Monthly Archives: April, 2017

Soul Care Conversation (Spiritual Model for Healing from Moral Injury; Third Step – Self-Acceptance)

April 17th, 2017 Posted by Blog No Comment yet

(The purpose of Soul Care Conversation is to create a place to generate dialogue, initiate thoughtful consideration for the challenges our veterans face each day, share ideas of veteran and family well-being and healing, and spark within all of us a call to be engaged with the veteran and caregiver community. Click here to visit the forum and join the conversation!)

During the last several months we have had a conversation on a proposed spiritual therapeutic model toward healing from moral injury. This six step model includes;

  1. Acknowledge (confession) – take an honest assessment of thoughts and behavior, then acknowledge guilt and shame, and anger
  2. Forgiveness – choose forgiveness of self in the trauma experience as well as others who may have had responsibility
  3. Self-acceptance – renounce self lies like; I’m no good, I’m nothing, I’m worthless, I can’t be loved, and accept the reality of being a child of God
  4. Renewal – begin to retrain mind
  5. Amends – restoration involves a direct way to repair what has been damaged or broken (for the veteran, maybe difficult to go back to place of injury, however, there are other ways; contribute to refugee or orphan fund in the area of the war, volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen, etc)
  6. Accountability – be in a community that offers accountability and support

We have discussed the first two steps; confession and forgiveness. This month, we will discuss the third step, self-acceptance. The concept of self-esteem, self-love, and self image has become a relevant and hot topic, and the subject of much debate. One of the criticisms for today’s culture is that people have become self-centered. We live in a day and culture in which we have become lovers of self. We have become self-centered and satiated with self-actualization, self-esteem, self-worth and self-fulfillment. All we need to do is look at the titles of best selling books or read contemporary psychology.

However, without getting into the debate, one thing that is clear, a veteran who experiences moral injury finds it extremely difficult to accept self.

DIFFICULTY WITH SELF-ACCEPTANCE

In my counseling sessions as a chaplain, I have experienced many who are insecure. People simply don’t like themselves. I have counseled numerous persons who engage in self-rejection because they think that God is angry with them because they have done something terribly wrong or because they are not perfect. As a result, they live in a constant state of frustration, continually rejecting themselves. Many feel bad every time they make mistake.

Or, people try to please God with their works. They live daily on a performance treadmill, always trying to do something to feel good about themselves. Everything they do is to ensure they are in right standing with God. To live this way, they become exhausted, frustrated, and unhappy.

What often happens is that no matter how much we love God or chose to do what is right, we still cannot accept ourselves. It is difficult to like “me.” Both of these life styles lead to negative feelings that result in depression, discouragement, and possibly self-destruction.

IMPORTANCE OF SELF-ACCEPTANCE

From a previous in-depth conversation about moral injury, we understand that moral injury produces guilt and shame from something done or witnessed that goes against one’s values. We have looked at the spiritual implications of confession and forgiveness. Both can be a means to experiencing positive spiritual, emotional and physical well-being. The critical phrase is “can be.”

Both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures remind us that there is nothing we can do to earn right standing with God or salvation. There is absolutely nothing we can do to make God love us more or less that God already does.

Our self-acceptance affects our understanding of and relationship with God. Our self-acceptance also influences our social life and our relationships with others. So, how can we move beyond “can be”?

STEPS TOWARD SELF-ACCEPTANCE

Scripture reveals to us a spiritually balanced concept of self-image. Let’s review some of the steps to self-acceptance;

  • we consider our worth as individuals (Psalm 139:13-14, “You are made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – and how well I know it.” [NLT])
  • we think properly of ourselves (Romans 12:3, the Apostle Paul writes, “As God’s messenger, I give each of you this warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you.” [NLT].)
  • we will continue to make mistakes, however God will continue to cover us and not condemn us (Isaiah 61:10 shares, “I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness.” [NLT])
  • we learn to accept ourselves as God sees us (because of grace); who we are and where we are (Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.” [NLT])
  • we then can discover the concept of self as it develops out of our understanding of God and God’s grace (Paul writes to the church in Corinth, 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me – and not without results.” [NLT])

How we understand these steps will be key in how we live our lives, in how we treat others, in how we think of ourselves, and ultimately in what we do with our lives. That we think properly of ourselves is important.

Also important to understand, each day we will most likely mess up, sin. God will not be mad at us because we are not perfect. God desires for us to run the race!

For the veteran, it takes on importance knowing that God is on the veteran’s side, God wants the veteran to feel good about her/himself, and that each day the veteran makes progress toward accepting self. It is in this journey the veteran can realize and live out his/her life with contentment and even joy.

What stories do you have from your personal journey or the journeys of others in how to experience self-acceptance? Next time, we will discuss the fourth step; renewal. Until then, thank you for the conversation…

 

Refresh Your Soul – Reflections by Molly Shivers

April 17th, 2017 Posted by Blog No Comment yet

From March 24-26, the Outreach Ministry and the Conflict Transformation Ministries of the North Carolina Conference invited Chaplain David Smith to lead a retreat at Camp Rockfish for active and retired military plus their families.  The theme of the retreat was “Refresh Your Soul”.  The following reflection on the retreat was written by Rev. Molly Shivers, Director of the Conflict Transformation Ministries.  

 

Rockfish used to have a lake in the center of camp.  Camp Rockfish now has a river in the center of camp.  What happened to the lake, you ask?  Several months ago the private owner of the dam downstream decided that he no longer wanted to maintain the dam.  He offered the ownership of the dam to the homeowner’s association that benefitted from the large lake created by the dam.

 

When the homeowner’s association voted not to purchase the dam, the owner opened up the dam and drained the lake.  All of the homeowners who had lakefront property had their docks and boats marooned.  Camp Rockfish lost its lake.

 

Then came Hurricane Matthew.  Camp Rockfish was square in the path of the hurricane.  The storm dumped three to four months’ worth of rain in a twelve-hour period.  What was a river running below bluffs of 20 feet or more in some places in camp became a lake once again.  Then the lake overflowed its shoreline, creeping closer and closer to the cabins and the dining hall.  Twenty feet past its banks the river crept.  And then it stopped.

 

And then the water began to recede.  The dam was still open.  Had the owner of the dam not opened it and drained the lake prior to Hurricane Matthew, Camp Rockfish would have been completely flooded, losing all of its cabins, its dining hall, and many other facilities to the floodwaters.  The action of one man, meant for spite, became the unwitting salvation of Camp Rockfish.

 

We missed seeing the lake while we were at camp, however, the river was beautiful.  White sands glistened along the banks and bluffs as we walked at the river’s edge, poking sticks in the sand, climbing over and around massive exposed tree roots, looking for beavers and fish.  The swift current of the river caught and carried a football accidentally thrown beyond catching hands over the bluff  into the water.  A dad heroically braved early spring water temperature, wading in to retrieve the football before it was lost to the currents.

 

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!

Matthew 7:24 – 29

 

We closed our weekend at Camp Rockfish reflecting upon the text from the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus exhorts his listeners to follow all of the teachings he has set forth in what we call the “Sermon on the Mount.”  I chose the Matthew text because we had seen at the river what would happen to a house built on sand.  We sought to build our houses on the rock of Christ.

 

Ironically, what is sand other than pulverized rock?  Sand is simply rock that has been reduced to minute particles by centuries, maybe even millennia, of wind and water.  We may sometimes feel like the winds and waters of life beat against that which we thought was rock.  The ground beneath our feet feels unstable, unsteady, easily changeable.  Instead of standing on solid rock, we feel like we are standing on sinking sand.

If we dig far enough, if we persist through frustration and fatigue—taking time to rest, we will eventually hit bedrock.  While we were resting and relaxing at Camp Rockfish, a camp crew was hard at work rebuilding the walkway across the lake that had been destroyed by Hurricane Matthew.  The rushing floodwaters and falling trees tore up piers and crashed through decking, leaving nothing salvageable.  To rebuild the walkway and add two new covered pavilions, the work crew had sunk beams deep in to the sand, seeking the rock beneath the river bed.  Soon enough, a sturdy new walkway will create a path over the water.

Before we left our time on retreat, we sang

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

 

On Christ the solid rock I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

 

Thank you, Camp Rockfish, for a wonderful weekend on retreat with military families.  May we all continue to build our lives on the rock of Christ.