BY LAURIE HARTMAN
A group of Grace attenders has been practicing gratitude as a way to facilitate an encounter with Jesus. We know that we feel closer to God when we are worshiping – whether that is in nature, by singing, by reading the Bible, or by serving others. Yet, when those options are not accessible, what then? We have our memories. We all have memories of times when we have felt grateful, awestruck, glad to be alive, joyful, loved, or safe. But so often, these memories lack vitality. We can remember that we watched the sun setting over the water, but can we take a few minutes to re-experience it – the sun growing ever larger as it drops towards the horizon, the clouds becoming tinged with yellow, orange and red, the sound of the waves lapping the shore, the fullness of our heart marveling at such beauty…..
This is the principle behind a set of practices called Immanuel practices. Some can be done individually and some require a facilitator. All of the practices start the same way, with an invitation to re-experience a positive memory. The delightful thing about this is that it results in a stronger neural pathway back to that memory so that it can be enjoyed again. In addition, sometimes, being in that worship space can lead to a stronger connection to Jesus. Some people just know that He is with them. Some receive impressions of what He wants to convey to Him. Some “see” Him and can walk with Him. And some are transported by Him back to painful places where He can provide healing.
Such was the case for “K.” She admits that, when she was first exposed to the Immanuel practices, she thought they were hokey. However, as she studied scripture and experienced the practices, she began to appreciate them. Here is her story:
I have been terrified of being tickled my entire life. Being tickled would result in immediate panic and hitting, kicking and/or pushing to get away. Then I would feel pretty stupid for making such a scene. This directly affected my ability to cuddle with my children and husband as even a brush of an arm would feel ticklish and therefore scary to me.
Years ago I realized the fear originated from being over-tickled when I was young. My mom and brother used to wrap me in a green blanket and swing me around, which I loved. But one time they started tickling me and didn’t stop when I needed them to. My muffled cries were misinterpreted for laughing and I was trapped. Nothing changed about my fear of being tickled or my reactions, but at least I understood where the fear came from.
Then about a month ago, I was in an Immanuel practice meeting at Grace Church. During our prayer time that day, I “saw” in my mind’s eye that green blanket. I remembered how it felt to be trapped. But there was something I hadn’t been aware of before. Jesus was in there with me. I couldn’t see Him but I was aware of His presence, holding me. And then I could “see” myself standing up and getting out of the blanket - I was no longer trapped! I could “see” my mom and brother, and was filled with a new understanding. They weren’t trying to scare me- they were just focused on having fun. Then, I heard a whisper in my heart… they weren’t there for me so God Himself was. He was with me - as He had promised (Matthew 28:20). And then another whisper, “Go be with your kids as I am with you.”
So, I did. And I noticed a strange thing; cuddling didn’t feel ticklish anymore. And being tickled actually felt good instead of terrifying. Now I’m finding myself cuddling with my kids whenever I can.
Jesus didn’t change my past. He didn’t make it so the hurt didn’t happen. He let me know that I wasn’t alone - that He was there with me the whole time. And He let me see it through different eyes and with a new understanding. He healed my heart. And as a result, my life and my relationship with my family is different. Thank you Jesus!
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