Thursday, March 8, 2012

Immanuel - not just a concept

Over the last few years, as my community has called me into more leadership and entrusted me with more responsibility, I have begun to see that I am often hindered by a deep mistrust of myself.  It has caused me to doubt the work of God in me because I’m so afraid I’m going to get in the way, mess it up… or, I have ended up feeling like I have to try to live up to the expectations that other people have for me.  I have thought to myself, “If they only knew how incompetent I am, they would run me off.”
I have struggled to embrace the gifting of God in me.

I have known that, in order for the Holy Spirit’s ministry to be released in me, I would need to start unpacking where this deep insecurity was coming from…

I had some suspicions:  early loss of my father, upheaval as a kid, a second father who often yelled at me… strong Calvinist up-bringing…
I began exploring co-dependency and what I found was hugely discouraging.  But when I started seeing these habits in almost everyone I knew, I also started to wonder if the whole world was co-dependent.  It felt so thick, so deep, so impossibly dark.

A friend in our community had been telling me about Immanuelhealing prayer.  Finally, I asked her to pray with me… I was skeptical about whether or not He would show up.  My Calvinist upbringing taught me to believe in and talk about the Heavenly Father… to believe and understand that God works in and through His people as a collective… but there was never any expectation that He would encounter individuals… and very little talk of Jesus, beyond His work at Calvary.
But God surprised me… I was shocked at how personal His interaction was. 

And even though I had a sense of Him as Father in that experience, I suddenly wondered if I might be able to meet Jesus… the Jesus that other people talked about knowing.

And so I began to pursue learning more about the Immanuel approach.  I read OutsmartingYourself, by Dr. Karl Lehman.  Then I went and received some training from Alive and Well and had the opportunity to pray with others in a practice group setting.  Some women in my community asked me to pray with them.  The Lord showed up and did dramatic work in their prayers.  And I began to find Jesus… playful, tender, strong, and powerful.  Immanuel is becoming real to me… not just a concept.  He is really with me… with us all. 

It’s in this Immanuel approach to living that I am finding that Jesus really means it when He promises that when two or three are gathered in His Name, He is there. 

It’s in this Immanuel approach that I’m discovering that kids have the right idea when they always answer every question in a church setting with “Jesus?”  Jesus really is the answer.  Encountering our risen Lord and learning to fellowship with Him, learning to hear from Him and receive from Him really is the answer to all of our brokenness.

In her book, Immanuel: A Practicum (if you follow the link, click on the book title in the left sidebar), Patricia Velotta writes: "When we are overwhelmed, both in our current lives and in unresolved places from our past, Jesus takes us to the source of our trouble and opens our eyes to see that he has always been with us and is with us now.  He always overcomes the world by bringing us into truth and drawing us to himself.  He always is the unexpected solution."

It’s in the understanding and presence of Jesus that I am finding the deepest healing.  If Immanuel really is with us, then He understands what actually happens in all of my life… and in His knowing, He changes my perceptions of my past – which increases peace in my present and compels me to hope for the future.

During one prayer time, I was wrestling with this deep mistrust of myself.  I asked the Lord what He wanted me to know about this and He brought forward a memory of when I was a little girl.  I had done something in a moment of desperation and I had been severely scolded for my poor choice.  “How could you be so stupid?  What were you thinking?”  Disgust hung thick in the air…
But when I went there with Jesus, He said something different to me.  In the middle of that shame and humiliation, He was glad to be with me.  And He told me how clever my solution had been.  He was impressed by my quick thinking.  He understood what I had been trying to do.  I didn’t ‘see’ Him in this memory, but I knew He was with me… and I had the sense that if I could see Him, He would be chuckling… delighted with me.

And as I experienced His delight, I was overcome with compassion for the people who were doing the yelling.  I was surprised as I found the words, “Lord, forgive them… they have no idea.”  I have resented the people from this memory… I have been angry about how insensitively this story has been shared throughout my lifetime… but, suddenly, I was able to forgive them… because Immanuel had given me His perspective.

If there hadn’t been a witness, I don’t think I would be able to believe it happened.  But that’s the beauty of the Immanuel approach… talking with Immanuel in the presence of a witness… a brother or sister in Christ who can stand with me and say, “yes, that really happened.  I was there.” 

The trickle-down effect of this prayer experience continues to fill me with wonder.  And there have been others that have been equally surprising and powerful.  I stand amazed at the attentiveness, the creativity, the tenderness, the strength, and the victory of Immanuel.

Jesus is willing to heal us… to gives us more of Himself.  He is ready and able to overcome the pain of our past.  He has gone to such great lengths to be with us.  So the only question we need to ask ourselves is… are we willing to meet Him?

What might happen if more of us (even all of us) became securely attached to Jesus?  What might the Church look like if we were able to practice His presence and receive His tenderness and mercy… deepen our connection / companionship with Christ?  How might all of our human relationships be transformed if they were built on this unshakable foundation?  What if we could be truly present with others because of Jesus’ presence with us?  Christ in us, the hope of glory.  How would his mission go forth if we truly knew his presence with us?


  1. I pray that Jesus will continue to show you how much he loves to be with you! Thank you for ministering to us at LOV even from your places of weakness and feelings of inadequacy. You are a blessing to us and you have been to me! Reading this gives me hope.

    1. Thanks, Juliet. It's giving me hope as well.