Heart Made Whole: Taking Steps



Those of you who have hung around this neighborhood for a few years know that a few years ago, I went through a dark time. Actually, I kinda sorta had a breakdown. We’ve talked about this here. But in case you need a refresher, I ran into someone who had abused me many years ago. That opened the door for a season of panic attacks, nightmares, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, and eventually the care of both doctors and counselors. I’m in a much better place now, but for a while, my life — behind the curtain that I kept pulled across it to keep prying eyes out — was a dark, ugly place to be.

One of my greatest confidants at that time was somebody that some of y’all know — our late, great, dear old book discussion friend, Rick Dawson. And as someone whose experience was having come out of substance abuse, one of the things that he suggested for me to do was to read quite a bit of the AA Big Book. Which, of course, meant that I learned the 12 Steps. Which I subsequently realized are pretty darn helpful to pretty much everybody.

Step 1 – We admitted that we were powerless over [insert stronghold here] — that our lives had become unmanageable. 

I won’t ask you to raise your hand (mine are both raised), but how many times have you looked around your life and realized that everything was out of control?

The last two chapters (I was absent last week, but I’m going to cover both chapters here, y’all, so hang on!), Christa Black Gifford has talked about surviving trauma. And haven’t we all experienced trauma? Either at our own hands or the hands of someone else? I was abused. That was trauma at the hands of someone else. I wrecked my car and did major damage to my foot. That trauma was at my own hands. But both types of trauma were painful and left lasting scars. In these last two chapters, Christa talked us through it.

“Sometimes trauma is as unavoidable as encountering the night.” (Gifford, 38)

“When traumatic circumstances hit our hearts and we stay crushed, part of the heart can get hooked and stuck in the past, perpetuating pain and fear.” (Gifford, 38)

“Denial about pain keeps our focus off the main issues and original wounds, making it impossible ever to heal and move on completely.” (Gifford, 60)

And this is where we have to take Step 1. We’ve been through trauma. It’s left a mark. And it keeps on damaging us as long as we avoid it. (Like the 6 months I was in denial I had a broken foot, continued to walk on it, and did extensive, painful damage to it.)

So, we take Step 1. We admit that we’re powerless. We admit we’re facing a situation — and a life — that’s out of control. And, as Christa says, “Acknowledgment of your current pain is the most powerful step towards healing.” (Gifford, 60)

But I would be absolutely remiss not to take this conversation — and this healing process — to the next level. And I’ll let Christa explain this one:

“I didn’t need another sermon or self-help book. My heart needed an encounter with Someone more real and powerful than the pain that kept eating me alive.” (Gifford, 67)

As nice as sermons and self-help books can be, unless we experience the love of God, the person of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit through them, we will not be healed.

Several years ago, my pastor at the time talked about Psalm 23. He said that during the time that scripture was written, the relationship of the sheep and the shepherd was a very special and distinctive one. Each night, when the shepherd would lead the sheep into the pen for the night, the shepherd would kneel and check each sheep carefully for bruises or wounds that could worsen if left unattended. The shepherd would tend those wounds and gently care for each sheep, leading them into the safety of the pen and then lying down across the door of the pen so that any predator would have to get through the shepherd to get to the sheep. Over the years, this has become such a picture of God for me. And such an experience of Him. One of the most special times of my day is talking to the Shepherd as I settle in for the night — pointing out my wounds to Him and allowing Him to point out wounds that I don’t see. Letting Him care for my wounds. And trusting Him to watch over me through the night.

What steps do you take to encounter God?

This post is part of a weekly book discussion on Christa Black Gifford’s book, “Heart Made Whole.” You don’t have to read the book to join in the discussion, but if you have written a response to this week’s chapter on your blog, please link it up at the widget below. Then, go visit my co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen to see what he has to say. 

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About Sarah Salter


  1. I have found the steps (and program worked correctly!) applicable to every mountain in my life! I’m glad it has also brought you to some peace as well 🙂

  2. Barbara C Capps says:

    I love this statement…”unless we experience the love of God, the person of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit through them, we will not be healed”… AMEN AND AMEN… Thanks again for sharing..

  3. I love the image of the sheep being checked daily. If only I would live in that trust and care! He’s provided it and it’s what I need, but too often it begins to feel like I’m on my own. That’s not on Him, it’s on me. His sheep hear His voice and respond. That’s all I have to do. Good stuff, Sarah. Thanks. 🙂

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