me before, especially in the setting of church ministry, I would have scoffed. My mental picture of healing was part Steve Martin (from the movie “Leap of Faith”) and part T.V. evangelist, shouting at someone, proclaiming healing, and an “instantaneous” healing, the person getting up from a wheelchair, walking.
It all seemed fake. An artificially created stage show, made for the purpose of entertainment or coercing the audience into belief.
The abundant healings within the Bible all seemed so distant, just a part of Christianity’s past, but not a part of current culture. And yet…
Healing is part of the command that Jesus gave his disciples. Matthew 10:1 states that Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them the authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness (NIV, emphasis mine). In Luke 9:2, and again in Luke 10:9, he sends them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. Part of the gifts within the body of Christ, as stated in 1 Corinthians 12:28, is healing, along with miracles, teaching, preaching and tongues. It is sad, really, that healing is not a gift that is cultivated or emphasized within our Christian culture, especially since Christ sent his followers out with a command to not just preach the gospel message, but to heal in His name.
We had friends here who first introduced us to the gentle, sweet, tender way of healing. A way of inviting the Holy Spirit in, and allowing God to reveal the hurts, the broken places of our souls. Both my husband and I found ourselves in the Healing Academy, drawn to the beautiful work through our own healing journey. The healing ministry that we have been taught here is not loud, it is not abrupt, it is not forced. What we do is bear witness to the power and the redemption found in Christ. We claim healing in Jesus’ name, but we know that God heals in His own, unique way and in His own time. We may ask for physical healing, but what God may first work on is the emotional wounds causing the physical pain. The layers of hurt, emotional, psychological and physical, all manifest themselves within people differently, and God wants every level, every layer, restored and redeemed. He wants us to be whole.
His greatest longing for us is to be made new, in Christ. He brings healing, He brings restoration. As prayer ministers, we listen, we love, and we pray. That is the essence of healing ministry. We intercede, we ask, we anoint, we cover with blessings and we wait on the Lord. We are not trying to counsel, but we are inviting them to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, to be open and vulnerable, confessing and repenting if needed.
There is beauty in the community that can be broken together and that offers grace to one another. There is joy found in a community that trusts God can heal, and intercedes for each other. There is rest and renewal in being present with the other in waiting on the Lord.
This is the joy I have found in my journey. I came to this place, alive and well, but not living into the life I was created for. I came here a caterpillar. Through the past years, I have settled into my cocoon, and I have allowed the deep, hard work of transformation to begin. My time of metamorphosis may take the rest of my days upon this earth. It is not easy work. It takes effort and energy to expose that which is wounded, or flawed, or broken within me. It takes leaning in to the loving arms of the Father, as well as those around me, to succumb to the knitting together of the frayed edges of my life. It takes a willing spirit to lay down my pride, to dissolve into a puddle of tears in front of others and allow the inner work to happen.
The more I heal, the more I realize how much more needs to be healed. And it isn’t just for my benefit. It is healing my family. My children and my husband benefit. Our relationships are stronger. I am more gentle in the way I love and care for them. Friendships are deepened. The way I interact with the world is different. I am less quick to judge, less likely to condemn.
But my work is not done.
I am not yet perfected, not yet ready to break free of the chrysalis. There is still work and growth to be done.
And when the time comes, it will not be me, but my Creator, who breaks open the cocoon. He who knit me together in my mother’s womb will complete the work He began in me. I will be freed from the constraints of sin and brokenness.
I will fly.
**all photographs are courtesy of www.butterflypictures.net