I recently spent two rainy and beautiful days at a retreat with 25 young women between 17 and 24 years old. I felt so honored to be invited to join this retreat to share about inner healing. It’s one of my favorite ministry and teaching topics!
As I entered the room the first morning it struck me just how young these girls were. I had been praying and remembering what being in my twenties was like. (Not so long ago, by the way! At least in my mind.) The twenties is an important season in anyone’s life; many key decisions are being made during this phase. During my prayer time I felt God asking me to show these ladies the path toward healing—to talk about simple but important topics around how we heal, some of the sources of pain, and a few insights about how to deal with pain as we walk toward healing.
As we began the retreat I noticed how hungry these gals were. They were receptive and ready to hear from God, but they were also afraid to uncover the most vulnerable places of their hearts and stories.
We began talking about the pain and wounds caused by our mothers and fathers, acknowledging that none of us have perfect parents and how some of our parents were deeply hurt in the past, too. We also talked about how others can hurt us—friends, schoolmates, boyfriends—and the messages from society that put a lot of pressure on women.
Then we looked at forgiveness. One might think how basic a topic this is, but I keep finding distortions that people have regarding forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean that we forget. It does not mean that we don’t acknowledge the pain that someone caused; it does not mean that we absolve the person of the responsibility of their actions; it does not mean that once I forgive, the pain vanishes immediately.
Forgiveness is sometimes a process. It means that we have to give up getting even; it’s letting go of the offense in order to keep moving toward healing and freedom. Forgiveness means that we are open to the redemption of the event, that the pain or event won’t define us, that it can become part of our story without shame. My decisions and openness to God and others won’t be determined by this pain; instead, my suffering can and will be productive in my healing, growth, and God’s calling on my life.
I set up four stations for these young women to engage practically with the teaching: one to talk to God about their fears of opening up the painful parts of their stories, and the other three about pain caused by their mothers, fathers, and others. I prayed and cried as many girls sat at the “father station” and wept. Several of them had absent fathers. Their weeping was deep, hard, and healing all at the same time.
After the retreat, as I prayed for the girls, I heard the Spirit saying to me, “I am the healer, I am an expert on redemption. Keep showing the people of this land the path of life, where you don’t have to hide your pain and you don’t cure it, either by religiosity or by locking the pain away. Keep showing them the path of true spirituality, where there is an opportunity for healing, embracing emotions, honest relationship with me and others. This is the path of my grace!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Doralicia Gonzales and her husband Randy have served with CRM since 1997. They began their work in Venezuela, then Costa Rica, and now live in Málaga, Spain. Doralicia works with CRM’s Ethne collective, walking alongside emerging and missional leaders. She and Randy live in Málaga with their two daughters, Abigail and Sophia.