corrective experiences

when we love and respect people jean vanier

“you’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. we’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. if i make you light-bearers, you don’t think i’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? i’m putting you on a light stand. now that i’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! keep open house; be generous with your lives. by opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” – matthew 5:11-16, the message

//

i have a lot of amazing therapist friends. it is a gift and they help many people grow, heal, and become better people. the other day i got an email from one of them who shared  a story with me about how part of our messy, crazy, putting-our-money-where-our-mouth-is community is creating “corrective experiences” for people.

in therapy, corrective emotional experiences are when we have an experience that repairs the traumatic influence of previous experiences.

i’d say it’s when we have an encounter that somehow heals, repairs, or shifts a previous trauma, assumption, or wound.

many of us have a lot of pain related to life and faith. we’ve been used, abused, hurt, cast aside. others have been unvalued, ignored, dismissed. some have specific experiences we remember vividly; others are a blur of a whole-bunch-of-hard-things strung together that create a pervasive feeling that we live with day to day.

feeling unloved, “not enough”, unworthy, or unvalued are probably the top ones for most people i know.

in my opinion, feeling unloved, “not enough”, unworthy, or unvalued should not be the primary feelings for God’s kids.

seriously, something is really wrong with this story if that is what it has consistently produced.

i believe in every part of my soul that the biggest work of the body of Christ is to help create “corrective experiences” for people to heal old wounds and begin to find new life and hope. to repair a bridge to God that has been blown out.

one of my biggest sorrows is that i have had very few corrective experiences in my interactions with the wider traditional church. in fact, more often than not, some of the old wounds get re-opened–that theology trumps relationship, that sin is measured, that there are levels of real christians, that faith needs to be controlled and managed, that leadership is about power-and-strength (not the good kind), that women are less-than.

so many people have given up on the possibility of the church being a safe place, of christians accepting them just-as-they-are, of feeling dignity, respect, and value.

this makes me so sad.

i know i can’t change the world, but i can do play my small little part in creating corrective experiences for people.

where instead of passing judgment, i can pass on love.

where instead of subtly or directly expecting people to change, i can accept them just as they are.

where instead of cementing the message that they don’t belong, i can welcome all people freely to the table.

where instead of shutting down someone’s painful story, i can listen and resist my urge to fix.

where instead of expecting people to believe what i do, i can honor their theologies and trust God is at work in their lives as much as he’s at work in mine.

where instead of seeing myself different from people, i can notice what we have in common.

[quote type=”center”]to me, this is light. this is keeping open house. this is being generous with our lives. this is what will heal wounds and help crack open a door that has been slammed shut out of pain.[/quote]

more than ever i believe this is the work of the church–to create corrective experiences for people.

so when our past indicates that by sharing the truth about who we are we might be met with judgement, we are met with love and acceptance instead.

when we risk bravely asking for help even though every part of us fears being shamed, we actually get some without condition.

when we mistreat someone, we received honest feedback from that person instead of anger or rejection.

when we let our guard down and share some of our real feelings, we are heard and treated with kindness and respect.

when we say no, the person on the other end accepts it without shaming or blaming.

when we get angry or do-all-kinds-of-weird-things-that-we-are-sure-will-cause-others-to-reject-us, we talk about it openly and no one leaves.

when we are sure that church couldn’t ever be safe enough for us, we encounter loving people who are part of a church and stir that possibility for us.

this week, i saw some of these corrective experiences in action; oh, it is always just so pretty!

it gets me all fired up about what could be if we focused less on programming and more on relationship. less on theological correctness and more on practice. less on the surface and more on the deep places of our hearts.

yeah, my dream is that the body of Christ was widely known as an army of healers, people who…

blow minds and hearts away with Jesus’ radical love and acceptance.

spark some freaky feeling inside hurting people where they go “huh, that’s weird, i thought christians were judgmental”

ignite a flicker of a flame inside that says “maybe God does love me”

restore dignity where it’s been stripped.

build worth and value where it’s been destroyed.

are safe and healthy and embody what so many of us didn’t get in our broken families.  

may we play our small part in creating corrective experiences where others feel God’s love, hope, mercy, dignity, justice, and heart for them through us–his flawed but willing ambassadors this side of heaven.

there’s a lot of work to do.

but Light is powerful and a little goes a long way.

imagine what a lot could do.

 

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

26 Comments

  • I love this! Especially the examples at the end, to me it looks like a list of ‘treat others as you would want to be treated’. I’ve had a long week, with another one coming up, but I need to remember to still be that loving, open and receiving person so that others can experience those loving encounters through me, if need be.

    http://forthisisthetime.com/

    Reply
  • Kathy – your vision of Christ’s body, his Church is so amazingly, humblingly beautiful. YES !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Once again – thank you for sharing !

    Reply
  • Love this in so many ways! Three cheers for corrective experiences!!!I think a big part, too, is being brave to let oneself participate in a relationship where it could be a set up for being wounded again. Sometimes the beauty, though, is that corrective experiences are often beautiful surprises. Thank you for being a safe place to land, one corrective experience at a time. xoxoxo

    Reply
  • Wish I knew a place like that. I’m still lost from church-hurt.

    Reply
    • hi leslie, thanks for sharing. lostness from church hurt is such a lonely place. thinking of ou. i wonder if maybe there might not be a place but there might be a relationship that offers some of that healing in some small way.

      Reply
  • We have not found such a group, so like you Kay and I try to treat other people this way in the name of Jesus (loving, accepting, non-judgmental, dignity restoring, etc.).

    Reply
  • Wow, this post ties in perfectly with a quote from Job that I noted down today : “A despairing man should receive loyalty from his friends, even if he abandons the fear of the Almighty” Job 6.14 I pray too for Church to be a safe, loving place, where people find healing.

    Reply
  • Yes, I have felt “less than.” Judged, devalued, “corrected.”
    But I’ve also had many of those corrective experiences, times when I’ve been cared for, carried, affirmed, really heard.
    We are all so human – And our institutions, even our churches, reflect our failure to love God and our neighbors.
    But you’re right – light is powerful. As is love. And when we choose to reflect love, and light, healing happens. Praise God!
    Thanks for the reminder to be sensitive to the wounds of others, and to see every interaction as an occasion to offer the healing salve of love and understanding.

    Reply
  • thanks adam, i am so glad you are finding healing and hope and yes, i love tht it comes in all different ways and shapes and forms. that is a beautiful gift. i do not care how it comes, what avenue God uses, i just believe that the body of Christ should be a healing body, a restoring body, a helping-eachother-become-more-fully-free body.

    Reply
    • Thanks Kathy.

      Yes a lot of things are starting to make sense to me now and I like how you describe things as being a gift, in different shapes or forms, with the body of Christ being healing, restoring helping each other, continually enterring more into life to the fullest that Christ came for.

      I would qualify whay is meant by freedom – sometimes freedom in Christ means not being free to do certain things, and sacrificing. Not something that is easy and a battle between flesh and Spirit for all of us. And love not being about warm fuzzy feelings (alhough it is nice when that happens) but in this world, a dangerous and wonderful thing, it being not a safe option to be a follower of Christ.

      Reply
  • thank you for this strong reminder to continue repairing the damage done to my heart and those i encounter by loving with a strong, radical, unconditional, jesus kind of love.
    amen.

    Reply
  • Instead of looking to others to be this group, I will pray and live this way in the groups I am a part of and those that I lead. Thank you for this blog! It’s changing the way I minister.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *