All week long, and even prior to that, I've struggled with how to write this second article, as well as the third (and last) that will follow next week. (If you missed the first installment in this series, you can find it here). In so many ways, I feel like I am divulging a dirty little secret. And I have wondered if maybe it's best just to keep it to myself. What will people think? Will this be worth it? Am I a bad parent or a faltering Christian for having sought this out?
But then I recognize that these thoughts are just FEAR whispering in my ear, and I have intentionally chosen not to give it power over me. Despite the potential risks involved, I am confident this is another part of a message people need to hear. A message people are desperate to hear. My confidence is grounded partly in one particular belief, and one recent discovery.
I believe God honors those who earnestly seek the truth and desire to glorify Him while doing it. He delights in our curiosity and watches with pride as we strive to figure things out, baby step by baby step. He relishes our sense of accomplishment as our questions are slowly answered over time - much like a loving parent enjoys the steady personal growth and evolving independence of a maturing child. He conceals nuggets of truth for our pleasure and our development, and He yearns for us to seek out answers to life's most difficult questions. These answers will always align with His character and His Word.
My recent discovery involved spending some time reviewing stories of healing in the Bible. Funny thing - I can't find a single instance where Jesus handed someone a translucent orange bottle of pills or color-coated capsules to address their pain. Not a single instance in either the Old or New Testament of caring adults dosing out grape-flavored purple cough medicine to a child, or recommending multiple rounds of increasingly stronger antibiotics to cure a recurring infection. I noted zero occasions where a "safe and effective" chemical injection was forced upon millions of frightened and desperate people to save them from disease. Jesus never told his disciples, "Well, guys...sorry to say - this looks pretty bad. I'm afraid there's nothing we can do here. Someone grab Luke and let's cut this organ out." I'm not saying modern medicine is bad. I am saying it is often abused and is fundamentally inadequate for the spiritual and emotional sicknesses that ail us.
Bottom line - Jesus was not at all western in His approach to healing.
What I do find in the Bible are stories of healing where the only kinds of medicine offered were powerful words, earnest prayers, insightful and deliberate questions, careful listening between the lines, intentional human touch, some simple nourishing food, anointing oils, and the progressive illumination of Truth. (Okay, occasionally there might have been some mud and spit involved). As an easterner, Jesus had a very different understanding of what it meant to be sick, what it meant to suffer with dis-ease, and what it meant to heal from the inside out.
I ask that you keep these thoughts in mind as my daughter and I continue her story.
Mom: At this point in our journey, it had become clear that none of the traditional tactics intended to eliminate the nail biting and tearing habit was going to work for us. As I thought more about the repetitive and uncontrollable behavior, it seemed like some kind of nervous energy was bubbling up inside of her regularly, and triggering the obsessive activity, but I didn't know what the root or nature of the trigger was. A friend and colleague suggested I contact a professional friend he knew who was trained in hypnotherapy and was known to have amazing results with clients. I had some previous personal experience with what might be considered "alternative" healing modalities, and all of it had been very positive and valuable. So I felt like this was an option worth pursuing - if only to find out more. And so, with care and prayerful caution, we did just that about a year ago.
For the sake of time and space, I won't go into much detail about hypnotherapy other than to explain the following: 1) Every part of the process was explained fully to us prior to any commitments. We had an informative discovery call before deciding to move ahead. Both Carrie and I felt very comfortable with the practitioner. She was caring, kind, knowledgeable, and a great communicator. She connected with both of us easily. 2) At all times during her session, Carrie was fully alert and aware of what was happening. 3) Hypnotherapy is not the TV-style genre you might be imagining with a golden pocket watch dangling on a long chain with a mesmerizing voice lulling her into a catatonic state. More to come on what it really was. 4) The session was conducted remotely via a Zoom-type call, with Carrie situated comfortably in the safety and familiarity of her own bedroom, and the therapist on her laptop located many states away. I was downstairs in the kitchen, within earshot if Carrie needed or wanted me, but far enough away that she could share her feelings out loud and openly. 5) I was given a link to the complete audio of her hypnotherapy session, but I was not in the room with her during that time. Out of respect for my daughter and her privacy, to this day I have not listened to the audio recording; however, she has willingly shared with me what she feels are the important and relevant details. She also understood in advance that I would have access to the recording and would listen only if I had concerns, which I never did, and still don't. My heart is fully at peace with their conversation that day, and I am grateful for the change in trajectory that it inspired. I'll let Carrie describe what the experience was like.
Carrie: First off, to put everyone's minds at ease, there was no pocket watch, I assure you. The hypnotherapy session was about an hour and a half, and I was fully aware during the entire thing. The therapist was very transparent and made it clear that if at any point in the process I felt uncomfortable, she would stop immediately. I won't go into all of the details, just for the sake of my privacy, but put simply and clearly, she guided my subconscious mind into recovering the events and feelings that made my fingernail biting manifest. There was no voodoo magic, nor chanting of spells. It was pretty much just talk therapy, except more effective. She would ask me questions, and I would answer - but it was not the same as talking face-to-face in a regular conversation. After the session, the therapist sent my mom an audio recording and transcript that I listened to on my headphones every night for 30 consecutive days to really help the healing message sink in. After a month, I was done, and I believe it really did help... for a little while.
Mom: For weeks, I did not pry or ask any probing questions about her experience, although of course I was desperately eager for some details. But finally, one blessed day, she voluntarily shared that one of the memories she recovered during her hypnotherapy session was a specific event that happened to me (not her), when she was just 4 years old. (She has asked that I not share more specifics here, but I can say that everyone was safe and things were under control...just not something a 4-year old would have understood). I was speechless when she told me this, as I had no idea she had any recollection of that time or any understanding of what had happened. Being such a tiny little girl when all this occurred, she still remembers being confused and scared, and of course at that age - she did not possess the maturity or the words to fully process the event or vocalize her feelings. So she put them aside and moved on. If she remembered that event, though, what else did she remember? And what other unidentified childhood trauma might her young mind be harboring without anyone's knowledge? The years before her birth and into her early childhood were some of the most difficult of my whole life. What other events had she innocently internalized? My own questioning thoughts started churning around in my brain aggressively.
I wish I could say that the nail biting immediately ceased after this experience, and that we were able to move on in full health and freedom from that point on. It did seem she was slightly more aware of her habit thereafter, but really - as it turns out, things actually got worse in other ways. But instead of being discouraged, I felt assured that we were on to something important and were actually making progress. I was hopeful, and Carrie was definitely game for digging deeper. She's a remarkable young woman (of course I am biased), and I am continually encouraged by her maturing confidence and strong faith. The first layer of the proverbial onion had been gently peeled away, and now we wondered what additional layers might be eagerly awaiting discovery underneath. We will share about those follow-on details next week, and hopefully conclude with even more for you to think and pray about as you determine if and how her journey might resemble your own.
Until then, check out her toenail progress (especially Mr. Big Right Toe) in the last 4 months. Amazing, isn't it? And this is after several years of seeing no progress and feeling hopeless. There is no need and no concern that is too insignificant for our good and gracious Father! If it matters to us, it matters to Him. Just don't be surprised if He asks you to put forth some effort and deepen your faith and trust in Him in support of your own healing.
Psalm 147:3 NIV - He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.