It is only the true you that can fully experience the life Jesus promised was better than your dreams—not a persona, mask or coping strategy. We find our most authentic selves in a growing union with God. It’s a process. If we do not give up, keep putting one courageous foot in front of the other as we walk home through this wild life with Jesus, we will surely bloom into the authentic one we were created to be. We will discover who we truly are, ditch the dead masks and personas we have so intricately woven and be reintroduced to our true—fully integrated—selves. And it is this one—that wholehearted authentic you—that will bravely enter into the better life Jesus promised.
“Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart…”
(Psalm 86:11-12 NIV)
Binding up broken hearts is an arduous endeavor, even for Jesus. Why? He must speak to a soul that’s been divided. If the heart is to be re-unified, each part will need to be won over; and to do that, Jesus will have to deliver the truth to each region differently. He must remind those areas living like the younger brother that they are beloved children of the Father, a father who lovingly sent him to compel them to come back home. (And when these prodigal places return, they do so, not as slaves or servants, but as celebrated sons and daughters.) To those parts existing like the older brother, he must often confront them, maneuver around them, speak disruptive truth to them in an effort to open their eyes to their Father’s heart.
Part of the issue is that our older areas laboring in the house of God do not believe they need rescuing or reunion. They are living in their father’s house working, potentially desiring to please him; yet are blind to the Father’s heart—for union, integration and oneness inside the home of our heart. They don’t see anything wrong with ignoring, disassociating or pushing the broken places returning home to life's peripheries. Their faithful productivity, unknowingly, becomes justification to differentiate themselves, elevate themselves and continue the internal segregation.
Concluding that they don’t need the younger areas and are likely better off without them, the more mature areas banish them to the background of life. This internal distancing, insulates them from having to face the younger parts they feel have brought them so much shame. For the older parts to understand, the truth must often be dispatched disruptively, striking like a splitting maul to the psyche. That internal Pharisee is going to have to be confronted with the fact that their laborious hand washing ritual does not please God as much as dealing equitably with those regions he currently perceives as unclean, beneath him, foreign and other.
For Jesus to be successful, it requires Courage, fierce intentionality and masterful-maneuvering. He must woo the younger parts with tender kindness, assuring them that they are a much Beloved Child of a loving heavenly Parent, and simultaneously buffet the older parts with bouts of troubling truth. He must employ A Mature Love to see how to encourage the less mature areas in a way that doesn’t embolden the arrogance latent in the more mature areas. He must withdraw his words in Skillful Opposition to the older places, ruling like Herod and Herodias, yet reassure the younger places that his silence does not mean he’s rejected or forsaken them. In order to loose them to live with an Unveiled Face, he must strike hard enough to break the masks impeding the vision of the more responsible parts, while not crushing the prodigal heart he so desires to win. If a heart is ever to be reunited, our Brave Sibling, Jesus, must convince both “brothers” to come back together again. As the Story of the Lost Son depicts, this is no easy feat.
Thankfully, Jesus is a master at communicating one idea that simultaneously speaks to both parts of a divided heart. Remember, how Jesus answered the Pharisees’s “lose-lose” question in the temple:—“Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”—and Jesus’ cunning counter—“Then give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.” In one sentence Jesus won over the weary, overtaxed, disheartened crowd and left those mighty laborers of the House of God entirely speechless (Matthew 22:15-22). He speaks to our hearts in like fashion: winning the lost and broken areas, while turning the tables on our more mature ones. To open their blind eyes to the Father’s heart for union with him and within. This is all part of Jesus’ continuing mission to bind up our broken heart. No doubt, he is working on your heart this very moment and he won't quit until it's wholehearted and you fully enter into the life he promised would be better than your dreams.
1.) The Prodigal Son story is a such a gift to humanity. What part of Jesus' parable do you most resonate with?
2.) In this season of your life who do you relate more with in the story of the prodigal son, the younger or older sibling?
3.) In the Introduction of The Wholehearted Journey it says,"With each new transition comes a wilderness..." It is here, in the times surrounding our transitions and wildernesses, that our hearts are more vulnerable and, thus, more easily wounded—and our Shalom more easily broken. As you've learned, in your episodes of shattering, we are apt to create unhealthy coping strategies, live out of our personas, make agreements and the like. Look back over your history, at the major transitions and wildernesses you've experienced thus far. It's likely you'll discover broken areas still needing to be made whole. In light of this, what door of your heart (or episode of shattering) might Jesus be asking you to open up to him next?
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door,
I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
(Revelation 3:20 NKJV)
Have you ever found yourself drifting into a memory from your distant past. I call these recollections, “youthful returns.” While many youthful returns arise as moments of warm nostalgia, sometimes they return as painful recollections. Sounds, smells, the way someone touches you, gets upset at you or betrays you in your adult years, can make you feel the way you did—at the age you were—when you first experienced it. There are young places in all of us and some of them are severely wounded and broken.
When painful memories arise, it’s natural for us to shut them down, think about something else or, like me, get busy working on other things. Why do we do that? Those memories can be painful and are often accompanied with feelings of regret, guilt, anger or shame.
But, if we can get past the initial discomfort of those feelings, youthful returns can lead us into greater wholeness.
Next time one of those recollections arise, resist automatically moving past it. Instead, try to pay close attention to your “gut-reaction” to it. You may even notice an internal statement that you say in response to that memory. Let me give you an example.
In my past, when a recollection of George or Brody would arise, I would feel angry, upset or naive all over again and then internally think, “I was so stupid to trust them.” (Common internal statements may include: "I’m such a loser. I’m such an idiot. I was so stupid! I should have never put myself in that position. It’s all my fault. I deserved it. I hate them so much. I won't ever forgive them, etc.) If you don’t detect a specific internal statement rising, then attempt to put words to your initial gut-reaction to that past memory.)
As the Shepherds after God’s Own Heart that you’re rapidly becoming, you’ve probably already recognized what these statements are. Yes, they’re agreements.
Detecting how the memories make you feel and the internal statements—“gut responses”—that often accompany them can help you pinpoint past agreements. (Identifying and renouncing them will be an essential step to heal the wound(s) these memories often identify and, doing this, is necessary for you to fully recapture your Shalom (peace).
Even though most of us don’t recall the specific moment we entered into these internal contracts (remember, our enemy, like Ed, often strikes when we are young, weak, tired or vulnerable), yet they can have profound influence over your decisions. Agreements will keep you stuck, so they must be identified and renounced, so you can move forward. Inner vows work so effectively—not because your enemy is all that powerful—rather, it’s because you are. God gave you the power of choice. He gave you a will and that will of your’s is mighty. Your will is so strong, that God-Almighty refuses to trespass upon it.
When we renounce our agreements with our enemy and we agree with God, it aligns our will with God's and allows him to do what he has planned “long before he laid down earth’s foundations, to make you whole by his love (Ephesians 1:4 MSG).
After I (Joel) remembered that forgotten episode of my life—me, as a kid, sitting outside my house, curtains drawn, locked out—I recognized the agreement and was able to renounce the agreements I made with my enemy (in my past) and make a new agreement with God (in my present)—declaring, “I am not alone. Jesus was with me then and he has always been with me. He has never left me or forsaken me!”
I then was able to forgive my mom, stepfather and also my father for not being around, and allowing me to be placed in a vulnerable position as a child. Though the return of this memory was quite uncomfortable—heartrending even—it was a gift. Through it, I was able to do my part—forgive and renounce my agreement—so God could do his part—pour out all the healing my heart so desperately needed. (God is always ready to pour out his healing to make us whole, but forgiving and renouncing agreements prepares our heart so we can fully receive it.) Please, answer the following questions on a clean page of your journal or notebook.
- Have you ever experienced, what I (Joel) describe as, a youthful return?
- Have any past memories arisen as you’ve gone through The Wholehearted Journey?
- Were they pleasant or painful memories?
- If it was painful, what was the recollection about? What emotions did it bring up? Was it accompanied with a “gut-response” or an internal statement (e.g How could I be so dumb?, etc.)?
- If so, take a moment and renounce those agreements specifically.
- Do you need to extend forgiveness to anyone who took part in those circumstances you recalled? Now it’s time to do your part—forgive—so God can do his. Remember the four main steps of forgiving and letting go of your past (Session 5):
- Forgive yourself
- Grieve the loss
- Forgive the offender(s) and
- Let God love you in your place of need.
As these memories arrive… please percieve them as the more youthful—prodigal—places of your heart returning home. Resist the urge to ignore them or distract yourself until them recollection subsides. Instead, when these prodigal places arrive, know that it will require the present-mature-you to open up the door of your heart, so you and Jesus can enter in. Let’s invite Jesus to help us do so now.
I open my heart to you, Jesus. I invite you to enter in, dine, and mediate. Guide me through this time of prayer. Show me the broken places you desire to enter and make whole. You are the healer of the broken hearted. That is why you came. You are the same, yesterday, today and forever. So as you healed hearts when you walked the earth, you heal them today! I ask for your healing. I want to be united in “heart and mind” with you. I need to be made whole. Speak to me, my younger me and the present mature me. Make us united within and with you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Perhaps you’ve recognized the present mature you has treated the younger you harshly, it would be appropriate to take a moment and apologize now. If you haven’t written an apology letter yet, please take some time to do so now.
Celebrate the Reunion:
Do something that makes you feel happy, joyful and youthful! Plan a special outing or event for yourself. Potentially, do something you loved to do as a child. Maybe, do something that used to be joyful for you prior to the shattering episode you’ve written about. Maybe, like me, fully engage into an activity your kids (or grandkids, nephews or nieces, etc.) love to do—or do all of the above! This can be something you do on your own or with those near and dear to you. If you are participating in a small group, come back next session and share what you experienced during your celebration.
Classes (Small Groups): Throw a "Homecoming" party and allow people to share what they have learned and testify to the amazing work Jesus has done to make the individuals in your group more wholehearted.
After your reunion celebration, please take a moment and celebrate yourself! You made it through all the work prepared for you in The Wholehearted Journey & Wholehearted University!!!
Become a Shepherd after God's Own Heart, by coordinating a Wholehearted class with your friends, family or at your church.
You don’t have to be a teacher, therapist or church leader. And you definitely don’t need to know all the answers.
Here’s what we’re looking for from you:
- You’re on fire to help people.
- You know Jesus' 7 Skills transforms lives.
- You're ready to commit some time and make a difference.
It's that simple! If you've got those three things covered, you're exactly the right person to lead a class.