The image of Aslan blowing on Mr. Tumnus, the fawn from Narnia, grips me. Breathing on him to bring him back to life. Bringing him out of a place of stone and hard-heartedness, to a place of warmth—where he feels alive again in his heart and throughout his entire being. I can relate to that image because that’s what God has been doing in my own heart.
He has been breathing on me and replacing my heart of stone with a heart of flesh.
I so often flash to that picture in my mind. Because I can relate to Mr. Tumnus—the way his face is scrunched up in a scream, terrified, and in pain. I so often feel frozen in my past moments of wounding and trauma, hardened, terrified, and entombed in that stonewall of pain.
Pain that is left unhealed does not go away.
I like how Sandra Sellmer-Kersten, from Elijah House, puts it. “Pain that isn’t healed comes out sideways.”
That certainly has been true in my life. I stuffed pain down for years, hoping it would go away, but instead it staged a giant coup and demanded to be heard. It had affected my mind, my heart, my soul, my body, and my spirit, not to mention my relationships…for years.
No matter how hard we try to stuff down the pain, to forget about it, to stonewall ourselves and others through a hardening of heart, the pain remains—UNLESS, it is healed.
John Eldredge, a well-known Christian author and founder of Ransomed Heart Ministries, explains it like this:
“Pain that is buried alive, stays alive until it is brought to death on the cross of Jesus Christ.”
Unhealed pain can easily cause us to get stuck, frozen, or hardened. There is definitely that aspect to pain. You hurt me. My wall goes up. My heart gets hard. However, hardening ourselves is no guarantee that we won’t feel future pain. In fact, it is pretty much a guarantee that we will. Because the pain DOES come out sideways, and a MAJOR way that it does is through triggers.
Pain is a tricky, triggery thing, no matter how well you think you’ve frozen your heart or stuffed it down. It’s hard to live with. And you never know when it is going to act up. Just like my trick knee.
My trick knee has been incredibly annoying and a big inconvenience. I never know when it is going to get triggered. It’s sporadic. I can be walking up the stairs or doing a squat during a Zumba class—and all of a sudden, it gets triggered. And I could potentially collapse into a surprised heap on the floor. But it’s not every time—so it’s hard to anticipate. It’s sort of like a grumpy 3-year old. “How are you feeling today? Do I need to baby you or are you doing ok?”
Pain is a lot like that. Getting bumped or triggered in a painful spot is so often socially awkward.
In working out, there is something called “modifying”. When a part of your body is too reactive during a specific exercise, you change what you are doing to take the heat off of it. My amazing workout trainer, Chandra, used to help me modify.
“Oh, your shoulder is acting up again? Let’s modify that by using these weights differently and working on your core instead.”
“Your left knee again, huh? Okay, let’s put the pressure on the right leg instead.”
And what is true in the natural is true in the spiritual. In the same way that we modify in exercise when we experience physical pain, we also modify our behavior and/or actions when we get triggered by emotional pain.
I experienced a painful example of this in my own life about 2 months ago. I was visiting and praying for a friend of mine who was struggling with cancer. We talked for a while and then started praying. She started crying during the prayer. And because emotion is often hard for me to be around (ahem…an emotional trigger for me), I modified my response to her pain.
I wish I had embraced her in a giant bear hug and cried with her. What she was going through totally sucked. I wish I had done that. But I didn’t. Instead, I modified because of my own pain. What I actually ended up doing was praying a bit more, giving her a quick surface hug, and then leaving her house, promising to come and pray again soon.
What I didn’t realize was that it was going to be the last opportunity I would have to pray over her and support her in person. I saw her one other brief time. Then she was gone.
I’ve gone over than scenario again and again in my mind. If only I had done this instead. If only I had said what I really wanted to say but was too afraid. If only. If only.
My pain caused me to miss out on an opportunity to truly connect with someone in the mire of their pain. I won’t get another chance now. I missed it.
Pain is painful. Duh. It is also very reactive—and most of us can’t control the reactivity and triggers that go along with deep pain. With trauma, pain, and wounding, there is a human tendency to become like poor Mr. Tumnus—to become frozen, entombed, embittered, hardened—thinking this is the solution that will protect us.
But what we really need is for Aslan, our Jesus, to come and breathe on us to make us come alive once more.
I remember eight years ago, when I was at one of my deepest, darkest places of despair and depression, I went to a prayer meeting. A friend of mine was praying over me and she felt prompted by God to ask me to say these words:“I want to live. I want to live.”
I had an incredibly hard time saying those words. Mostly because I was stuck in my mind instead of in my heart. (There’s that stone-heart issue again.) I actually couldn’t even access my heart or my emotions that night.
I did end up saying it. But it was really more out of social pressure than anything else.
It wasn’t until years later that I understood the power of internal vows that we make to ourselves—as children, as adults, that instigate the hardening and freezing of our hearts. For example: “I will never let myself be hurt like that again”, “I will not trust”, “I will not feel”, I will NOT be vulnerable.”
And to get free, we have to make such statements and declarations like the one I did: “I want to live.”
Here are some others that can really make a difference in getting free. These are declarations that can take us out of the wasteland of our pain and our internal vows and allow Jesus (Aslan) to come and breathe on us:
I choose to feel!
I want to trust!
I WILL be vulnerable, even though it is scary and means that people have the potential to hurt me again.
I choose to allow my heart to thaw out of this frozen mess!
I choose to allow God…and even others, in.
I want my heart to beat again.
It’s certainly NOT easy. I will never tell someone it’s easy to heal. It’s just not. But healing does gain a certain momentum as you venture down its path and it’s that momentum that continues to propel you forward.
And so once again, I come back to the picture of the Mighty Aslan, breathing his breath on Mr. Tumnus, along with others in Narnia that had been turned to stone—frozen in their pain.
He is waiting to breathe on you. But He needs your permission. He needs you to partner with Him and say, “Yes, I am ready for you to breathe on me. I am ready for your healing love to flow over and through me. I am ready for a heart of flesh. I want to come back to life.”
Let Him breathe on you.
Let Him in.
Come back to life.
“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19)