We all carry both psychological and spiritual wounds that affect our motives, our reactions to other people’s behavior, and the deeper reasons we fear or avoid certain things. When I was in junior high, I dabbled in the occult. My parents had warned me before I ever laid eyes on a Ouija board that they were bad news. But I found myself at a friend’s house for a slumber party, and everyone else was playing the Ouija board.
After it was my turn, strange phenomena happened to me and my family. I was terrified in a way I’d never known before, and guilt crept in. I knew what I had done was wrong, so I told my parents, who then took me straight to confession.
For years, I believed my confession was enough to vanquish the residual effects of what I had done, but I was still plagued by an unseen heaviness and crippling fear of life. Recently, I learned that healing is a deeply involved process that sometimes takes decades or even a lifetime.
Based on my own journey toward healing, here are five steps that have helped me find true interior freedom and peace.
Healing can’t happen with a closed or hardened heart. When we are wounded, it’s a natural response for us to close ourselves off from receiving love or taking the risk in loving others. We’re afraid of betrayal or rejection. But if we truly desire deep inner healing, we need to pray for a heart that is meek.
Meekness is the beatitude that comprises sensitivity, receptivity, and gentleness. It is the entire opposite of callousness. When your heart softens, you will notice a sincere desire for amending your life. Repentance means you are well on your way to healing.
Renunciation means that you reject sin. After I played the Ouija board, I didn’t touch one again. I rejected all forms of the occult, because I knew how dangerous it was to my soul and offensive to God. When you renounce something you did, you are declaring full knowledge that it was wrong and that you have every intention of avoiding it in the future.
When you reject sin, you strengthen your will and are more capable of cooperating with God’s grace in times of temptation.
The sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is vital to healing our wounds. The grace we receive through this act of self-abasement gives us clarity, insight, and wisdom so that we are better able to recognize our weaknesses and defects. If you make an effort to confess your sins regularly (about once a month), your heart will be less fearful of God and others and more apt to give love without condition.
Penance, as a sacrament, is really the foundation of our journey toward healing. In fact, combined with frequent reception of the Eucharist, these are called sacraments of healing for a reason. It’s because they strengthen us, repair what’s broken in us, and draw us into a life centered around courage and hope.
It’s not enough to merely say the words, “I’m sorry” or “What I did was wrong” and then move on with one’s life. The remnants of sin will linger in your heart and create further pain if you do not make a conscious effort toward reparation for your sin.
What does this mean exactly? It’s not as if God withholds his grace or love from you unless you make it up to him somehow. Reparation is for your benefit. It’s a sacrifice or mortification of your own choosing that is done out of genuine love for God. Reparation is a way you can demonstrate to God through action that you deeply regret your sin.
I have decided to pray a Chaplet to the Precious Blood of Jesus every Friday in reparation for my sins. It’s a way for me to meditate on the mysteries of Christ’s love for me while also setting aside extra time in my day out of love for him.
Ultimately, God wants us to be fully restored to wholeness. The more he repairs the patches and holes in our hearts, the more our lives reflect him. And we become more closely united to God as we grow in holiness through wholeness. Restoration is the process by which God prunes and purifies us, and sometimes this hurts before it heals. The hurt is caused by the chiseling of our poor attitudes, negative behavior patterns, and deeply entrenched vices.
Pruning feels like harsh punishment, but it is the merciful discipline of a Father who longs to restore us to our original beauty. We must allow him the time and space to do with our hearts and lives whatever is necessary for that restoration to occur. In the end, we become the masterpiece we were always intended to be.