Changing the Imprint
For someone to truly “get over” a wound, the imprint has to change. In Dead Dogs on the Highway (available on the shop page of effectiveheartchange.com), I compare each festering sore to road kill on the highway of our spiritual makeup. How do we get rid of the stench?
There are three “moving parts” in a negative imprint: the one who has been wounded, the one doing the wounding, and God. Changing the way a person sees one or all three of the above is needed for the imprint of a wound to be changed to where the odor of the wound has left.
You wouldn’t think that the one who is wounded would be a place to start, but it can be. I have been dealing with a veteran, who we will call Sam. He is continually having nightmares about the carnage of a particularly bad battle. In a previous blog called “The Driver”, I talked about how not all wounding is equal. We can only be hurt by what we care about, and what we care about is tied to our purpose.
Sam is created to be a caregiver/protector. The particular scene in battle is not so much of the horrible injuries, but of the utter helplessness that he felt because he could not do anything about the wounds of his friends. His struggle is with shame and self hatred. If you get the picture, the war is not the nightmare, but the man’s own berating of himself was a stronger imprint than anything that had happened.
This self loathing was strengthened because his dad had abandoned him and left him to “father” his siblings. He was a “child” trying to be a “man” and he didn’t measure up. His issues did not start on the battlefield. Rather, the war was a continuation of “the driver” beating up on Sam.
For Sam to get better, he had to acknowledge his tendency to do life “by myself.” He had put on himself a level of responsibility that was impossible to measure up to. He needed to be superman … or even God to measure up. When we play God, it is called pride and pride blocks God out. We are left to carry the weight on our own.
For years, Sam has wrestled with this wounding with little success. For him, victory starts by repenting for playing God. His wounding is much more of a self-imposed wound. How can he get over it? By seeing himself differently. God never intended for him to carry the weight he chose to carry with his siblings. God never wanted him to feel responsible for the cruelty of war. When he owned the fact that he was not handling life God’s way, he was able to let go of the weight.
Next, he needed to change his imprint of God. God had not abandoned him. God was right there with him, though because of the self hatred, Sam couldn’t feel any of God’s support. God had sent helpers along the way, but those too had faded in the sight of Sam. All he could see was his own load. As he began to wait upon God, he could see more and more times and ways where God had been there to help. His imprint of God was changing.
In Sam’s situation, the wounding party could be seen as his dad or the war. For Sam, the imprint of the ones bringing the pain was minimal. When this pain is present, many times it is helpful for the wounded person to see that the person lashed out because of his own pain—often imitating the very thing done to him. Or perhaps the person is just extremely self absorbed. And why should I allow someone who is selfish to continue to control my life through me staying in my pain? Whatever the picture, the image of the wounding party needs to change to where the person who has been wounded can transfer his pain to God.
Sam needed to see himself differently. He needed to see God differently. He at least needed to let go of the impact of his father leaving and of the war. The way we “see” a memory needs to change. The ugly heat needs to leave the event so that we have a new imprint—one that can see it as a growth point or maybe as a grief point for God.
For Sam, the key root of the pain was pride. Pride is the slowest driver to heal. He doesn’t get the luxury of one and done (one prayer and it’s over.) For Sam, it is a repeated prayer, over and over, day by day. With each prayer, the darkness of the imprint fades, the power of the nightmares weaken. It is a fight, but a fight well worth having. Life God’s style is the prize.