Do you have people in your congregation who have been wounded by the church? Rev. Carol Howard Merritt, author of Healing Spiritual Wounds, knows the territory of church intimately. She knows both the pain and the gift of it. Merritt offers a way toward healing while retaining or recovering a connection with God. Her gentle yet challenging tone can help pastors both review their own story and understand more deeply the experiences of those who have been hurt by the church and people of faith. Merritt’s candor about her own story shows the way, as well as the stories she shares about the experiences of others. Her writing is beautiful and powerful.
I particularly liked the exercises at the end of each chapter and intend to use some of them myself in my own life. She starts in the first chapter with great sentence completion exercises. One that caught my eye was this:
“My religious upbringing taught me that I was…” I could freewrite about that for days. Try it. Just take 10 or 20 minutes and write, by hand, anything that comes to mind.
Another wonderful suggestion that anyone could use: read the Psalms prayerfully and highlight the parts that resonate.
I love Merritt’s notion of moving from victim to survivor. I think is this the essence of a growth-producing response to the challenges of life. As we minister to people who have been wounded by church or in any other way, it’s important to help them find the path of growth. At the same time, we need not to dismiss or be cavalier about what they have suffered. Her approach to dealing with negative emotions (Chapter 4) is to learn to acknowledge them, listen to ourselves and learn to comfort ourselves. This is a mature relationship with emotions. It can allow us and others to integrate difficult experiences rather than being driven by them
If you experienced a challenging upbringing at church or in a Christian family, read Healing Spiritual Wounds. If you are in ministry and didn’t, it’s even more important for you to read this so you understand what others have experienced. Get it here.
(Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)