Thursday, September 18, 2008

Self Harm and the Wounds of Christ

A bit of a warning - this post is going to deal with some issues that some may not be comfortable with. But I remember when I used to go to West Birmingham Family Church, a prophecy was made over me that my honesty would be used by God to act in releasing spiritual bombs that unlock secrets that have bound many for years. So I want to write and share what I am about to - in the hope that someone somewhere may read this and be heartened by the fact that they are not alone in struggling as they am. That there are others! And that Jesus Christ DOES care and there is an answer and it doesn't lie in cliched Christian answers or in over-bearing church discipline.

I was at the gym today (it's become my new spiritual escape - there aren't many mountains around Birmingham to get away to as Rob Rufus suggested). I find it quite helpful blocking out the world and find that God often speaks to me because I am stuck on a treadmill or on a rower and there's nowhere else I can go! I was startled to see a young lad come in (maybe about 15 or 16) and sit down next to me on the rower and all down his arm were vivid cuts which were clearly self-inflicted. Self-harm. We don't talk about it in church much do we? But what distressed me was the feelings and emotions that arose in response to seeing this lad's arm. I may have mentioned (but I don't think I did publicly) that a few years ago when I was in Bristol I used to regularly self-harm as a coping mechanism to deal with depression.

I should mention it was one of the things I asked for help about from my parent's church (and didn't receive any) but went on to deal with it pretty much through gradually exposing myself to the grace of God through Terry Virgo and Rob Rufus's teaching.

It was rather startling and distressing to see this lad's arm and have the thought flash through my mind that how releasing and relieving it would be to also self-harm again and feel the pain and the anxiety of work go away just for a moment. I left the gym and drove home struggling with the temptation a bit but saw this rather as an opportunity to see whether the message of grace and glory really REALLY does work! And I want to testify that it does. It really, really does. I was driving home crying out to God that I have allowed working at a children's hospice to distress me and upset me enough that I should want to physically harm the temple of the Holy Spirit and there was absolutely NO condemnation or guilt or judgement from heaven!

There was only everlasting love - everlasting arms. A verse came unbidden to my mind.

"I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders, a Lamb standing as if slain ...".

It occured to me that if the Lamb was standing there as if slain then He most probably had blood and wounds on Him. Many researchers agree that people who self-harm do so because; "Some feel as if they are not good enough and they might not want to take it out on the person who harmed them. It's often difficult for them to open up and tell about their "secret shame". Yet the body is remarkable in the fact that it heals - hence self-harmers have to keep on and on harming.

But the wounds of Christ are ever-fresh. They are an ever-reminder of the ever-present work of the Cross! Jesus didn't just die so that we can be assured of an eternal future when we die - although that's part of it. "Salvation" is a word that carries with it a connotation of complete life change. When He died on the Cross He stretched out His arms and He died for us ALL. The Cross is far more than a historical event that's something to weep over every now and then. The empty Cross and empty grave (as Rob Rufus says) are the source of all spiritual power! He Himself said that His mission when He came to earth was;

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives - And freedom to prisoners".

So those wounds that are ever fresh are there to bring good news to the afflicted. To bind up the broken-hearted. To proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. And these - may I add - are all emotions and feelings that contribute to people self-harming. Am I the only Christian who has struggled in the past with harming themselves? I suspect not. And if my suspicion is correct - then I wanted this post desperately so much to be a message of hope to them. The wounds of Christ are as though freshly slain! There's no need to bleed yourself because Christ bled for us. And in those drops of precious blood, every need, every desire, every pain, every hope of mankind can be met by a loving eternally gracious God who wants to see His people embraced in ever-lasting arms.


jul said...

I love hearing bits and peices of your testimony! So powerful Dan. I've been praying for you today...

07000intune said...

I've been wrestling with a piano action that had to be re-done this afternoon and thinking about you all the time.

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks so much Julie ... I'm sure it's prayers like yours that has made me so aware of the love of Christ. And thanks Chris also :) You guys are amazing friends.

Peter Day said...

Awesome post - I know it will bring hope and encouragement to many.

Anonymous said...

thx ... i self-harm and am a xian.. i thought it was just me :( but this is great. i googled it and found this - i never thougt of that before. christs wounds - ever bleed. our wounds heal so have to harm again. wow. :) thx!

janelle said...

Wow, Dan. This was powerful.

Dan Bowen said...

Thx Janelle :) .... hi anonymous - glad the post was of use to you. Do feel free to email me if you wanted and I'd gladly share more. Please don't think this is all "sorted" for me - since seeing that lad at the gym, I've struggled daily again with a desire to harm myself but I've found there's an amazing remedy - the love, love, love of God!! He's so passionate for us.

Be praying for you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. You don't know how grateful I am!
From experience I can say that the temptations do keep returning and in some senses it never gets easier! BUT - a mixture of grace-living Christian friends and an awesome God can get you through those low points.
Just read a book called 'Secret Scars' written by a Christian - it is really helpful although the battle for the author is also major eating disorders but there is limited Christian literature available.
Your post is really helpful - my biggest battle now is the physical scars that self harm has left me with..... but I have to remember it is by His stripes I am healed and not by mine!
Thanks for your openness and honesty.