THE HEALING OF MEMORIESThe healing of memories is a term coined by Agnes Sanford, and it is one of her great contributions to the area of Christian healing. The ministry has taken on many forms and techniques as various ministers have found it an effective tool for helping others deal with the traumas of their past.
Those who exercise the ministry will adapt it to their own particular gifts and tend to find the unique expression that seems to match up with their particular understanding. The language remains the same, but the practice tends to vary a bit. Some use imaging in with an end to create something that has not occurred to effect a manipulation of the psyche. Some pray with a very general intercession, some are specific in their prayer. I heard one person speak who saw "being saved and forgiven" as the healing of memories.
So it is that Healing of Memories has covered everything in the gamut of inner healing. There are those who use imaging as a method of creating fantasies in which healing is to take place. There are others who are opposed to imaging altogether; but all of them find as their intent the healing of the inner life of a person's past to set that person free to live in the present.
Like many other aspects of Christian healing, Healing of Memories has come in for its share of criticism, and even a bit of condemnation. The critics seem concerned for two reasons. They do not believe it is found in Holy Scripture, and they believe the use of visualization, or imaging is a form of incantation or sorcery.
If we are to commend the use of the ministry we call the Healing of Memories, we must deal with the questions they raise, for ourselves as much as in answer to the critics. Any time we are faced with a sincere opposing voice, we must consider it lest we miss some messenger of God.
WHAT IS IT?
If any method of healing is effective in "setting captives free", we don't really need to explain what it does. On the other hand it is good to have some idea of what we are trying to do when we minister to others. What is the nature of the disease for which we seek healing, and what seems to occur as we minister?
The clearest conceptualization of the process of Healing of Memories that I know is grounded in some of the work done by Dr. Wilder Penfield, a Canadian neurosurgeon from McGill University in Montreal. In working with galvanic probes of the human brain, he discovered that the entire history of every person is recorded in the memory system of that person.
It is recorded not only as the five senses of the person perceived it; the record includes the feelings of that person at the time of the recording. Our entire life script is still with us. It is still assisting us with the task of recognizing and sorting out the people and things we encounter in life.
It would seem that in some sense we share the experience of Pavlov's dogs. Our reactions to outside stimuli are in some way conditioned by what has happened to us in the past. What we have recorded is a powerful force influencing our reactions to each of the stinuli we encounter - whether it be in terms of people or things. It is this experiential base on which our wisdom is being built.
It is this experiential context that gives stability to our lives. It is the ground of our prejudices - those prejudgments that enable us to evaluate situations and make decisions. Out of these memories we seek to build our lives in such fashion as will yield the greatest self actualization.
This is true for Christian and non-Christian alike. All of us seek that which we believe will best fulfill our lives. While the Christian seeks to find freedom to live out God's will as a means of finding fulfillment, the non-Christian seeks freedom to seek satisfaction through obedience to another god or even his own self will.
We tend to build our own kingdom as we accumulate memories and experiences. It is our remembered perceptions of our past that give the quality to our lives and define us as persons. We tend to interpret experience through them, even as we add to their content. We will repress those which cause pain and savor those which cause pleasure.
We will tend to believe what we want to believe and in those areas of life that are critical to our kingdom, we will insist that we are right and anyone who disagrees must be wrong. What we perceive as truth is our reality.
As I was driving through the hills of Georgia one afternoon, I heard a talk-show host say, "Perception is reality." That was in accord with what I knew about people. They believed what they perceived was reality - if not for the rest of the world, it was for them.
The host then followed with another statement, "Perception is reality, but it is not actuality." That was what I needed to complete the equation for me. I have always suspected that human beings hold the most complete view of reality they can know, but they do not yet have a complete view of God and the creation of which they are a part.
We meet the world daily with the data furnished by our own unique memory content. We don't see things quite the same as the others; but for most of us, it is similar enough to communicate. Our view is not clear enough to set us free from the trauma we have recorded in our past.
Our problem then is how to change the stored memories to set us free from the trauma without changing history. We cannot go back and change the outcome of the events we have recorded in our memories, but we can go back and change our perception of those events. We cannot go back and change what the senses perceived, but we can go back and change the emotional content of the record we hold of our past.
To use my own experience as an example, we begin with a small boy who was shifted from one household to another until he reached the age of fourteen. The record was one in which there was a great deal of anxiety and insecurity.
Since the mind has the capacity to drop emotional pain into the unconscious level of the mind, the young man was not aware of the pain recorded in the memories of his childhood. If someone asked me how my childhood was, I was quick to say it was as happy as I could imagine. In fact it was happy because I imagined it to be happy. My childhood was edited to leave the happy memories at the conscious level while the pain was in the unconscious. Perhaps that is the source of the "good old days."
This arrangement enabled me to cope with the world in which I lived - through school and in a variety of situations after I had completed school. It was not until I had been ordained that I was brought into an environment in which those deep memories were stimulated and brought close to the surface.
I have always used my family images to deal with the church. I see it as being the family of God, and hence MY family. When I attended my first Diocesan Convention (our name for a convocation or a synod), I was very excited. It was a thrilling thing for me to participate in the decision-making actions of the family.
That feeling held until the aruguments that plague all church conferences began to rise to the floor. At that point I became physically ill. That illness pursued me from convention to convention. I used to get sick about a month before we met, and I would remain sick until well after the convention.
While my friends were able to pray my illness down to a week before convention and a few days following, it came to expression at a special convention where two of the clergy began to argue in an exclusive fashion, "If you don't agree with me, you are not a Christian."
I remember feeling that my world was coming apart at the seams. I stood up to speak, but I was incoherent. I sobbed like a small boy whose family was being torn apart. I embarrassed all of the people on the floor of that convention, but I managed to communicate my concern and involvement.
It was later that I was able to talk and pray with a friend who helped me find the source of the pain that needed to be healed. As we prayed and talked it was revealed to me that I had grown up in a number of households that had dominant women and recessive males. The males were frequently alcoholic. It was the little boy from that past whose feelings I shared on the floor of the convention.
When I got back to my parish, I asked one of the ladies who had learned to pray for Healing of Memories to pray for me as a little boy in such an environment. I had been prayed for before but I had not known the situation where the prayer was needed and it had done little to set me free.
When she prayed, "Jesus, will you please go to the little boy who cannot stop the arguments," my memories gave up their images. I saw on my mind's TV screen, the little boy lying on his side, holding his stomach, feeling just as I did on the floor of that convention.
I saw Jesus walk into the picture from the right side of the screen. When He got to the center, the little boy looked up and saw Him, and he asked, "Jesus, where were you? I couldn't see you." The truth is that I had no idea that Jesus was on earth at that time in my life. I was told that He was up in heaven.
Jesus said nothing at all. He simply walked over and put His hand on the little boy's head. When He did, the peace of God flowed into the little boy. I could see the change in the little one, and I could feel the change in me. Jesus had supplied the memory with His presence. In His presence, the pain no longer had room. There was in its place a peace that was able to carry me through the next convention without any illness at all.
There is one other aspect of that picture that I believe is worth noting. In that same picture, I saw two adults arguing as the little boy lay on the floor. Even with the entrance of Jesus they continued to argue. God did not change the situation. He did change my perception of it.
Jesus redeemed that time of pain in my memory, and He used the experience of healing to show me something about what happens as we use the ministry. It was not a fantasy, it was a reality. I could not swear that I remember the exact time of the argument, but it seems very much like the night my father and mother yelled at each other just before their divorce.
REDEEMING THE TIME
When ministry works to bring me into a closer relationship to God, I feel that it must be of Him. When I approached Him to ask where this was found in Scripture, He pointed out two things. The first was that He had come to heal the broken hearted. Lk 4: That is what occurs.
When our memory banks are cluttered with fear, resentment or some other disease, the heart, where our experience and our mind meet, does not function properly. To the extent that we ask Jesus into our memories so we may perceive His presence we are healed. To the extent that we receive such healing, our heart is healthy.
The particular passage of Scripture that He pointed out to me is
in Ephesians 5 where it is written, "Be careful how you walk,
not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil."
The new translations that I use read "making the most of the time" or "like
intelligent and not senseless people."
How do we walk as wise, redeeming the time? Redemption is not something that I can do. It is something that God has done as He sent Jesus into the world to die for me. The work God has done FOR me is complete. He has opened the way for me to enter into a Kingdom that is His. It is not something that I deserve; it is something He wills for me to enjoy with Him.
He has not completed the work that He intends to do IN me. It remains for me to be brought to the image and likeness of His Son, Jesus, that I might live as one of His sons. God brings my life into that redemptive realm as I invite Jesus to enter my life and make the changes He desires in me.
Redeemed time is that time in which I am aware of His being with me. He is always with me, but I am not always aware of His presence, and so I record the time as if He were not. That was the cause of disease in the little boy whom Jesus visited to heal the emotional hurts. He had recorded the time without Jesus, and he recorded the insecurity that went with his false perception.
When Jesus revealed Himself to the little one in that crisis of life, the time was redeemed. The little boy recorded the time as though Jesus was there, and the insecurity which was recorded without Jesus, could not stand in His presence.
There is no other way I can interpret the intent of that bit of Scripture. It means inviting Jesus into every waking moment of our lives so we can know He is with us. It means rerecording our memories so they include His presence, because where He is, there is both peace and love. There is no room for disease to abide.
If we are to embrace this truth and use it as a basis for our ministry, we must make a decision about what we believe. Do you believe that Jesus has been present with you since the moment of your conception? Certainly the Psalmist declares this faith in the 139th Psalm.
Do you believe that Jesus is bound in the same finitude of time and space that binds us? or can He go back in time? Can He go back to those of us who have recorded the memory without Him and make Himself known to redeem that time? That is my belief because it is my experience, and it is in accord with the witness of the Scriptures as they reveal the intent of God.
The problem of using imagery in the healing ministry is one of discerning God's will. If we use imagery to manifest our own will and not God's, then certainly we are practicing sorcery. If we are using our imagery to affirm God's will, we are using it as a means, not to change His will, but to see His will manifest in us or another of His children.
If it is true that Jesus was with us from conception to now, then many of us lived out the psychosis that led us to believe He was not with us. When we desire to enter into the redemption of our past, we invite Jesus into some experience where we had been ignorant of His presence. We image His coming into that place to change our perception and, hence, our record of it.
When we use imaging in this way, we neither conjure nor use incantation. We discard a psychotic (erroneous view of reality), and we replace it with Truth. We trade what we had perceived as reality for God's actuality. We become rooted and grounded in Him.
It may not have been necessary for Jesus to let me watch as He revealed Himself to me as a little boy, but it was a comfort I value very highly as a gift from God. I saw Him enter that time to bring healing to the memory of the past in a new dimension. I felt Him bring healing to me in the present.
I recall one person for whom I prayed who did not believe in Jesus as Risen Lord. He was willing to try anything to get rid of some of the problems that plagued him from his childhood. It was when he saw Jesus go to the little one that he had been, that he was able to embrace Jesus as a reality and not a nursery rhyme character.
Jesus taught us to pray, "believing we are receiving." How better can we pray believing than to see Him redeeming the time that was so painful without Him. When we pray using imagery, ask Him to supply the image He wants you to use. Trust Him to bring the one that is suitable for you in a particular situation.
The imagination is a capacity we can use for good or evil in our lives. To neglect it is to neglect a gift of God and deprive ourselves of one aspect of God's love. It is a gift to be used prayerfully as we offer it to Him to use in our lives to His glory. We are to use Holy Imagination, giving thanks to God for the gift and for the direction for its use in our prayers.
THE NATURE OF THE PRAYER
When we begin to pray for the Healing of Memories, we begin by thanking Jesus for being there with us. We thank Him that He is able and willing to go back into the past to redeem the person for whom we are praying. When I pray, I ask Him first to go into the deep mind and let His light shine into the dark corners where the little ones are hiding because of their rejection or shame or anger. I ask that He let them come out into the light of His love where He might wash away the negatives and let them recall His presence, and the comfort of His love and joy and peace.
There are some things that are constant in all of us. Conception is part of the experience of every person on earth. Since that is where our memory begins, that is where we begin our prayer.
There are few who were conceived in pure love. Some of us were conceived in a measure of lust and resentment. Some were the product of the back seat of a car or some party where passion got out of hand. The prayer begins with asking Jesus to go back to redeem the seed from whence the person has come, and to wrap that newly conceived little one in His love and joy and peace.
Perhaps the most crucial part of the gestation period is the time when the mother finds out she is pregnant. If the mother is looking forward to pregnancy, there may be little trauma. If the mother has no desire to be pregnant, the reaction is usually more negative. The reaction of the mother is transferred to the baby. Rejection is recorded then and there, and it remains until it is redeemed.
I recall my wife praying with an elderly woman who had felt rejected all of her life. When Julia began to pray through that period of gestation when her mother became aware that she was pregnant, the lady began to say, "Oh no. Oh no. Not again." She stopped short and said, "That was my mother's voice. She didn't want me. My parents were poor and could not afford any more children."
The source of the rejection was revealed; it remained for it to be healed. The prayer was simple, "Jesus, will you go back into the womb to the little one who feels rejection and anger, and let her know that you are there. Speak to the little one in embryo to let her know that she is exactly who you want her to be and where you want her to be and what you want her to be. Wrap the little one in you love and your joy and your peace that she might remember only your presence and your love."
There are children who are born feeling guilt for causing mother to become ill during pregnancy. The conversation goes on outside that mother is sick because she is pregnant. The child translates that, "I made my mother sick." The prayer is to invite Jesus into the womb to forgive and love the little one to remove the guilt.
Birth is a time of trauma. There is pain as we fight our way out through the birth canal. There is rejection as we find ourselves cast out of a warm womb into a cold world. There is a measure of fear as we find ourselves separated from the one in whom we have always found our identity, and there is anger where our will is not being considered by those who handle us.
Soft birth may lessen the impact of being held up by the feet and whacked on the fanny, but even soft birth holds the same experiences at a lesser level. The healing of the birth trauma begins as we ask Jesus to be there to receive the child into the warmth of His love - to screen out the pain and rejection and put in its place the memory of being received into love.
When I pray for people, I ask them to visualize Jesus as the one who receives the baby at birth. Lest some be offended by an imaging of something that seems a fantasy, let me add that all who are born into love are received by hands that may belong to another, but it is Jesus who does the receiving through one of us in flesh.
There is a point of trauma people rarely consider. When the parents find out the sex of the child, there is often rejection of the baby because it was not the "right" sex. If the parents had wanted a boy, and the baby turns out to be a girl, the baby interprets being the wrong sex as a failure.
How many little girls have grown up trying to be the boy the father wanted? How many boys have grown up feeling they have not made the grade because they were not a girl? How many children have grown up with names that were more suitable for the other sex because parents did not really accept them for what they were at birth?
The problem may be compounded, if shortly after the birth of a girl whose parents wanted a boy, a boy is born and the little girl is cast aside while the focus of family love is directed to the boy. There is no way to conduct a study on such things, but I wonder if some homosexuality does not find its genesis here.
The prayer is to ask Jesus to go back to the newborn child and pick it up and speak His love to it. By this time we know if the child is boy or girl so we pray in that knowledge. "Jesus, will you go back to the little girl and let her know that it is all right for her to be a little girl, that she is exactly what you intended her to be, and you love her very much. Lord, let her know that she does not have to be a little boy. She is a delight to you as a little girl."
That is only one of the crucial places where healing may be necessary. If it was not all right to be a girl, then it is worse to become a woman. So it is that we pray for the young lady when she has reached puberty and the changes in her body are the source of anxiety and shame.
We pray "Jesus will you go to the young girl who is becoming a woman and let her know that is all right for her to become a woman. She is just exactly what you want her to be, and that you rejoice in her transformation."
If either the baby or mother had some problem that caused a separation that prevented bonding, it may help to ask Jesus to bring His mother to nurture the baby. This would always be true for a baby that was given up at birth for adoption. The feeling of abandonment that the baby records on such separation may be healed very simply.
It is also helpful at times to ask Jesus to bring His mother to touch with the adolescent girl who is becoming a woman. Very few girls receive adequate nurture from their mothers at this point in their life.
The prayer asking Jesus to bring His mother is one I was led to pray when when praying for a woman who could not relate to her own mother. We were praying for the healing of the woman as a young child. When she imagined herself in a situation where her mother was unable to relate to her, I was led to ask Jesus to bring His mother. He did bring her to the little girl, and she was able to relate to her own mother so they were reconciled before her mother died.
This practice is a bit difficult for some who have not found a relationship to Mary. When I asked for some indication about where I could find Scriptural support, I was led to John's story of the crucifixion of Jesus. At the foot of the cross we find Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the disciple whom Jesus loved.
Most people make the translation of the disciple whom Jesus loved as John, but the text does not require that. When praying about it, it seemed to me that I heard, "You are the disciple whom I love. Everyone who elects to accept my love is a disciple whom I love, and I share with them my mother.
This interpretation is in accord with the saying of Jesus in the Gospels, "Who are my mother and my brothers and my sisters? These who hear the word of God and do it."
This would seem to be the creation of a new family with God our Father and Mary, our mother. We are found then in the blood line of Jesus Christ. As His brothers and sisters we share His parents. This was the last act of Jesus before He said, "It is finished."
If anyone is uncomfortable with this idea, then do not pray in that fashion. Healing is not a matter of our arguing with any person for whom we pray. It is a matter of reconciling to Jesus, the people for whom He died. When they are reconciled, He can do the revealing and teaching. I have found some things impossible for people to accept from me are easy for them to accept from Jesus.
While there are other places in our lives where we share a common set of crises, we will simply list some of them here. One of the places where prayer is important especially where there was an overdue birth, is just prior to birth. We ask Jesus to go back to that time and give the baby permission to be born. Some of us do not have the permission, and spend a great deal of energy in life justifying our presence in the world.
The day a child begins school leaves a sense of abandonment, when the significant adults leave a child in the midst of people they do not know. Ask Jesus to go take the hand of the child and give her the assurance that shr is not abandoned.
Forgiveness is an element that may be needed in every memory within a child. Where there has been rejection at the time when mother finds out she is pregnant, the baby must forgive both the mother and itself. When a baby is born a girl when parents were expecting a boy, the baby must forgive both parents and herself.
The procedure I have been led to use is to ask the person for whom healing is sought to image that place in their life, and speak forth the forgiveness, "Mother I forgive you, and Daddy, I forgive you, and (we will call her Jane) Jane, I forgive you." Following that I pray, "Jesus will you go to the little one and enable her to release that forgiveness toward her parents and her own self."
Wherever there is a remembered situation where forgiveness is needed, I will follow the same pattern until we have covered all that the Lord has brought to the conscious level for healing. If and when He brings more, then we will pray for the healing of those also.
A common event in the life of most children is losing some significant person through death. This may also be a problem if we lose someone later in life either through death, or often today, through divorce.
I ask that they visualize themselves at the funeral of the loved one. I ask them to forgive the person who died and left them alone, and to forgive themselves. Often children will blame anything that goes wrong on themselves. Then I ask Jesus to go to that one who suffers the loss and enable her to forgive and relenquish the person to Him. Where people are able to image Jesus' presence with them, they do well with the release of the loss in the past, so they can get on with their lives in the present.
I will also ask Jesus to allow them to see the departed one with Him so they will know he or she is in good hands. There may be some who will object to this prayer on the basis of the belief that we don't know where the particular departed person was consigned. We do know, as we have said before, that the Psalmist believed that God was there; and unless He changed His mind about them, He loves them. The effect of the prayer is to enable the people to leave their departed loved ones in the hands of God for His judgment rather than ours.
Divorce is very similar since it too is a breach of one of our close relationships. Since two are made one flesh in Holy Matrimony, a divorce is much like a death in which a part of each person dies.
In the event of a divorce I ask the person to visualize the time when the decree is final. At that point the death of the marriage is complete, and the person needs healing. In the event Jane and Sam are divorced and I am praying for Jane, I ask her to say, "Sam, I forgive you, and Jane, I forgive you." I then ask Jesus to go to that one who has been hurt to comfort her, and enable her to forgive so she might get on with her life.
Another of the phenomena of the inner life is the inner vow. We make them as emphatic statements about what we will or won't do, and our memory promptly records them and seeks to use them as limits which are very difficult for us to pass. There are few of us who have not said at one time or another, "I'll never do that again," or "I will never forgive the one who hurts me."
I once had a woman in my parish whose husband had died. She later began courting another man. It appeared to me that they were headed for matrimony, and so I took the liberty of asking when they planned to get married.
Her answer was, "I don't know. Every time we talk about our getting married, I feel like you all are going to kill me."
Knowing her well, I could ask the next question. "What did you say when your husband died?"
Her reply was, "I said I'd die before I got married again." That gave us the connection. She was willing to renounce the vow then and there. With very little trouble we asked Jesus to go to the one who had made the vow and release her from it. He did. The couple is now happily married.
Inner vows are not always so easy to find. Somewhere in my own unconscious there is a vow that I would never let anyone see me cry again. As a result I find crying openly a very difficult thing to do. It has been prayed over, and is somewhat better, but I still pray that one day God will enable me to locate it and renounce it, that I might be set free to release the tears that come to the backs of my eyeballs and stop there.
When you have prayed over the areas God has revealed to need healing, the closing prayer is one that I find important. Since I have never seen anyone healed completely in one prayer session, I always pray for God to continue the work He has begun.
I will pray something like, "Lord I ask that you go into the unconscious areas of this child and heal all in the unconscious that is open to your touch and let it fall away. If there is any memory that needs to be brought to the conscious level, please bring it gently so that he might not be overwhelmed, but might be able to offer it to you for the healing you desire in him."
As the healing begins to manifest in a person, he may also find that other memories come up to be healed. That should not be surprising since we are aware that much of our memory is at the unconscious level. When the memories we can easily access are healed, we are able to access those hidden at a deeper level.
The way to healing is opened when we begin to pray. It does not happen just because we have read the material. Healing of Memories is a gentle ministry, and one we will learn by doing. I commend to any of you finding a group of people who are willing to submit one to another with respect to Christ, and try it out.
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