One of the biggest challenges for me in gaining healing for my fragmented heart was that the very fragmenting of it made it difficult for me to find the path to regaining my heart and having it be whole again. Pat answers didn’t help and too often hindered. My heart didn’t respond to trying to Band-Aid it with a couple of scripture verses. It also didn’t happen all at once. It was a process just as its fragmentation was a process.
I love how Frederick Buechner describes it in Telling Secrets:
“The original shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.”
In the poem “A Little Book on the Human Shadow” Robert Bly talks about at the very earliest of ages we start putting parts of ourselves that seem to be unacceptable into an “invisible bag.”
To begin the journey to waking up to the truth requires courage to face the fear of what we will discover. Sometimes it can only happen when our busyness has driven us to such a level of exhaustion that we yield because we have no other choice.
If we have never had an experience of a secure attachment with someone, we will tend to not have one with the Lord and that will make the process more challenging. Too often we have projected onto God how we viewed our parents when we were growing up.
Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Joshua Straub in God Attachment outline four attachment styles. Their research and personal experience suggest we will each fall predominantly in one of them, but will likely have a few tendencies of others. The four they list include: Secure Attachment, Anxious Attachment, Avoidant Attachment, and Fearful Attachment.
If we are blessed to have “good enough” parents, we will see our parents as safe people and places to turn to in our darkest hours and hardest trials. We will also be more likely to see God that way and see Him as accepting of us even when we mess up and feel safe running into His arms. We will develop a Secure Attachment with God and others.
If we have not experienced that and develop an Anxious Attachment style, we will be caught up in always trying to pursue God and try to please Him by doing things to try to gain His approval so we might somehow feel connected to God. If we fall into this group, we will likely read more books, listen to more messages, and be perpetually praying, and going to meetings in the hope we have earned His love and care. Exhaustion will eventually catch up with us. A list of how to connect with God will be snapped up easily by those of us in this group because we keep looking for something to do to get us connected with God the way we believe others are. Our hearts seldom feel such connection with Him.
Those of us who develop an Avoidant Attachment style tend to keep God at a distance. Our relationship with Him happens more in our heads than in our hearts. We tend to focus on facts and duty where God is concerned.
If we fall into the Fearful Attachment style, it tends to be because our life growing up has been chaotic and inconsistent so we have never known what to expect or what we could count on. We have never felt safe with anyone. We would like to find such a person and may try very hard to find God to be that, but if He is all that people say He is then why wasn’t He able to protect us from the chaotic (often abusive) family we grew up in. We want to believe it is possible so too often we will blindly trust claims of teachers, preachers, and counselors who make claims to solve all of this for us. It can happen easily because we all want to belong, to have someone care, and to not be alone.
On my path to reconnection of my heart the Lord used many things. One of these was the book, Sacred Romance, by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge. In their chapter, “The Lost Life of the Heart” they wrote these words:
“The truth of the gospel is intended to free us to love God and others with our whole heart. When we ignore this heart aspect of our faith and try to live out our religion solely as correct doctrine or ethics, our passion is crippled, or perverted, and the divorce of our soul from the heart purposes of God toward us is deepened.”
The first thing I learned I needed to do was to begin to understand and learn to know my story, not just the facts and the things that I would tell everyone when they asked about it. I needed to accept and know that I was not only broken but beautiful so that I could risk looking at all of me including the parts that were hidden under my desire to please and gain favor by ever doing.
As Clinton and Straub say clearly in God Attachment:
“The very essence of secure adult attachment with others and with God is the ability to understand our lives. It’s a coherent story that includes the good, the bad, and the ugly events and integrates them into an understanding of why we are the way we are.”
In the midst of all this, we also need to remember not everything is, as it seems. We live in the middle of a world we can see and one we cannot.
Next time we will look a bit more at that and discover more about moving toward regaining our hearts so we can let go of the endless striving.