Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken my off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy. Psalm 30: 5b; 11-12 (NRSV)
Dallas Willard, philosopher, theologian, and disciple-maker often used the acronym VIM to teach us how we can make change happen in our lives. The VIM process (Vision, Intention, and Means) can be intentionally used to help us move from responding to others out of our wounds to responding to others from our joy. Intentionally living in joy moves us on our journey from being a hurt person to being a wounded healer.
How do we move from responding to others out of our wounds to responding out of our joy? First we envision a life filled with joy. Like a baseball pitcher who visualizes every pitch to every batter before he actually plays the game, we can visualize responding in joy to the situations life brings. For example, perhaps Sunday dinners or Christmas gatherings with your extended family are a time of stress and anger – and more wounds. On the night before, you can visualize greeting each person with happy anticipation instead of dread. You can imagine ignoring your aunt’s sarcastic remarks and refocusing on your sister’s delightful new baby. You can picture efficiently cleaning up the kitchen while all your siblings escape to watch football and taking a relaxing walk when you are finished – instead of grousing about how unfair life is.
The next step is to intentionally choose daily (even hourly) to live in our joy and not in our pain. We intentionally create a new habit by seeking joy and not settling for pain. I think this is what Paul meant when he said, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18; NRSV.) So when we are bedeviled in the middle of the night with anger and hurt over past (sometimes ancient) mistreatment, we can choose to say, “Get thee behind me.” For years I obsessively rehearsed the unfairness in my life; the family secrets never told caused me agonizing stomach aches for decades. Finally I learned to choose to turn away from the bad stuff by reciting the 23rd Psalm or Jeremiah 29:1 – and I began walking in joy. As I continue making positive responses to that negative environment, joy will override my wounds.
The last step is to create the means, the resources, to bring joy into our lives. This morning I woke up very early and couldn’t get back to sleep. I used the time to think about what brings joy into my life. Here is part of my list. When I get frustrated or angry or dredge up bad memories, these things delight and heal my soul. You might want to create your own list.
- Caring for my flower garden and the plants in my house.
- Getting lost in a good mystery book
- Counting my blessings each night before I go to sleep
- Having lunch with my sister or with friends
- Enjoying days with no “to do” list
- Watching TED talks and learning something new.
Genesis 12: 1-3 reminds us that we are blessed to be a blessing. However, that blessing was contingent on an action.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”
We, too, must leave the land of woundedness and move to the new land of healing. Entry into that land means recycling our pain and sorrow into joyful living so that we are truly wounded healers.