Right now in therapy we are working on processing a traumatic memory from my high school years using EMDR. One of these days I should get around to writing specifically about what EMDR is, but I'll save that for a later time. For now, if you aren't familiar with it (and why would you be? I know I wasn't!) please feel free to toss the letters EMDR into your search engine of choice. There are a lot of fancy and intellectual-sounding words involved, but basically it's like free association while watching lights go back and forth. (My therapist uses a light bar instead of her finger or a baton.)
Last week during EMDR my brain kept going back to some very dark thoughts, like how guilty I feel and that I think I'm going to hell. My therapist does a good job of countering unhealthy or distorted thoughts to help me keep my thoughts moving, but I was very much stuck. She asked me to do an assignment for next week: “What do I believe about sin?” She also asked that I back up my beliefs with scriptures from the New Testament.
As usual, I have been putting off my assignment because I don't like thinking about things outside of my therapist's office. I am still really bad about handling my emotions on my own and tend to avoid them if at all possible. So, naturally, I avoided them to the point of spending a lot of Saturday behaving rather compulsively… which basically means I gave in to sin. After wasting half of my weekend, I resolved to tackle this assignment.
I started out by turning off all distractions and coaching myself to be honest and just think: Without quoting or paraphrasing scripture, what do I truly believe about sin? My therapist didn't ask me to tell her what the Bible says about sin; she asked what I think about sin. So, whether they align with scripture or not, what are my beliefs about sin? This is what I came up with.
- Sin makes me dirty and disgusting.
- Sin makes me unlovable and unworthy.
- Sin covers me where my high school boyfriend touched me, over my clothes and under—like blue paint that won't wash off.
- Because of my sins I'm going to hell.
- Everyone can see my sins so I have to hide and stay in the dark. / My sins cut me off from everyone.
- God doesn't want me because I sin.
- I shouldn't be forgiven for my sins.
- My sins are much stronger than I am; they weigh me down, imprison me, and crush me.
As I thought about sin and its influence on me, I started to picture what it would look like if it were some kind of living creature. I had a clear image of this dark greenish brown wormy blob with spikey black hair all over it. It looked like it was decaying as it slither-squirmed across the ground, eerie and disturbing. This is what I keep turning to instead of experiencing my feelings or thoughts that remind me of my past.
Returning to this sinful state and identifying myself so closely with it is not only psychologically unhealthy but also damaging to my spiritual condition and relationship with God. I'm not sure how I have spent nearly three decades, practically my whole life, attending church regularly and studying the Bible and yet clinging to these beliefs that do not align with scripture. There is such a stark contrast between what I know about scripture and what I feel is true about myself and my condition. Perhaps this is why the phrase “renewing your mind” appears in the epistles. Whatever the case, I know that God forgives, and I know He will never leave or forsake me so long as I continue to seek Him. Even if I don't always feel these things are true. I will cling to truth in the scripture instead of my feelings. Lord, be with me and help me to believe what You say is true so that I may serve You with my whole being.