Through the healing and transformation
of memories, emotions and attitudes


© 1975, 1999, 2005 by Ann K Elliott




And I, when I am lifted up from the earth,
will draw all men to myself
… that you may become sons of light.
John 12:23, 26 RSV





Part One
The Extremity that is God's Opportunity
Chapter I
- The Invisible God Made Visible
Chapter II - The Extremity that is God's Opportunity

Part Two
Jesus, Jacob and Jung
Chapter III
- Jesus-The Transforming Power of Walking with Him
Chapter IV - Jacob-Transformation in the Old Testament
Chapter V - Jung-The Transforming Power of the Symbols of the Bible

Part Three
The Inner Cry for Wholeness
Chapter VI
- Inner Gold Mining
Chapter VII - Inner House Cleaning
Chapter VIII - The Inner Cry for Wholeness

Part Four
The Judgment of Enlightenment
Chapter IX
- The Power of Jesus to Heal Memories and Emotions
Chapter X - The Child who Lives in the Basement
Chapter XI - The Shadow Behind the Door
Chapter XII - Jacob's Comeuppance (or a Shadow Named Laban)
Chapter XIII - In the Prayer Closet-The Release of Repressed Emotions

Part Five
Where the Divine and the Human Meet
Chapter XIV
- "And I Forgive You"-The Crossing Out of Separations
Chapter XV - At the Crossing-Where the Angel of Destiny is Met
Chapter XVI - At the Cross-Where the Divine and the Human Meet





I am grateful for the work of C. G. Jung and for those who continue to integrate and enlarge upon his life work in works of their own. Most particularly, the understandings and insights contained within these pages have been guided by the writings of John A. Sanford, Fritz Kunkel, and Morton Kelsey.

I am thankful, also, for those others alongside Rufus Moseley who, through their books and their leadership in camps, conferences, and retreats, turned my eyes to Jesus-among then were Glenn Clark, Frank Laubach, Genevieve Parkhurst, Agnes Sanford, Eugene Jones, and Evelyn Carter. They have been my Jesus teachers, as has one other person, Cliff Custer, whose ministry and friendship has deeply and profoundly enriched both my own and my husband Bob's life.

For teaching us their "relational" approach to studying the scriptures and for their vulnerable, caring, Christian lifestyle, both Bob and I appreciate those we came to know through Faith at Work.

There are also the friends who have been with us on the journey towards wholeness throughout the years. With them and through them we have experienced and begun to comprehend the height and depth, the length and breadth, of God's love for us.

Most of all I have Bob to thank for the inspiration behind this book-the powerful way the living Christ became real in and through his life-this in addition to his support as husband, father of our six children, companion-on-the-way, and my best friend.

For her skill and expertise in the creative art of writing, and for her patience in teaching me what she could of this craft, I am deeply grateful to my mother, Beulah Karney.

I would also express gratitude to Frances Freitas for her help in reading and commenting on the manuscript at different stages of its development, and for the many years she served as my spiritual director.

September 1, 1999
Murray Creek




Although a major portion of this book is based on entries made in spiritual journals kept since my quest for wholeness began in 1957, the most important event of my life happened the night my husband Bob encountered God in the person of Jesus and our spiritual walk together began.  Until then, even though we outwardly had everything--gifted children; a spacious home built according to our needs and life-style; social standing in our community where Bob had a successful law practice--nevertheless something was missing.  Locked up in the secret places of our hearts were the unhealed hurts of our childhoods, and not only were these creating barriers between us, but some of the unrecognized pain of these hurts was being perpetuated in the lives of our children.

Bob met Jesus at a Camps Farthest Out conference on Christian healing at Asilomar, California. There I too, for the first time since my childhood, met Christians who knew and spoke of Jesus in a way that was alive and personal. And it was together here we learned how our painful memories and blocked emotions could be healed..

At Asilomar a man named Rufus Moseley was mentioned.  Later I came to know him through his book Perfect Everything. Moseley, called “Brother Rufus” by nearly everyone, was a college professor who was known to have a simple childlike faith and an abandoned love and commitment to Jesus.  He was said to be the freest yet most anchored of men, having one point of his compass fixed on the incarnation of Jesus and the other point freely sweeping the whole horizon, envisioning everything in love.[1]  Those who had known him said he took from all what was in harmony with the Jesus he knew and left behind what was not.  But what was most important was that in his freedom he maintained a loving, accepting relationship with everyone.  He could do this, it was said, because others recognized the “Real Thing” in him.  For me he became an idealized goal--a symbol of the kind of Christian I wanted to be. There were others, too, whose personal lives were examples: particularly I think of Frank Laubach, Glenn Clark, and Genevieve Parkhurst.

Mrs. Parkhurst was a speaker at the conference we attended.  Since the theme song that year was “He Lives,” she spoke frequently of a Jesus who was not only alive and with us, but of One who wanted to walk back into our past and heal the hurts of our childhood.

On returning home I yearned to belong to an ongoing group such as we had experienced at Asilomar, one that could be satisfying to both mind and heart, one that combined a personal relationship with Jesus and concern for inner healing and spiritual growth. This combination, however, was not as compatible as I had assumed.  In our home community those who exhibited a love-relationship with Jesus doubted the “scriptural basis” for the kind of healing and growth we had experienced at Asilomar. They feared its “psychological” implications. In turn, as my mind cried out not to be fenced in, I discovered it was not easy to make Brother Rufus’s kind of freedom work.

In those days, I had no way of knowing that the secret of Moseley’s freedom was his abandonment to God’s will in every situation and his ability to let go of all ego identities and personal needs except the one that said, “Jesus is Perfect Everything and I am His.” Much later John Powell, in his books Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am? and The Secret of Staying In Love, explained the art of remaining both free and in love.  Powell explained why one cannot make either love or freedom work.  Rather it is necessary to become emotionally honest and to undergo inward changes of attitudes and expectations.

In the chapters that follow I share my own and other’s struggles to become emotionally honest by letting go of the protective walls we have built around our real selves.  As I also attempt to show, becoming inwardly free is both painful and rewarding.

As work on this book began, Moseley’s Manifest Victory came into my hands.  Here he tells of his own spiritual pilgrimage and refers to the “judgment of enlightenment … to Jesus’ turning on his light in the hidden areas of one’s inner being.”  Again something about Brother Rufus’s life spoke deeply to me.  Was it the simplicity through which he saw all things in and through the mind of Christ?  Was it the free--the redeemed Child--I saw in him?  Whatever it was it quickened within me a new determination to try to let go of my desire to analytically understand everything.  I too yearned to return to the simple faith I had had as a child.  I even dared pray, “Lord, take me through this ‘judgment of enlightenment.’”  It was as a result of this that I came to see it is not only the “peak” spiritual experiences but also the painful and difficult ones in which God is at work to transform and call forth our real selves.

As all this was taking shape in my mind I picked up a little book by Frank Laubach--his Letters By A Modern Mystic--in which he had written:

0 how I hunger! for others to tell me their soul adventures.[2]

Then, as if to further confirm my guidance to write this account, the following came to me in a time of prayerful inner listening:

Spiritual power is generated as we witness to God’s acts in our lives.

When we recall, reflect upon, and record the times and ways God has intercepted our lives, then we see where we began, the hard places we have been brought through, and we come to know that we can trust God to lead us on.

In this way faith and trust are strengthened; the power of gratitude and praise is magnified; the people of God are empowered; individuals, the environment, even earth and the heavens, are healed; transformation, redemption, creation continues! [3]

I listened again and the words came:

Recount for yourselves and one another the big and little wonders I have done in your lives.  Look at each step of your walk so far. Recall, reflect upon, and record the ways I have worked in your lives.  As you do, a new wave of spiritual power will be generated.  As you express gratitude and praise, faith and trust will increase.  And though you face an uncertain future you will face it with the certainty that Someone walks with you, guiding and directing you each step of the way.


[1] J. Rufus Moseley, Perfect Everything (Saint Paul, Minn.: Macalester Park Publishing Company, 1949). p. 10.

[2] Frank C. Laubach, Letters By A Modern. Mystic (Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1953), P. 13.

[3] The words Creation Continues are the title of a book by Fritz Kunkle M.D. which is referred to later in this book.






Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you;
…to show mercy to you.  Isaiah 30:18





In 1957, when I was twenty-eight, I had yet to question the picture of God I carried around in the back of my mind.  Perhaps I had formed it from a Sunday School take-home paper, or from seeing a reproduction of Michaelangelo’s God.  At any rate the God who resided in my mind was a remote old man in the clouds.  I had accepted this symbol of God as a literal, unchallenged fact.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of playing alone in my sandbox and sensing the presence of an almighty Heavenly Father all about me.  Going with this memory is a song I sang in church, accompanied on either side by my mother and my father:

This is my Father’s world
and to my listening ears
all nature sings
and round me rings
the music of the spheres.[1]

But when my parents separated “my happy world” collapsed.

There were summers spent with my cousins when I attended the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood where my uncle was an elder.  There, particularly in junior high, I was exposed to Christians with an alive, contagious faith.  But from then on my faith in God went underground, until at twenty-eight I returned to the Church for the purpose of providing our two young sons with a religious education.  Since there was no Presbyterian Church in our town, I took young Robert and Willy to the Episcopal Church and soon found myself in a confirmation class.

In one of these sessions the minister, in attempting to explain the Trinity, drew a triangle with arrows pointing in interrelating directions.  This was to show the “sameness yet separateness” of the Godhead.  The drawing somehow must have challenged my existing “old man” picture of God.  Later that night, in a state between waking and dreaming, I became aware of a question in my mind: “Well, if God is not an old man in the sky, what is He?” (I must have known he  was not a triangle, either.) Immediately there was an answer to my question.  I heard a voice which sounded as if it was coming from my right and outside my bedroom window--a rich, deep, masculine voice that pronounced three words: “God is Truth.”

At the same time there appeared in the room before me a figure of pure, white light--a living being I took to be Jesus.  After a time--I have no idea how long--the figure left as it had come, disappearing into the dark.  And I was left to puzzle the meaning of the words--“God is Truth.” I recall wondering why they had not been “God is Love.” That I could have understood, while the concept of God as “Truth” baffled me.  I had not been in the habit of associating thinking with God, and in my mind “Truth” was related to “thinking.”

As a matter of fact, I didn’t consider myself to be a thinking person.  Thoughtful perhaps, but not intellectual.  Rather I was artistic by nature, trained in design and various craft methods which work I thought of as giving form to feelings.  But now my slumbering mind--my least used faculty--was being awakened.  Somewhere in my childhood I had determined to repress this part of myself.  Growing up as the only child of a single, career mom, I was often in the company of adults.  Aware of my shyness, my mother had instructed me, “If you can’t think of something to say, just smile.”  And so I came to smile a lot and say little.  When at fifteen I met Bob I think he liked this about me.  When at eighteen I married him, playing dumb became part of my marriage survival plan.  Yet this stance was contrary to my earliest awareness of who I was.  As early as eight I was fascinated by poetry, even memorizing some of Wordsworth’s most somber stanzas.  Nor had I ever questioned that someday I would write, and putting words on paper did involve exercising the mind.

In one of the few memories I have of my father, he is bent intently over a typewriter at the office of the Holden Enterprise, the newspaper my parents published.  My mother is sitting nearby reading proof as she had started doing “holding copy” for the Los Angeles Times when she was sixteen-years-old.  In this memory-scene I am making long, long paper chains of the rainbow-colored papers that were stocked for advertising fliers.  This memory was reinforced by my mother’s telling me of another day when I was “working” at “my desk.” She asked me what I was busy doing and I said, “Well, I’m certainly not writing locals!  When I grow up I’m going to write headlines.”  Perhaps even then I sensed I would someday have an important story to tell--the story of the inner journey of discovering the real Self each of us is called to discover.

When my parents had separated I had felt my father’s disappearance from my life as rejection.  And with the sense of rejection I felt God, too, as my Heavenly Father, had deserted me.  To fill this missing father place I had put at the top of the list of what I wanted from life the love and acceptance of a husband and a “normal” happy family of my own.  But when the voice had said “God is Truth,” I found myself back at “a road not taken.”  I reasoned, “If I want to know God I will have to begin thinking.  The next morning I said to Bob, “Where is your book on Plato?”  He acted surprised but found it for me.  And with that my search for God as Truth began.  When asked to teach Sunday School, I said “yes.”  And from that time on Sundays found the boys and myself in church while Bob remained at home.

Six years passed, and then I experienced what I can best be described as a total, spontaneous “surrender.”  The following are the words I recorded in my journal.

I had overworked the day before and was both exhausted physically and overstimulated mentally.  In addition, I had been dieting.  Even though I had gone to bed early I had not been able to sleep.  Then suddenly something very disturbing began to happen to me physically.  My heart began to beat very hard and irregularly.  I was seized by fear, by a sense of panic.  I thought, “I must calm myself.”  Yet I could not.  I thought, “This is the time to pray,” but I could not.  Then, in a wordless way--in helplessness--I surrendered.  I let go of myself.  With my arms and body I gestured my letting go.  Immediately I felt a power going through my body, a tingling and vibrating power.  It was like an electric current.  Then I felt myself dropping off into a very deep sleep, and I had a sensation of sinking.  It was a beautiful feeling of peacefully falling into the hands of God.  My body became completely relaxed; my breathing sounded as one sleeping soundly.  I listened.  Then I realized that although my body was completely asleep my mind seemed fully conscious and extremely alert.

From this experience I gained first-hand knowledge of two things: the power of helplessness and the realization that consciousness can be separate and apart from the body.  The concept of survival beyond this physical life now seemed perfectly plausible to me.  I also concluded that it was because I had “let go” that God had been able to take over my body and bring it back into harmony.

Strangely this experience was followed by a period of depression which lasted for several months, yet with no apparent cause.  When I would feel most desolate, however, I would remember the time God took over, and this memory would always sustain me.

During this depression period I was having a particularly difficult time with our oldest son; I seemed to be picking on him continually.  At a Christian education workshop I told my troubles to Helen Wagstaff, then Diocesan Director of Christian Education.  After the workshop Helen drove to her home some fifteen miles away, and returned with a book for me--The Miracle of Dialogue, by Reuel Howe.  I received help from the book and insight into my relationship with my son.  I began to see why I picked on this particular son.  From my mother I had heard two things about my father: that he was a genius with words and that he had a temper.  This son also was unusually gifted with words and also had a temper.  I saw that unconsciously I was projecting onto him my buried resentment towards my father whom I felt had abandoned me.  Consequently I began to see how I actually was provoking my son’s temper.

From that time on my relationship with my son improved.  However, I knew that it was my friend’s concern, demonstrated by her special trip to bring me the book, that had turned around my depression.  I would come to see what caused the depression was my fear of facing the inner pain of my feelings of having been abandoned by my father.  I was being called to face those feelings so they could be transformed.  Not understanding this, I simply feared the pain and kept pushing it down--kept depressing the feelings while at the same time projecting them onto my son.  This was my first inkling of the hidden yet determining influences in my life that needed to be healed.

Over the years, however, I was never able to forget the message “God is Truth.” This was continually with me although out of reach of my understanding.  Then there came a morning, nearly ten years after I had heard the words, that I understood what they meant. It was shortly after Bob and I had returned from Asilomar.  I was in the kitchen cooking breakfast.  And right there, in the middle of our usual morning bedlam, seemingly out of the blue, something clicked. I had an “aha,” a “now-I-know,” experience.  Unbelievable I had never before made a connection between the words, “God is Truth,” and the experienced presence of Jesus.  In that moment, between the flip of a pancake, I understood that Truth is an abstract concept of God; Jesus, however, is the Truth of what God is really like.  He   is the abstract God made concrete.  Now at last I could understand what Paul had meant in saying “He is the image of the invisible God.”  (Colossians 1:15)  Jesus is the invisible God made visible!

I had been given a Truth upon which I could base my life!  As I recognized this it was as though my life finally had a firm foundation, a rock upon which to build, and that rock was Jesus--knowing Him and who he  was.

As I continued cooking breakfast I did not grasp the theological implications of my insight.  I grasped it rather as simple guidance: “Keep your eyes upon Jesus; he  will lead you into all Truth.”  In my mind I also heard it as a song I had learned at Asilomar--”Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”

I understand now that turning to Jesus, looking into his face, makes it easier to let go of all lesser identities and dependencies.  I also now appreciate that this letting go while looking to Jesus is the essence of what Paul refers to as being transformed by the renewal of the mind (Romans 12:2).  But then I only understood it as practical guidance, a guidance I began to follow by collecting pictures of Jesus and putting them on the walls of our home.  This was something I had heard Frank Laubach had done as a way of establishing a concrete sense of the presence of Jesus.

Of the three spiritual breakthroughs so far have related, the last was the most significant, even though it seemed to come in a very undramatic, intuitive way.  For me this simple insight flashing through my mind in the midst of a busy kitchen put it all together, and gave my life a meaning and a foundation upon which I since have built.  God was no longer a remote figure in the sky, a reminder of the father I felt had abandoned me.  God, in the person of Jesus, was now alive and present in my life.


[1] Maltbie D Babcock, From Thoughts for Everyday Living, Charles Scribner’s Sons





Nine years after my spiritual quest had begun Bob began his.  For me this was the end of my own lonely journey. How well I remember the indescribable joy and gratitude I felt as I observed his rebirth taking place before my very eyes!  Every time I have heard Bob tell his story, whether to one or to hundreds, I have been convinced God intended that it someday be told for the encouragement of all.  So perfectly does it demonstrate God’s power to intercept a life and turn that life from darkness towards the light.  It also reveals the necessary interaction between a person and God.

It was the first Monday in October, 1966.  The place was the Asilomar Conference Grounds on the Monterey Peninsula, California, and the occasion was a five-day conference sponsored by Camps Farthest Out.  Bob was a very reluctant participant. Monday was the first full day of the conference.  It had been a long day of singing, talks, and good meals.  Now the evening talk was over and he went with my mother and myself to the social hall for coffee and apples before going to bed.  But there was a restlessness in him that had started in the afternoon and had been building all evening.  We went up to the lodge where we had rooms, but he took a flashlight and said he would see us later.  He wanted to walk a while before going to bed.

Bob headed towards the ocean a quarter of a mile away on this typical Monterey-Peninsula-evening of mist mixed with fog.  There were other walkers along the beach that night, but no one he knew.  So he went down the path to the ocean’s edge to the firm sand just out of reach of the waves.  The air was cold and damp but the sound of the waves near-by was somehow comforting.  His thoughts in turmoil, he walked and walked.  There was something inside that kept churning and confusing him.  He didn’t like it.  He walked about a mile along the water’s edge until very soon all other night hikers were left behind.  Still he kept on until he came to an area of large rocks that climbed from the ocean’s edge to a low bluff.  As he threaded his way among these rocks he came, at last, to a room-sized sandy area that was almost surrounded by rocks.  And there he sat with the flashlight off trying to relax.  He sat with his knees drawn up and his arms about them.  Finally he rested his face upon his knees as he listened to the nearby surf and thought about the strange day that was almost over.

As he sat there his mind went back over the months before.  He particularly thought of the strange little prayer he had been repeating daily for three months, a prayer which seemed pointless, a prayer which had no response, a prayer he didn’t know why he kept repeating.  He thought to himself, “I wonder what would happen if I said that prayer one more time.”  So, in his mind, he began to form the phrase, a prayer that went “Jesus, help me want to love you.”

“It is hard to pinpoint,” I have heard Bob explain, “the beginning of the events that led up to this night on the beach.  Maybe it started with something that happened to me three years earlier, the night I saw a movie called ‘The Pawnbroker.’”

This movie told the story of a man who had been born and reared in Germany, a Jew with a wife and several small children.  He had been caught in the rise of Hitler and the persecutions in Germany.  He had witnessed the humiliation and degradation and death of his wife and children and yet had been helpless to do anything about it.  Somehow this man had survived, gotten to New York and become a pawnbroker in a poor section of the city.  By now he had also become a man who had walled in his feelings, building barriers around his emotions to protect himself from ever again having to go through the terrible pain he had experienced in losing his wife and children.  He did this by avoiding all personal relationships with those who would normally have been his friends--like the young Puerto Rican boy who worked for him in his pawn shop and who reached out to him in vain for warmth and affection.  In the end this desolate pawnbroker had witnessed the death of the very boy whom he had rejected.  The death had occurred when the boy had saved his life in a holdup!  When the realization came to this man of the boy’s sacrifice the intensity of his pain broke through his walls and entered his protected core.  The movie ended with the man walking out of his shop aimlessly wandering the streets trying to understand as well as accept the renewal of feelings and emotions after so many years.

Bob has said that when he walked out of the theater that night he was trembling.  The impact had been so great because he had seen himself in that man!  He had seen his life, his wife and his children, and a life in which he too had lived behind a wall that imprisoned his emotions and feelings.  He had loved us all but only up to a point.  He had kept something back.  He was now able to recognize the deeply-buried pain in the experiences that he had had as a thirteen-year-old boy in that winter day of 1941 when he had come home from school to be told that his mother had taken her own life.  And then three months later he had been awakened to be again told of a second tragedy, that his father also had taken his life.  Both times a kind of numbness had come over him, and the tears had stopped before they had reached his eyes, and that was how it happened he had gone inside himself.

Now, twenty-two years later, he realized that he had not shed a tear in all those years!  He had kept part of himself safe behind those walls so that if something tragic or horrible happened to his new loved ones--his wife his children--he could not be hurt again as he had been with his father and mother.  No help, however, came with this new understanding for he had no idea of what could be done, no idea what he could do to change this emotional numbness that he recognized in himself.  Moreover he didn’t know if he wanted to or not. This knowledge so saddened him he also had to put it away.

Then, in the early morning hours of Christmas Day, 1965 (nine months before this night on the beach), he experienced his second attack of acute pancreatitis. he  lay on the bed curled up in mind-numbing pain waiting first for the doctor to arrive and then for the ambulance.  Bob was dimly aware that I was at the kitchen phone calling and calling, time and time again. he  knew I was calling my friends, Fr. Stuart Anderson, members of a church prayer group and others known to me as people of prayer.

Next came the hospital where heroic measures were taken and where his slow recovery began.  After four or five days in the hospital and when he was feeling almost recovered, the doctor gave him a piece of dismaying news: he told him bluntly that he could never, as long as he lived, drink alcohol again.  The doctor said the most likely trigger for pancreatitis was alcohol and that his chances of surviving another attack were not good. The implication of his statement was overwhelming because Bob had grown accustomed to softening the transition from a tension-producing law-practice to a tumultuous household by drinking four to six ounces of bourbon whiskey on his way home each evening and sometimes imbibing more at home.  His weekends had been made more bearable by beer and wine and occasionally bourbon.  Life ahead without the tranquilizing effect of alcohol seemed almost impossible.  Yet he knew he was not willing to again cope with what he had endured that Christmas morning.

When he finally came home from the hospital to spend his last several days of convalescence before returning to the office, it was my suggestion that he try to have a transition period after coming home from work--a quiet time I called it--locked in our bedroom at the back of the house while I remained in front cooking dinner and keeping the children near me and quiet.  I suggested, too, that he spend thirty minutes each evening in solitude with a drink of ginger-ale or fruit juice in hand as he tried to compose himself before coming out to face the lively family.  Since he was willing to try anything at this point, a regular regimen was worked out in which he would spend the first ten minutes reading a chapter from the Bible together with a commentary and another ten minutes reading an inspirational Christian book (suggested by me).  The final ten minutes could be spent reading a book (of his choice) on a philosophical or spiritual level but with more of a stimulating or challenging intellectual tinge to it. So he began.

Since, from childhood, he carried within him some unpleasant memories of being forced in Sunday School to read the Bible and study Gospel stories in the old King James translation, he decided to break these negative associations by reading a modern translation--the New English Bible. To avoid the “tiresome” Jesus stories he decided to start with the Book of Acts, a part of the Bible which he had never read.  He started with Chapter 1, reading it as well as the commentary, and then spent ten minutes each with the other two books before he was able to come out to join the family for a relatively peaceful dinner.  He did this day after day, faithfully reading his chapter, the commentary, and the other books.  He got through the Book of Acts and then started the letters of Paul.  Some months went by before he worked his way through all the letters up to the book of Revelations.  There he balked. Even with the habit established he still couldn’t handle what he considered a “kooky” book. So he jumped back to the front of the New Testament. Even here his perverse attitude caused him to read the books of the Gospel in reverse order.  He started with John, then Luke, then Mark and finally Matthew.  When he started reading the Bible his attitude was one he had nurtured over many years and that was a very critical, even hostile, skepticism about everything that was in the Bible from the Old Testament to Jesus and the early Church. In high school and later he had read historical novels on Biblical themes.  He had read “tracts” from time to time generally critical of Christianity and had sharpened a group of arguments which he used from time to time upon Christian friends and relatives to mock their beliefs, particularly concerning miraculous events like the virgin birth.

In the weeks that followed his release from the hospital, he began going to church more often than he had in the past.  He had grown acquainted with our Episcopal minister when he. had visited him in the hospital, and Bob even had allowed him to pray for him on several occasions.  During the nine previous years I had been active in the Church as a Sunday School teacher and leader of the Children’s Chapel Service.  By this time the older two children also had been confirmed.  But Bob had attended only an average of four times a year, twice when his name came up on the ushering list and again at Christmas and Easter.

Now, as he read the Bible and studied the commentaries as well as read the other books, his interest grew and certainly his curiosity was aroused.  He seemed to be looking upon the Bible and thinking from a somewhat different perspective.  Before long he found himself attending a confirmation class, a series of ten weekly meetings.  The purpose had been to inform those attending on the history of the Church and the meaning of Christianity.  It was hoped that some of the inquirers would want to be confirmed and join the Church.  From time to time Bob recalls challenging Fr. Anderson when some theological statement of his would irritate him.  During this same time he also allowed himself to be talked into attending Saturday meetings in a nearby town which were led by a minister in the diocese who had a refreshingly different and lively approach to Christianity.  He sang and let be sung songs that were not in the hymnal.  Also he was accompanied by laymen who spoke of their Christian experience in terms that didn’t sound preachy or theological.  These sessions were held once a month and there was time, also, to get together in small groups with persons who would talk about their Christian experiences and what being a Christian meant to them.

As the time for the Bishop’s annual confirmation trip to our parish grew close, Bob found himself deciding that he would go through with it and join the Church.  He didn’t know why; yet he was willing to do so.  He found he had progressed from the point of suspicion and hostile skepticism towards what he was reading in the Bible and what he was hearing in Church to a feeling of rather sad and wistful hope, almost a wish, that this beautiful story really could be true.  When the day came for confirmation and the class of which he was a part stood before the congregation and recited the Nicene Creed, he found himself crossing his fingers secretly because he knew he didn’t believe a single word in that creed.  Then, when he knelt and the Bishop laid hands on him, he waited to feel some sign, some electricity, some “zap” from heaven, but all he felt was the weight and the warmth of the Bishop’s hands.  In the weeks after confirmation he continued with his nightly study and, in the course of his reading, came across a mimeographed pamphlet that I had obtained several years before at a Yokefellows Conference (which coincidentally had been held at the same Asilomar Conference Grounds).  This pamphlet was used to supplement a book by Erich Fromm entitled The Art of Loving, and in it he read a commentary on “spiritual love,” and the suggestion was made that those who found they could not relate to Jesus should try a prayer that went something like this, “Jesus, help me to want to love you.”  If this prayer was too hard to say then the pamphlet suggested that one move back a step and say, “Jesus, help me want to want to love you,” or even further back and say, “Jesus, help me want to want to want to love you.”  By now he was willing to try this experiment along with all the other spiritual “games” he had been playing for some six months.  So he began this new “game” by closing his eyes and thinking the phrase, “Jesus, help me want to love you.”  Then he would wait and listen, trying to detect some feeling or response.  But none ever came.  He got discouraged and expanded the prayer to, “Jesus help me want to want to love you.”  Sometimes he got the feeling he was like a boy dropping pebbles down the dark well and then waiting to hear the sound of the splash at the bottom.  His prayer was like the pebble but he never heard the splash of it hitting bottom.

By now it was August and I suggested that Bob take a vacation to go with my mother and myself to a five-day C.F.O. camp scheduled at Asilomar in early October.  At this point Bob resolved to have no part of such a thing and flatly and bluntly refused, which resulted in an outburst of tears by me.  He resisted for perhaps a week and then very reluctantly agreed.  He began to rationalize that he really did need a vacation, that the Monterey Peninsula was a truly beautiful place, and that he certainly didn’t have to attend any of the meetings.  He began to plan for the vacation.  He would take a large pile of science fiction and mystery novels and spend most of the week reading in his room or walking.

For the rest of August and into September he continued his Bible reading and also that strange little prayer, “Jesus, help me want to love you.”  Each night he would listen for a response.

Then came the end of September and time for the conference.  We drove from our home in Lodi to Carmel Valley to pick up my mother from where we journeyed to Pacific Grove where the conference grounds were.  While registering Bob looked around to see the three hundred other persons there for the conference, and his worst fears were realized!  The other people all seemed to him to be elderly, sweetly-smiling, Bible-carrying ladies--the kind of persons he had really avoided most of his life.  The thought of spending five days with these people was almost more than he could bear.  The only pleasant surprise he got the first evening, and then in the morning session, was the singing.  The tunes were very catchy ones he was not familiar with, and Bob had always enjoyed lively singing.  The program, as a whole, seemed to him to be quite weird and beyond his experience.  Yet there was something pleasant about these people--an apparent genuine friendliness.

One of the more unnerving experiences was on Monday afternoon when he went to the prayer group to which he had been assigned arbitrarily.  There were about fifteen other people, all total strangers.  The first thing they did was go around the circle and give their names and something about their backgrounds.  Bob said, sarcastically, that his name was Bob Elliott and that he was a lawyer, had a wife and five children and was there because his wife had dragged him.

For about an hour these people discussed prayer, their needs, their concerns for others and then prayed for these needs.  To close they stood in a circle holding hands.  The prayer group leader, Del Anderson, tried to sum up what had occurred.  Then, in closing, he said a prayer for Bob and asked God’s blessing upon the young lawyer who was there so reluctantly.  Bob felt a surge of anger and resentment towards this man and his presumption in praying for him.  He certainly had not asked for his prayers and did not want them!  The rest of the afternoon, later during dinner and the evening talk, and then after the talk he continued to be bugged.  The restlessness had grown--the inner turmoil, the confusion--until there he was out on the beach--alone--saying for one last time his strange little prayer, “Jesus, help me want to love you.”

“And,” Bob describes his experience, “as my mind formed this prayer and before it even got to the last words, suddenly the Jesus I had prayed to in vain these many months was there with me--a real overwhelming Presence--focused not more then two or three feet from me.  As I sat there with my face resting on my knees this living Jesus, the Jesus whom I didn’t even believe in until that very moment, the Jesus whom I had never thought of as more than an historical figure, this Jesus poured out his love upon me in a shower of warm oil that flowed over my head and down over my body, that went on and on while I sat there overwhelmed and overjoyed.

“I don’t suppose it lasted more than a few moments, a minute or two at the most. Then somehow I was on my feet, my eyes open now, and I was headed back up the beach, back towards the conference grounds and our room.”

When Bob began that fateful walk on the beach in the fog he had been alone.  Now as he ended it he knew what it was to have years of inner loneliness melt away as he began to walk with Jesus in a personal and present way.

I was asleep when Bob arrived at our room.  Needing time to assimilate his experience he was grateful to be able to quietly slip into bed.  The first people he told of his encounter on the beach were those in his prayer group that next afternoon.  He told them what had happened to him and asked for their prayers to help him understand and help him come into a more complete experience of what Jesus meant in his life.  That would have been Tuesday afternoon.  As the week progressed more pieces fell into place, and one afternoon in our room, again while I was sleeping,  Bob experienced an actual release of all his repressed emotions concerning his parent’s deaths and a healing of the memories connected with them.  The details of this are told in a later chapter of this book.

Until we had gone to the Asilomar conference, in the eighteen years we then had been married Bob had rarely spoken of his parents.  Yet I intuitively had known there had been great tragedy connected with their deaths.  There had been one time before we were married when his Aunt Hazel had invited me for lunch and tried to tell me about “the family’s great sorrow” but had been so overtaken by emotion she had given up and explained she still could not speak of it.  So I had surmised this was also the case with Bob.  His hurt was too deep. To speak of it would have brought him in touch with a pain too great to bear.

Now, though, he was free to talk about his parents’ deaths and to tell me also what he had experienced on the beach at Asilomar and about the release of his emotions and the healing of his memories.

The confirmations of Bob’s healing have continued through the years.  Some years after his Asilomar experience our friends Frances and Ed were visiting.  With us in the kitchen was our sixth child, Joseph, who was then seven years old.  Ed began to tell of a memory he just recently had recalled.  It concerned the death of his baby brother and his being whisked away from the scene.  He told us how cut off and alone he had felt at being excluded from the emotional lives of his parents.  Bob then began to recall his similar sense following the death of his mother.  I could not help observing the look of empathy on Joseph’s face as he imagined the child his father once was and how he must have felt.  As I observed I thought how fortunate it was that this last child of ours could be included in his father’s emotional life.  And what a miracle of God it was!





Be transformed by the renewal of your mind. 
 Romans 12:2


In Jesus--in his life, his teachings, his living presence
            --a guide is provided for the journey towards wholeness.

In Jacob--in the events of his life
            --the progressive stages of the journey are defined.

In Jung--in his life-work
            --a map of the unknown territories of the human mind is provided
            --the heights and depths to be reclaimed and renewed.





Two friends who had known Jesus were walking to Emmaus.  It was Sunday afternoon, the third day after the Crucifixion.  As they thought and talked about Jesus a stranger joined them and began interpreting and explaining the scriptures in a way that caused their hearts to burn.  Reluctant to part from the stranger, the two friends urged him to have supper with them.  As they broke bread together they recognized their guest. It was their beloved Master who the Friday before had died on the Cross.  Yet here he was alive and with them.

Later that evening the two friends returned to Jerusalem and found Jesus’ other friends together in a room.  As the two were telling the others about what had happened to them, again Jesus appeared and showed them the nail scars on his hands and feet (Luke 24:13-39). In both instances, was it a coincidence that these two friends were talking about Jesus?  Or could it have been that their thoughts and words about him called out to him to join them?

I have similarly wondered about Rufus Moseley’s life.  Was it his simplicity in walking with Jesus as a child would that made the risen Jesus so real in and through him?  In one of his books this college professor, who had reacquired the spirit of a child, tells how he learned to survive difficult situations.  Once when he found himself saying, “I choose to think about Jesus,” he instantly felt the quickening presence of Jesus.  From this he learned that consciously choosing to think about Jesus and the desire to do his will would bring an awareness of his presence the help he needed.[1]

The disciplining of the will to consciously choose to think about Jesus would seem to be a necessary part of the process of the renewal of the mind to which Paul refers.  Deciding, committing, covenanting--through acts of the will we can choose to become conscious of the presence of God in the person of Jesus.  But in the experience of his presence it is not the conscious mind or the will but the heart that is “warmed.”.

There is a Christian tradition that goes back to the fifth century.  Called the “Jesus Prayer,” it practices the presence by repeating the words: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me.”  A book about this tradition instructs:

Sit down alone and in silence.

Lower your head, shut your eyes, breathe out gently, and imagine yourself looking into your own heart.

Carry your mind, i.e., your thought, from your head to your heart.

As you breathe out say: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” Say it moving your lips gently, or say it in your mind. Try to put all other thought aside.

Be calm, be patient, and repeat the process very frequently.[2]

Neither Bob nor I had heard of the “Jesus Prayer,” but shortly after his experience at Asilomar Bob had a dream.  In the dream he was walking down the street.  His head, missing from his neck, was tucked under his arm.  Someone stopped him on the street and, pointing to his cut-off head, asked him how it felt.  In his dream Bob replied, “Well, it takes a little getting used to.”

For some reason it has been harder for me than for Bob to let go of striving mentally.  I recall how my own journey began with seeing Jesus as the example I hoped to emulate.  I was then under the impression that spiritual stature was attained through strenuous effort.  I consciously and deliberately tried to make myself like Jesus--to conform myself to his image.  I memorized the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians, making up my mind that I would become this ideal Christian: I would be patient and kind; not jealous or boastful, arrogant or rude; I would not insist on my own way or be irritable or resentful when I did not get what I wanted.  I was determined to “bear all things,” “believe all things,” “hope all things.”  What I had failed to consider were the contrary forces at work in my unconscious life--my inner duality--my shadow self.  At that point I wasn’t even aware that part of me existed.  My failures, however, did teach me helplessness and humility, and that transformation is accomplished by God’s power not by my own.

Perhaps at the beginning of the journey I also failed to realize that God does not use copy machines to make sons and daughters; that the intention was never to make another Jesus; that each of us is destined to become uniquely real.  About the scripture “be ye perfect” Bruce Larson has noted that if it really meant for us to be perfect as God is perfect then we would each look like Jesus and like each other.  Rather, in the original Greek, the scripture means “become the perfect you.”[3]

Rufus Moseley had his own method of becoming perfectly and fully himself.  It was his willingness to abandon his life to the will of God through the person of Jesus.  It was his willingness to let go of every expectation that he could do anything to perfect himself except surrender and abandon his life, moment by moment, step by step, to Jesus.  This, according to Moseley, was also the way to avoid needless suffering.

Moseley suggests that it is through suffering one learns the wisdom of yielding to the will of God and that when one has become sufficiently wise to be receptive and responsive to God, then there is more and more victory without unnecessary suffering.[4]  Moseley, in the following prayer, has shared his secret of attaining inner freedom and spiritual wholeness:

Jesus, I want You to come into me and reign,

Be all in all, in all of me and my affairs:

Come in and be Spirit of my spirit;

Come into my mind and bring Your understanding and humility:

Come into my body and bring Your health and healing:

Come into my affairs and direct them:

Be will of my will--

Soul of my soul--

Brain of my brain--

Heart of my heart--

Life of my life--

Joy of my joy--

Perfect everything for all of me!

Perfect everything for the all of all.[5]

Another master of the spiritual life, E. Stanley Jones, speaks of three steps by which the kingdom of God is entered.  His steps are based on the scripture:

Except ye be converted, and become as little children ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3 KJV).

Dr. Jones explains that being converted means turning in a new direction; that becoming as little children means receiving a new spirit; and that entering the kingdom of God means living on a new sphere.[6]  He too emphasizes the importance of the will--of consciously choosing--to walk with Jesus. This, he points out, is the experience of Christian conversion: vertare--to turn; con--with; “to turn with” Jesus in a new direction.

In learning to walk with Jesus as a child would, his love begins a process of renewing what the Bible calls the heart. This heart-self is also sometimes referred to as our inner-child-self.  This is the part of us that is most frequently in need of inner healing, in need of having its truth and spontaneity renewed, in need of experiencing the unconditional love and acceptance Jesus offers.  If his love can be received on this heart level, then gradually we are freed of former feelings of inferiority, guilt, and worthlessness. A new spirit is born--our original childlike spirit--our spirit of receptivity.[7]

A child is receptive; a child responds spontaneously; and a child can often receive wisdom because his rational mind is not so developed and filled with answers of his own.  Learning to walk with Jesus as a child would may begin as an act of will, but it can lead to a more natural, spontaneous state of receptivity to God’s will and guidance for our lives. It can help establish within us a connection--a conscious ongoing communication--with the mind of Christ that is in us.  Italian psychologist, Robert Assagioli, sees the highest function of the will as one of formulating questions. Similarly, scripture advises:

If you lack wisdom ask and it will be given.  (James 1:5)

If you cry out for insight … it will be given.  (Proverbs 2:3)

In Christian terms, Dr. Assagioli would seem to be saying that the will serves its highest function by creating and keeping clear a channel of communication between our human minds and this mind of Christ in us.[8]  To create this channel he would have us:[9]

Formulate a question in a clear and precise form.  Using your will create a channel of receptivity.  Send your question over this channel.  After directing your question let it go.  Resist any effort to send your rational everyday mind searching for its own answer.[10]

Others refer to this method as inner-listening and instruct that although the reply sometimes comes promptly it more often comes after a lapse of time.  Perhaps the next day--when you are washing dishes or mowing the lawn--a thought will come into your mind and you will recognize it as the answer to the question you had asked.  In my own case I have observed that when I try to exert my will in order to receive wisdom or any other gift from God I become frustrated.  It would seem that just as when a child who is being pushed too hard ends up feeling frustrated, so our cries for insight are thwarted when we try to make it happen rather than relaxing into a state of open receptivity--the state in which the mind of Christ in us can speak.

From verbal and non-verbal admonitions most children conclude that “love” has to be “earned” by meeting other’s expectations.  If as children we believed this, then as grown-ups there still may be a child within us who is trying to earn love.  As Christians we may have transferred this misconception to God.  Unconsciously we believe God’s love and approval is gained by being the ideal Christian.  Then, failing to perfect ourselves, we feel unacceptable to God.  Our unconscious mind does not believe God loves us just as we are.  For this reason some of us, perhaps even most of us, need to take a step back to our childhoods and see ourselves being brought to Jesus where, perhaps for the first time in our lives, we can experience his love as unconditional, and as having no strings attached.

From many years of teaching Sunday School I have learned from children how to be open and receptive to Jesus. With them I have sat on child-sized chairs--all five-foot-ten of me!--sung songs about Jesus and learned from the simple stories I have told them.  In doing so, I have found myself really hearing the heart-message of the Gospels.

In particular I recall a five-day Vacation Bible School.  Each day I would develop a theme using a Bible story and an art project.  Then, to take home, I would give each child a scripture verse.  The following day, when the children would re-gather in our story circle, I would invite anyone who wished to say the verse from the day before.  Usually three or four children would eagerly raise their hands, with a few others following their lead.  On this day it was different.  As I remember, nearly every child’s hand went up and a spontaneous chorus of little voices called out to be first.  The theme the day before had been the risen Jesus. The children had made caterpillars by pasting circles together to form long wiggly shapes.  Next they had fingerpainted large butterfly-shaped “kites.” As the children had worked with their hands, I had talked about the way a caterpillar crawls close to the ground until one day it wraps itself into a dull cocoon, and then finally, on another day, emerges as a beautiful butterfly.  I had explained how this corresponded to Jesus when he  lived on earth, was crucified and buried, but how on Easter he came out of the tomb marvelously alive.[11]  The scripture verse with which the children had gone home that day had been a paraphrase of II Corinthians 5:17:

When Jesus comes into your heart you become a brand-new person inside.

It was this “good news”--the possibility of becoming a brand new person inside--to which the children had responded.  To be able to recognize and receive the message as these children had must be what Jesus meant in pointing to a child as the way to enter the kingdom of God.

It is this experience of Jesus on the heart level that causes the heart to burn, and as happened to the two friends walking with Jesus on the way to Emmaus as he taught them the deeper meaning of scriptural truths.

And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.  (Luke 24:27)

Wherever we may be on our journey towards becoming our real selves, we can pause and choose to turn our thoughts to Jesus.  If we have failed to realize that his love is unconditional, or if we have been discouraged by our failed attempts to perfect our own souls, then in our imaginations we can step back into our childhoods:

We are being brought as children to Jesus.  We climb onto his lap and feel his strong loving arms holding us.  The light of unconditional love shines from his eyes and penetrates through whatever barriers have been built around our hearts.  Through this inner-child-self we sense his acceptance of us just as we are, and we know it is safe to commit or recommit our lives to him.

Jesus, I give myself to you.
I give you my willingness
to walk with you
as a child would.

I surrender myself into your hands--
without reserve,
with abandonment,
with boundless confidence.

I invite you, by your power,
to transform me
into the likeness
of who I really am.

I offer myself to you
with all the love of my heart,
and receive into my heart
your unconditional love for me.


[1] J. Rufus Moseley, Manifest Victory (Plainfield, New Jersey: Logos International, 1971) p. 141.

[2] The Way of a Pilgrim, trans. by R.M. French (New York: Seabury Press, 1956) p. 10.

[3] Bruce Larson, Thirty Days to a New You (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1974) P. 31.

[4] Moseley, Manifest Victory, p. 227.

[5] Moseley, Perfect Everything, p. 82.

[6] E. Stanley Jones, Conversion (New York and Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1959) p. 40-41.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Roberto Assagioli, M.D. The Act of Will (Baltimore: Penguine Books, Inc., 1974) This is a restatement of Assagioli’s concept of the will.

[9]  Moseley, Perfect Everything, p. 82

[10] This way of asking is adapted from Assagioli’s suggestions in The Act of Will.

[11] From the author’s book Throughout the Year the Symbols and Seasons Give the Child Eyes to See God, Morehouse Barlow, 1977.






The foundation of a heart relationship with Jesus had prepared us for the crisis that loomed ahead.  With the surrender of our wills our lives were in God’s hands.  But what we had failed to appreciate was that inner-freedom was a process.  There were still closed-off doors into the deeper levels of our unconscious minds.  From behind these doors self-defeating attitudes and assumptions were opposing our conscious choices.  God’s healing power--his creative Word--would somehow have to reach into these hidden areas.

In the years following Bob’s conversion he had participated in a group called Faith at Work from whom he had learned the “relational” way of studying the Bible so as to make its teachings personally relevant.  A booklet about this approach[1] held that the Bible contained three levels of meaning: the literal understanding, the symbolic meaning, and a personal relevance.  For the most part we had avoided the Old Testament, unaware it too contained a personal message--one about the unknown territories of the human soul and the necessity of these too being transformed.  With the relational approach, the Old Testament as well as the New would provides insight into these hidden depths still in need of transformation.  To attain this level of personal relevance the booklet advised:

Put yourself into each story: see it, feel it, touch it, smell its smells, and hear its sounds and voices.  As you do, ask God to speak his word to you and see how it applies to your life.[2]

Three words stood out as guidelines for “mining …the nuggets of gold found exposed in [Bible] stream beds.”  Imagine!  Empathize!  Identify!  The method involved identifying with biblical scenes and persons by answering questions that evoked personal meanings:

What would I feel in this situation?

compassion? anger? fear? sorrow?

How am I like that person?

When have I been in a similar situation?

When have I had feelings like that?

desires? fears? a sense of failure?

When have I experienced the release of forgiveness?

This method would prove invaluable for discerning our inner opposition to wholeness with as much self-honesty as possible.

How natural it had been for us to believe, to hope, that Bob’s new-found faith had made him invulnerable to further illness.  How certain I had been that any difficulties in our marriage and family relationships had been resolved.  How blind we had been to the numerous scripture warnings concerning the testing of faith.  Nor had we come to appreciate the creative purpose of the crises of life--the endurance and strength they call forth, and the way they have of re-directing life in the way it needs to go.

Deep inner-healings had taken place in our lives, but the process by which true inner freedom is attained had only begun.  There were still unhappy memories underlying unconscious attitudes that would have to come to light in order to be transformed.  We would have to see that as Jesus taught, healing comes not from without but from within, and transformation through conscious, prayerful cooperation with the process.

As an outward indication of the need for still deeper healing, Bob suffered another pancreatitis attack, one so severe that only the miraculous power of God saved his physical life.  Nor was it through a particular person his healing came; rather through the love, concern, and prayers of many, and through his own willingness to face and to work with his inner conflicting attitudes.

Again it was Christmas time.  Under the tree that year was a present from Bob to me.  It was Agnes Sanford’s then-new book, The Healing Power of the Bible.  In the five days that followed this book and a picture of Jesus would sustain my faith and hope, as repeatedly--a hundred times a day--fear and despair threatened to overtake my mind.

On the day after Christmas, Bob was on his way to a retreat with our oldest son and three other college students.  Suddenly and violently he was taken ill.  Young Robert was driving, and, when it became apparent that his father could not hazard the trip over the Santa Cruz mountains, he headed back for the Los Gatos Hospital.  There Bob was diagnosed as undergoing a life-threatening attack of pancreatitis.  The doctor telephoned me in Lodi to come immediately.  Within minutes I was on my way, leaving seventeen-year-old Willy in charge of six-month-old Joseph, and also Conal, Louisa and Anna who were then ages eight, nine and eleven.

Intuitive guidance led me to call our friend Earl and asked him to drive me to Los Gatos.  I knew Earl to be a man of faith but had forgotten he, too, had suffered Bob’s same illness.  Intuitively I had known he would believe with me that Bob could survive this attack.  On that long, long two hour drive to Los Gatos, Earl was my faith-link.  I had read somewhere that the reason Jesus had advised his followers to agree in prayer with one another (Matthew 18:19) was so when the faith of one weakened, another’s could take over.  In that way an unbroken connection with the Source from which the answer was coming could be maintained.

Providentially, as I passed the table near the door on my way out, my eyes fell on the book Bob had given me.  Picking it up I took it with me, little realizing the sustaining power within its pages.

I recall little about those first five days at Los Gatos.  We had many prayer-oriented friends in the area.  One was Lucille Bayer, long-time CFOer, who took me into her faith-filled home where several prayer groups met regularly.  Friends in the Los Gatos area and from Lodi came to the hospital to pray everyday of Bob’s fifteen-day stay.  During those first five days only ministers and I were permitted into the Intensive Care Unit, and for only five minutes out of each hour.  Those other fifty-five minutes I spent in the hospital chapel.

In the chapel I would take a chair opposite a life-size portrait of Jesus.  There I would read a portion from The Healing Power of the Bible.  Then I would look into the face of Jesus and try to open myself to an inflow from him into me.  How thankful I was to Frank Laubach for his teaching about the inherent power in pictures of Jesus, and to Genevieve Parkhurst who had shared her own dramatic healing experience while looking at a picture of Jesus.  In this painting Jesus’ eyes seemed to be looking straight into mine.  The artist had portrayed a person of tremendous power but whose eyes revealed a gentle compassion.  As I looked into these eyes I would feel absorbed into his presence and filled with his power and his love.  Then, in this state of consciousness, I would go into I.C.U. and spend the five minutes beside Bob, touching him and praying that the presence I had absorbed be transferred to him.  If I tried to pray some other way my mind would be invaded by anxiety and doubt.

On the fifth night the doctors were so concerned about Bob’s condition that they discussed sending him to Stanford.  Yet they feared moving him even those few miles.  Their prognosis was dismal.  As I left the hospital late that night despair had very nearly possessed me.  When I arrived at Lucille’s home a group was still in progress.  I felt so fragile I had said to myself, “If anyone says a kind word to me I will break into a thousand pieces.”  As I walked in the front door Helene Joy embraced me.  That did it.  My brave facade crumbled.  All my fears and doubts came pouring out.

Someone had brought a recording to the meeting--sounds of the sea, of waves breaking on the beach.  It was suggested that I lay down on the floor and allow those present to gather around and pray for me.  With the sound of the sea in the background and the power of love flowing through the many hands laid on me, I gradually began to relax.  Then their hands began to lift me--higher and higher--rocking me and singing to me.  As they did I felt a great burden passing from me into their hands.  For five days now I had been trying desperately to hang on to faith and hope.  I knew others were praying for Bob but I had been trying to bear the burden of holding to faith alone.  As I felt this burden leave me and enter the hands that held me I knew what it meant to be part of the Body of Christ.

All that night I was aware of a different flow of power to Bob--from this larger Body of Christ.  I sensed my consciousness was connecting Bob to an entire communion of burden-sharers.  Moreover, faith was no longer a desperate struggle: I had let go, and in letting go my faith and hope had been restored.

Even so I felt anxious early the next morning as I entered the hospital and headed towards Intensive Care.  I was stopped by a nurse before I got there.  “Your husband,” she told me, “made such amazing progress during the night that he has been moved to a private room.” I could hardly believe it! Joy, oh the joy of answered prayer!

For the next ten days Bob’s recovery continued until finally he was released.  In the days, weeks, and months that followed, however, my anxiety returned--a helpless feeling that unless the underlying cause of Bob’s vulnerability came to light we would always live in the shadow of fear of another attack.  Where could we find the help I felt was so desperately needed?  As it would turn out, there were both short-term and long-term answers to the need.

The immediate weeks following Bob’s near-fatal illness were particularly trying for me because being so close to death had weakened Bob’s will-to-live.  He seemed totally preoccupied with the subject of his own death.  My ears would pick up his unconscious remarks about dying.  I became haunted by the fear of being abandoned--again.  One day Bob innocently mentioned a song he would like sung at his funeral.  I exploded--angrily and tearfully.  Why was he so anxious to abandon me?  How could I ever survive with these six children--Joseph still an infant--without his help?  Couldn’t he see that he was talking himself into wanting to die?

Although my outburst was both shameful and self-revealing, God used it to bring Bob’s unconscious conflict to light where it could be faced.  My eruption had shocked him into awareness of an unconscious death-pull at work in him.  He knew that this was something he would have to face, and that he would need help in doing so.

Help came through a lay minister friend, one of the group of hands that had literally lifted me up on Bob’s fifth and last night in Intensive Care.  Lew had come everyday to the Los Gatos Hospital to pray for Bob.  Now he was scheduled to lead a six-week series in Sacramento.  He would be coming through Lodi, and offered to stop by and continue to pray with Bob.  In one of these sessions Bob shared with Lew his fantasies concerning his death, but also how he really and sincerely desired to live.  Lew had Bob personalize these conflicting forces by giving them voices that expressed the feelings.  He encouraged Bob to experience them as two opposing inner-selves.  First he had Bob say what he fantasized about his death-self, what this self in him wanted to say, how it felt, how he felt about the struggle of living versus the ease of giving up and dying.  Lew even placed an empty chair facing him and told him to see his life-self in that chair and have his death-self speak to it.  Then he had him switch chairs and have his life-self speak to his death-self.  Bob remembers being surprised that, as the dialogue between these two opposing parts of himself continued, they came closer and closer to agreeing with one another and desiring the same thing.  Finally there was a sense of reconciliation and agreement to pursue life together.  Lew also advised Bob to reinforce his life-self in his daily prayer time by affirming God’s Life and Spirit in him.

With a sense of Jesus’ ever-present help, through the prayers of many, and through Lew’s prayer-therapy sessions, Bob was now ready to re-enter the stream of life.  But for both of us there was still the long-term need for continued insight into what else might be blocking the inner freedom Jesus had promised those who would follow him.

While Bob had been in the hospital I had read The Healing Power of the Bible, and as part of his recovery he now read this book.  In it Mrs Sanford pointed out that the Bible has a numinous quality, an emanation of the kind of spiritual energy that we call faith.  Around this same time Mrs. Sanford’s son John, an Episcopal priest and a Jungian analyst, wrote The Kingdom Within in which he directed attention to biblical personalities as representing parts of ourselves--our inner selves--with whom reconciliation was needed.  We also began reading Morton Kelsey, another Episcopal priest and Jungian.  In his Encounter with God, Dr. Kelsey expressed the idea that the only thing more dangerous than dealing with the unconscious was not to deal with it.[3]  A shocking statement we knew to be true!  What if Bob hadn’t faced his death wish?  And what if my fear of him dying hadn’t erupted and forced the issue into the light of consciousness?

Our discovery of these Christian Jungians was the answer to our long-term need for spiritual guidance in pursuing the depth psychology contained within the Bible.  I believe it was Sanford who noted that Jacob, more than anyone else in the Bible, demonstrated a capacity for change.  The pivotal crisis of his life had come the night before he was to face what he most feared--his brother’s wrath.  All that night he wrestled with God, and, we are told, he prevailed.  Thus the willingness to “have it out” with what one fears was an indication of the capacity to change--to undergo transformation.

Like Jacob we, too, had come face-to-face with fear, had passed through a “dark night” of the soul, and come to the dawning of a new day of hope.  Through crisis our endurance had been tested and our faith strengthened.  Moreover, we had experienced the creative purpose of life’s crises.

Sanford’s study of Jacob[4] pointed the way to how self-knowledge is gained.  In the story Jacob swindled his brother out of his “birthright.”  He next deceived his father into giving him the “blessing” that rightly belonged to Esau.  The result of this was Esau’s threat to kill Jacob, who then fled in fear from the only home he had ever known.

Being an explosive type I wondered how Esau contained his anger so long.  As a mother of four sons I have wondered what made these twin brothers such enemies.  Did it have something to do with the one being accepted and the other rejected by their mother?  And working the other way around, what of Isaac’s natural rapport with Esau but not with Jacob?  I wondered if Rebekah had confided in her favorite son how he and Esau had struggled in her womb, and how she had sought counsel and been advised that she would have twins and that the older (who turned out to be Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob).  (Genesis 25:23).[5]  How did these family undercurrents effect the dynamics of the relationships involved?

According to tribal tradition, at Isaac’s death Esau should inherit a double share of the family wealth as well as become the ruler.  Rebekah, though, had other plans.  Then came the day when Esau, who thought only of hunting and eating, was connived he was about to die of hunger.  Jacob was cooking a pot of soup and it was over this that he bargained with Esau for his “birthright.”  Esau, tortured by the savory aroma, agreed. (Genesis 24:33).

Sometime later, when the twins were past forty and their father had grown old and blind, Rebekah heard Isaac tell Esau if he would hunt him some game and prepare it in his favorite way, he would give him the blessing that would confirm his birthright. (Genesis 26:34 - 27:4)

Rebekah, however, was determined Jacob should rule the family, and so instructed Jacob to bring her two young goats which she cooked for Isaac.  And from the skins she made hairy coverings for Jacob’s arms and neck so he also would feel and smell like Esau (Genesis 27:6-16).

Inwardly trembling Jacob had said to his father: “I’ve done as you asked.”  When Isaac questioned the voice, Jacob’s heart sank.  Finally, though, Isaac touched and smelled Jacob’s goat-skin coverings, and Rebekah’s deception worked.  Isaac gave Jacob the blessing (Genesis 27:18-29).

Rebekah had carefully considered everything--everything except Esau’s reaction! Now Esau wanted what was rightly his!  Forty years of repressed hostility towards Jacob swelled into a seething rage, and Esau plotted his revenge.  When word of this reached Rebekah she decided to send Jacob to her brother Laban who lived “in a far country.” (Genesis 27:38-45).

Was Jacob puzzled that his father was deceived so easily?  Had Rebekah told Isaac about the prophecy she had received when carrying the twins?  Had Isaac decided to trust his wife’s intuition rather than the tribal rules?  Had Rebekah’s manipulation really worked?  Or, in the end, had Isaac chosen to accept what he had felt helpless to change? Making whatever personal identifications one can with this story affords the kind of self-honesty necessary in order to observe the unconscious workings of instinctual human nature.  For example, the scripture says that Esau “comforted himself” by planning to kill Jacob.[6]  Here we are alerted as to how resentment can express itself in the imagination as the desire for revenge.  Catching oneself doing so in even little ways can enlarge the capacity for psychological self-honesty.  This was the very capacity Sanford pointed to Jacob as having that made him--but not Esau--a candidate for transformation.[7]

From the story it can be assumed that Jacob was his mother’s favorite, while Esau was his father’s favorite.  It is this kind of unconscious favoritism that causes enmity between siblings.  The eruption of Esau’s festering rage sent Jacob fleeing into an unknown land, embarking on journey for which he was ill-prepared.

Could he survive?  Would his uncle receive him?  Alone and insecure, was he also experiencing guilt?  Or did he justifying what he had done? perhaps telling himself that Esau really hadn’t been suited to rule the family.  Headed into the unknown, did he kept looking back to see if he was being followed?

That first night Jacob arrived at a place named Luz (Genesis 38:19), a word meaning separate, parting, which was an apt description of how he felt, what with the known terror behind him and the unknown terror ahead.  Being in this hard position Jacob chose a stone for a pillow (Genesis 28:11).

That night Jacob had a life-changing dream in which a ladder reached from the ground to heaven and over which angels ascended and descended.  God spoke to him in this dream, promising Jacob and his descendents the land on which he rested, and that through him and his descendents all the families of earth would be blessed.  God also promised to go with Jacob and bring him back home.  (Genesis 28:12-15)

For this reason Jacob named the place Bethel--gateway to heaven--and made an altar of the stone which had been his pillow during the dream.  It was before this altar that he made the covenant: “If you really will be with me and keep me safe and give me bread to eat and clothes to wear and bring me back again to my father’s house, then you shall be my God and I will give you a tenth of all I have (Genesis 28:19-20).

Scripture says that on this, the second day of Jacob’s journey, he headed towards the East, suggesting the beginning of a whole new life for Jacob.  Before he had heard about God; now he knew God.

Of the biblical personalities portrayed in the story, the one with whom I most easily identified was Rebekah, and after her with Esau.  There had been a time when I had judged Rebekah the Bible’s worst example of a mother.  What bothered me about her was her favoritism towards Jacob.  That had been before I realized how I was projecting my negative feelings towards my father onto one of my sons, but not the other.  As for Esau, I sympathized with him for two reasons: first because he reminded me of that part of myself that was interested in physical survival, in the material things in life.  And then I identified also with Esau for the rejection and betrayal he had suffered--from his mother, his twin brother, and his father.  Esau put me in touch with my own fear of rejection.

Bob, however, made a more positive identification with Jacob.  The story put him in touch with his own encounter with God in the person of Jesus on the Asilomar Beach.  Bob had sat with his back up against a rock.  Similarly Jacob had slept with a rock for a pillow.  Both Bob and Jacob knew the feeling of being between that proverbial “rock and a hard place.”  Bob could also relate to Jacob’s bargaining with God: If God took care of all Jacob’s needs then he would be Jacob’s God.  Bob himself had said: “If you’ll help me cope with life without alcohol then I’ll give religion a try.”  Bob could see that similar to Jacob God had met him where he had been, too, and had blessed him in spite of what Sanford has called Jacob’s “crass bargain.”

When I looked more deeply below my surface identifications with the story, I had to acknowledge that Bob’s illness had triggered all my old insecurities--not only dependency feelings towards Bob as a provider of the physical necessities of life, but also my emotional dependency on him.  Jacob was out there in the wilderness all alone and lonely.  How could he survive?  Bob was my physical and emotional security.  Very definitely the story had put me in touch with what I feared most--being abandoned.  Jacob, in his dire circumstances, had received a promise from God:

Behold, I am with you and will keep you … (Genesis 28:15

Similarly Jesus had promised:

“. . . lo, I am with you always, to the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:2

If my spiritual journey was to continue--and if this included freedom from fear--then I would have to claim both of these promises as my own.


[1] Walden Howard, 52 Weeks with the Bible (New York: Faith at Work, Inc, 1965).

[2] Howard, 52 Weeks, p. 7.

[3]  Morton Kelsey, Encounter with God, Bethany Fellowship, Minneapolis, 1972 p. 157.

[4] John A. Sanford, The Man Who Wrestled with God (King of Prussia, Pa: Religious Publishing Co, 1974)

[5] See footnote in The Jerusalem Bible for Genesis 25:24 in reference to Rebekah’s prophecy.

[6] Genesis 27:42

[7] Sanford, Man Who Wrestled, p. 24





When John Sanford’s The Kingdom Within came out Bob and I read it and immediately ordered several extra copies to lend to friends.  As the result of our friends’ similar enthusiasm, we used it as a guide for a group that met in our home every Friday night.

Sanford had studied at the Jungian Institute in Switzerland.   So had his friend and mentor Fritz Kunkel, a medical doctor who had been disinterested in Christianity until he looked at the Gospels in the light of modern psychology.  To his amazement Dr. Kunkel discovered in Jesus the greatest psychologist of all time.  As a result Dr. Kunkel became a Christian and wrote Creation Continues, a study of the Gospel of Matthew from the viewpoint of a psychiatrist and committed follower of Jesus.

Kunkel and Sanford, after having studied in Switzerland, wanted to help others experience spiritual transformation through a deeper understanding and more personal identification with the scriptures.  Both have succeeded in interpreting depth psychology in a way that has made it relevant to Christians committed to the process of becoming fully-functioning, whole individuals, a process Jung called individuation.

Back when theologians were talking about de-mythologizing the Bible and stripping it of the miraculous, Jung and his students were calling attention to symbolic reality and insisting, for instance, that there was actual power in the symbol of the Cross and in the experience of Communion.  This helped us bridge the gap we had discovered to exist between Christians who were either emotionally or intellectually oriented, but rarely both.  The symbolic approach explained how visualizing the “blood of Christ” or calling upon the “name of Jesus” could release a creative, transforming power by which healing or life-changing insight was made possible.

Morton Kelsey made the suggestion that it was important to learn to work with the images the Bible contains, and that this be done by prayerfully entering into the life-transforming reality of biblical symbols.[1]  In applying this suggestion to Jacob’s dream, I saw myself in Jacob’s place, with a ladder extending between heaven and earth.  Superimposed over the entire scene was Jesus.  I could sense that just by being mindful of his presence I was linked to God who was both transcendent and present.  In Jacob’s dream, the symbolic imagery of the ladder spoke to Jacob of the two-way, ongoing relationship God was establishing with him.  And, as Sanford has noted, for Christians Jesus is this link--the way we come into a conscious, ongoing awareness of God’s presence in our lives.[2]

To become open to symbolic reality is to begin an exploration of the deep mind about which Paul writes:

I appeal to you … be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God….  (Romans 12:2)

Jung conceived of the inner depths of the human psyche as composed of underground strata.  In his work he drew a map of both the known and unknown territories this encompassed.  Jung’s “map” showed the human soul as having four strata and each stratum as having a representative he called an archetype.  First there was the conscious, the “I” or ego level.  It was represented by the persona--the social mask behind which we hide.  Next there was the personal unconscious, our personal history level, with its inner unacceptable shadow figure.  Then there was the collective or racial unconscious with its anima or animus figures representing the feminine characteristics of a man and the masculine aspects of a woman.  Finally Jung described the universal level of being--the realm of angels and demons, of our primitive instincts and our divine potentials--represented on the one hand by an inner, divine Child, and on the other by a dragon or other such figure who would prevent the birth of the Child.  That Child, according to Jung, is our child-of-God real Self, the birth of which is the purpose of the journey of transformation.

Some persons are fearful of exploring their inner depths, and in some cases rightly so.  However, when not approached in a haphazard way but prayerfully aware of the mind of Christ as a guiding presence, it is the key to the renewal or transformation of the mind to which Paul refers.

The symbols in Jacob’s dream, according to the Jungian way of understanding symbols, have something to say to each of us.   This is accomplished by allowing them to put us in touch with our own needs and experiences, ones similar to Jacob’s.  The relational way of studying the Bible and the practice of being personally open to the transforming power of the symbols of the Bible go hand in hand, and can be facilitated by asking thought-provoking questions.  Writing down what comes to mind makes the process even more fruitful.  The exercise begins with getting quiet and focusing on the presence of Jesus, setting aside your everyday mind, allowing Jacob’s dream to say something to you personally.

On the first night of Jacob’s journey he was feeling helpless, alienated, in the “wilderness.”

When have I felt helpless?  at the end of myself?  alienated from others?

While sleeping Jacob had a dream.  Angels were ascending and descending, linking him to God who assured Jacob of his help.

What significant dream or other experiences have I had that gave me a sense of being linked to God?  of feeling assured of his help?

Even after awakening Jacob felt God’s Presence, felt God was in that place.

When have I known God’s presence?  sensed him  in a particular place lace?

The ladder, the angels, the stone--all were pointing to Jacob’s new, connected, concrete relationship with God.  The stone he had used for a pillow he made into an altar before which he entered into a covenant with God.

What special place do I have for coming into God’s presence?

What covenants or commitments have I made with God?

Through an appreciation of symbolic reality one becomes more receptive to the personal insights of both the Old and New Testaments.  The Psalms, in describing the travail of the psalmist’s soul, speak in terms of the forces of nature, often describing our own soul travails.

The torrents of perdition assailed me; … the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, … the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare, … he  reached from on high, he took me, he drew me out from many waters.  He delivered me from my strong enemy, ….  He brought me forth into a broad place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me. (from Psalm 18).

The Gospels, too, contain illustrations of how the elements of nature can coincide with inner states.  Kunkel points to the time Jesus forces his disciples to face the storm while himself appears to sleep through it. (Matthew 8:23-27)  In so doing Jesus’ disciples have to face their lack of faith.  Yet when they call upon him for help, he  demonstrates his willingness to intercede on their behalf, even to the stilling of wind and waves.  Could he have been inviting them, and us, to turn to him when feeling overwhelmed by the storms of life?  Kunkel suggests we ask ourselves:

Who stills the wind and waves--the storms--of our lives?

Whose power do we call upon and rely upon?  ours or His?[3]

When we voluntarily or involuntarily find ourselves asked to give up former securities we may feel helpless and powerless.  A close friend of ours, a minister who in midlife found himself without a parish, was forced to take off his clerical collar and face the world without the respect and protection normally extended ministers.  He said that it became a crisis of faith.  At the height of our friend’s struggle Bob shared from his own difficult crises.  Our friend said that this helped him “hang in there” until several months later he could begin to see the creative purpose in the foundations of his life having been shaken, and how it had called forth a hidden potential of which he was previously unaware.  At the time, though, it had felt distressing.  “Scary” was the word he used.  Looking back, it now felt to have been creative and challenging, and he could give thanks to God for seeing him through.

Often in the Gospels Jesus is found challenging a persons’ existing security systems and disturbing the equilibrium of their lives.  There was the time when the disciple asked, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” (Matthew 8:21)  Here Jesus’ reply of “Let the dead bury the dead” went against this man’s concept of himself as a “good and faithful son.” Another time, in telling the rich young man to sell all and give away the proceeds, Jesus was challenging him to let go of his rugged individualism and the social position his money afforded him.  These had become the young man’s gods, and he was bound to them because, much as he desired, he could not go against them. (Matthew 19:20-22)  Kunkel refers to the experience of having to let go of one’s former security system as the passage through “the night sea,” or, in the language of John of the Cross, “the dark night of the soul.”[4]

In the course of having our securities challenged, especially our self-determination and self-sufficiency, the elements of nature provide apt description of the states of our souls.  And we may notice how our feelings about the elements change, depending on the current inner events of our lives.  Nature metaphors, then, are still another way of opening doors to the personal relevance of many scriptural passages:

Water--How do I feel about waves?  a dam bursting?  about lakes, streams, calm and stormy seas?

Earth--What emotions do earthquakes evoke?  landslides?  How do I feel about deserts?  droughts?  caves?  forests?  mountains?  valleys?  plains?

Fire--What images come to mind when I think of fire?  of burning buildings?  volcanoes?  explosions?  a fire?  a hearth?

Wind--How does the wind effect me?  thoughts of tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones?  whirlwinds?  times of stillness?  of gentle breezes?  With what scriptures do the above questions put me in touch?  with what Bible promises?

Genia had learned to look for the symbolic reality of the forces of nature.  Even so, she was disturbed by the cyclones about which she repeatedly had been dreaming.  She would awaken from these dreams fearing their destructive implications.  Then one night she dreamed of a figure who was entering her house in the midst of a whirlwind.  In her dream she said, “Welcome, welcome.  Come in.  Blow through my house.” About this time in her waking life her fear of change, conflict, and crisis began to lessen.  Then, as if by revelation, Genia understood that the cyclones and whirlwinds of her dreams were a manifestation of God’s power in her life.  Now she could express genuine gratitude for the changes he had brought.  Genia, at this point, turned to the twenty-first chapter of Luke and there found a description of the feelings that had accompanied her crisis of change:

Upon the earth distress …roaring of the sea and the waves … fainting with fear … the powers of the heavens shaken … Now when these things begin to take place, look and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (from Luke 21).

Something similar must have been going on in my life around the time Bob was so ill.  In a dream I was in my mother’s house.  Outside a terrible storm was blowing.  I was worried that the adobe-brick walls of her home would fall in on me.  Then the whole house began turning and all the furnishings and pictures and everything in the house broke up into small pieces and formed a kaleidoscopic panorama that filled my whole mind.  In the dream I remember saying to myself, “I am being disorientated.” And so I was.  But for the purpose of being put back together on a higher level.  It was God’s way of bringing me into a broadening place of greater inner freedom.

At a C.F.O. Family Camp one summer Evelyn Carter was the speaker.  She said she had been thinking about Humpty Dumpty and how, when he fell apart, neither the king’s horses nor the king’s men could put him back together again.  “But,” said Evelyn, “the King could have.”

When our old ways of functioning and seeing ourselves are being shaken, when our egos (like Humpty Dumpty the egg) lie shattered; when neither manpower nor horsepower can put us back together again, all that is left is to call upon the King.  And, when we are back together again, we will discover it is on a new and higher level of trust and faith.

The ladder of spiritual ascent is not one of achievements, gifts and superiority; rather it is one of dependency and humility.  Nor is it climbed through successes but through the human failures that teach and prove to us who it is that stills the wind and waves, whose energy it is that has to be mobilized--God’s or ours.  For:

[It is] not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts (Zechariah 4:6). 

[1] Morton T. Kelsey, The Other Side of Silence (New York: Paulist Press, 1976), p. 210.

[2] John A. Sanford, The Kingdom Within (Philadelphia and New York: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1970), P. 17.

[3] Fritz Kunkel M.D, Creation Continues (Waco, Texas: Word Books, Publisher, 1973), paraphrased from p. 121.

[4] Ibid





He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you.                                                              Isaiah 30:19




September 14th, 1972 was our  Silver Wedding Anniversary.  Since our friends Sam and Dorothy had moved to Hawaii several years before, we had fantasized spending this date with them on the Islands.  But, when the day came, we found ourselves less than a hundred miles from home--at the County Fair Grounds in Merced, California as part of a Faith at Work “celebration.”  Perhaps we were drawn to this event because there was an anniversary gift there for us.  After the evening program we lingered, talking to old friends we hadn’t seen for a long time.  By the time we turned to leave, the auditorium was nearly empty.  Here and there on empty chairs were copies of an issue of Faith at Work Magazine.  On the bright blue cover were the words: EVERY MEETING OF PERSONS IS AN EXCHANGE OF GIFTS.[1]  We gathered up a number of copies that had been left behind.  We would take them home for members of our prayer group.  In recent months this group had begun sharing on deeper and more personal levels, and as a result an interest in Christian community had been growing.

Shortly after our anniversary, and by chance, we met the dean of an Episcopal seminary in Southern California who had experienced a vision in which he had been guided to establish a new kind of spiritual community--an “Order of Agape and Reconciliation”--in which clergy and laypersons, men and women, married and single would to be brought together for the purpose of deepening their Christian commitment.  Our Friday night prayer group pretty much fit this description.  Genia and Dwight were among those exploring the idea of Christian community.  Genia was also an Episcopal church secretary.  One day Enrico Molnar, the visionary seminary dean, stopped by the office where she was working.  The minister there, wanting to provide hospitality but having other plans, asked Genia if she could put Fr. Molnar up for the night.  This was how our paths crossed.  And although the Order of Agape and Reconciliation eventually located in New Mexico, Fr. Molnar played an important role in helping to guide the vision of community taking shape in our minds.  Moreover, it was through him that we were led to the sixty-acre Mother Lode ranch that would become the geographic setting of a community whose focus would be on inner healing.  Thus it happened that within a year of our silver anniversary we found ourselves in community in the gold country.

Enrico Molnar was an extraordinary example of how a person’s life can be dramatically re-directed in obedience to a call from God.  As a movie in fast-forward, we observed him letting go of material security, including his retirement pension and all of his possessions; and letting go, also, of his ecclesiastical identity and his standing as a scholar.  We observed him learning to walk in childlike humility, trusting God to lead him into something new.  Therefore, when he shared a prayer that had been important to him we took note.  He warned it was called “the dangerous prayer.”  In its metaphoric use of the fire by which gold is refined, it proved timely.

0 Lord, lock me up,

Enfold me in the deepest depths of thine heart,
and then, holding me there,

Refine me,

Purify me,

Kindle me,

Set me ablaze,
And lift me aloft

Until I become utterly

What thou wouldst have me be

Through the cleansing death of self.[2]

We were saying this prayer simultaneous to discovering and taking an option on property near the town of San Andreas--in the heart of the gold country.  Our friend Bob Stevenson was rector of the Episcopal church there.  We were attracted to the area itself, but also because of Fr. Bob.  The town was an old mining community named for Jesus’ disciple Andrew.  Often assumed to be on the famous earthquake fault, it was instead part of the Sierra foothills, a place rich in beauty and history.  The area had been home to the peace-loving Miwok Indians until, as a result of the lust for gold, the Indians had been killed or driven from their tribal lands.  After the Forty-Niners came and went, its  hills and streams were mined by the industrious Chinese who methodically and meticulously removed any gold previously missed.  But once the gold was gone and the miners were gone, the countryside had returned to an unhurried pace, more reminiscent of Indian days.  Now people mostly came seeking relaxation from the tensions and competitive lifestyle of the valley and cities below.  Some came permanently to live simplified lives, others to relax weekends, and still more to spend the day touring the historic landmarks of early California.

In looking back on the circumstances that brought us here, I marvel at the subtle, persistent way God was directing our lives.  When we first looked at the property, Dwight noticed that just three miles down the road was a branch of the state department for which he worked.  He decided to ask for a job transfer, and then, if the transfer came through within the six-month option period the owner would allow, he would accept this as guidance to buy the property if they could figure out the financing of doing so.  As it turned out we decided to make it a joint venture.  One reason this seemed feasible was that the property included two “vintage Mother Lode” houses.  There was also an old miner’s cabin suitable for retreats and for individuals seeking a time of quiet apart, as well as where a group could gather for “sharing days.”  Both houses could be used for overnight retreat accommodations, and the large ranch kitchen and porch in the one house would be ideal for group dining facilities.

There seemed to be so many signs of God’s presence on the property: the statue of Francis of Assisi outside the miner’s cabin; the mountain creek cutting through the narrow verdant valley; the springs of “living water” high on the south side providing gravity-flow water to the two houses on the north side.

Then there was the sign received one Sunday during the option period when Genia, Dwight, Bob and I, the owner of the property, and Fr. Bob were walking through the woods by the creek.  The men had crossed over onto the other side on an old log.  Genia and I had followed the path along the road side of the creek.  As we walked, every so often we spotted places of unique quiet beauty that seemed to call out to rest and pray awhile on their moss-covered logs or their flat rocks.  They seemed to be inviting us to tune in to God’s presence by listening to the creek and bird sounds, to reflect upon the natural beauty of sunlight filtering through trees, to merge with the water and stone that created the moving and still places in the creek.  Simultaneously, both of us had the same thought.  It was as if these particular places were part of a divinely-designed, nature-created “Stations of the Cross.”

A little later, sitting around the kitchen woodstove, Genia and I started to speak of the beautiful walk we had taken along the creek.  At this point, the owner (a Roman Catholic) said, “I’ve always thought that the Stations of the Cross belonged along that particular path.”

It is awesome and humbling to human self-determination to see God’s hand at work in the “coincidences” by which lives are changed.

Dwight’s job transfer came through after only three of the six-month option period.  The owner from whom we were buying also sold real estate.  He asked to list Genia and Dwight’s home, and sold it to the first couple to whom he showed it.  Within two months they were settled in one of the houses, Dwight was traveling the three miles down the dirt road to work, and we began collecting furnishings for the second house where we would spend weekends.

Life in the gold country would attune us to the many biblical passages by which the processes of spiritual transformation and the refinement of gold are compared.  In Revelations we are counseled, “buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich.” (Revelations 3:18)  In Daniel the example is given of the three young men who passed through the fiery furnace, yet emerged without even the smell of smoke. (Daniel 3).  And there is the passage where Paul speaks of the fire that burns away the “stubble” in order to reveal the gold. (I Corinthians 3)

Yes, it had been a “dangerous prayer” that Fr. Molnar had passed along to us, a prayer that invited the refiner’s fire and bid the “ordeal by fire” described in Ecclesiasticus:

If you aspire to serve the Lord,

prepare yourself for an ordeal,

Cling to him and do not leave him,

and in the uncertainties of your humble state,

 be patient,

Since gold is tested in the fire,

and chosen men in the furnace of humiliation.

Trust him and he will uphold you,

follow a straight path and hope in him.[3]

As “gold is tested in the fire,” so in the narrow, sylvan valley through which the cool creek ran, we would experience the fire of God’s love consuming the dross of our lives.  And although the “old timers,” who on occasion we would meet, agreed there was little gold left in their hills, we knew ourselves here for another purpose--for the enkindling of that genuine, enduring, eternal real Self.  This was the purpose and the goal for which we had been led here.  In this environment of natural beauty we would have a closer walk with God.  In these tranquil surroundings we would discover the inner peace for which our souls longed.  This place would not be ours, but God’s--a God-place of healing to be shared with others.


[1] Faith at Work Magazine, June, 1972.

[2] This is an adaptation of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s prayer in Hymn of the Universe (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, Perennial Library Edition, 1972) pp. 26 and 27.

[3]  Ecclesiasticus 2:1-6, The Jerusalem Bible.




There are two ways to get rid of the dirt, clutter and infestations in a house.  One is to eliminate it all together by setting fire to the house.  The other is to tackle the job, one thing at a time, room by room, clearing and sweeping and scrubbing with soap, water and disinfectant.  Our life as a family had come to a place where we seemed called to make such a choice.

As we moved towards our future in the Mother Lode, life went on in our San Joaquin Valley home.  The two older boys were in college, the three middle children were teenagers, and Joseph had begun school.  I had been bearing and caring for children for over a quarter of a century, and I was ready to move on to the next phase of my life.  I wanted to devote more time, really full-time, to writing.  Inwardly I knew it was time to do so, but outwardly the workload of cleaning and cooking remained.

When the older two boys were still at home and the three middle ones younger I had insisted on all of their help.  Now I no longer seemed able to demand they assist.  I wanted a friendlier relationship with them.  Still I wished they would give me a hand voluntarily.  The truth was I had come to resent the fact that they didn’t.  With our weekends spent at the Murray Creek ranch our five-bedroom family home was in a sorry state.  Bob, with his responsibility for the large yard, was also frustrated for lack of assistance.  Being a weekend rancher was taking time he formerly had devoted to the yard.  Yet he too was rejecting the role of oppressive parent.  And what with the financial responsibility of the ranch, hiring help was out of the question.

What could we do?  What could I do with my growing resentment?  I seemed to be finding no creative release for it.  The day came when my temper reached the boiling point.  It coincided with our return from a week away.  The house was a disaster, and our oldest son Robert was due home for a visit--any minute.  I hadn’t had time to shop or cook.  I knew he would be looking forward to home cooking.  I was trying to do everything at once.  And with no help!  At that moment Joseph began making a loud fuss which had something to do with his older brother Conal.  That did it! My pent-up emotions spewed out as I directed all my resentment at Conal .  Realizing how unfair I had been, I went back to my bedroom and, crying, threw myself on the bed.  I was such a terrible mother.  I wanted to resign from the job!  At that moment there was a tap at the bedroom door.  It was son Robert.  The worst had happened: my oldest son had come home to an overwrought, red-eyed mother and a house that would have shocked his German great-grandmother.  Nor would she ever have been caught without her children’s favorite foods in preparation.  Whereas my mother had been a career mom, her mother, my Grandmother Annie, had raised five children, kept an immaculate house, and was an acclaimed cook.  She was my most sacred image of a “good mother,” and I strove to be like her.  Failing to realize that we lived in totally different worlds, times, backgrounds, and life circumstances, she nevertheless was the unrealistic image to which I compared myself as a mother.  Grandma Annie also, as far as I knew, had total control over her emotions.  And how mine distressed me!

For the past year part of Robert’s graduate work in psychology had been leading family counseling groups.  Unexpectedly he had come home to a family--his own--in need of help.  As I poured out what I was feeling--resentment, self-pity, anger, and a rare bit of disguised revenge--I heard myself saying that the only solution was to sell the house and get two apartments, one for Louisa, Anna and Conal and another for his father, Joseph and myself.  Those older, unhelpful children could just cook and clean for themselves!

“It seems to me,” said son Robert, and with biting wisdom similar to his father’s, “that would be like burning down the house to get rid of the earwigs.”

What could I do but laugh, dry my eyes, and begin doing something about dinner.

After dinner Robert said, “Father, I think this family has lost touch with one another.  How long has it been since you honestly told one another how you’re feeling about some of the problems you’re obviously having?” The exchange that followed made us all acutely aware of the inner struggles each of us was having.  And we were struck with how false the impressions were that we had been giving each other about what we were feeling.  An impression had been coming from Louisa that she didn’t want or need her family anymore, that she could hardly wait to be on her own.  But now she was saying, “I don’t know what I want to do with my life.  I still need the understanding and support of my family.”

Conal was saying, “Mom, I don’t feel you ever really listen to my side of it.  You are always blaming me for upsetting Joseph.  The truth of it is Joseph demands more of my time and attention than I sometimes feel like giving him.  I do a lot of nice things for him that you never seem to notice.” And so it went the rounds.  Robert observed that we were all complaining and bemoaning one lack--appreciation.

From that day matters began to improve as we attempted to tackle our problems one by one, a lot more in touch with the inner needs of one another and the greater importance of this over the orderliness of the outer house.  But also forthcoming from the children was a greater willingness to pitch in and help.

In the development of the human personality a lot of wood, hay and stubble is mixed with the gold, silver and jewels, as the inner houses of our personalities are being built into temples of the spirit. (I Corinthians 3:12-16)  Again Jesus, in his parable about the weeds and the wheat, maintains the two must grow together until harvest time.  When the disciples ask about pulling out the weeds, they are told:

No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn (Matthew 13: 29, 30).

If this parable is understood to be about how the human personality develops, the advice is to let the natural and the spiritual--the weeds and the wheat, the ego and the spiritual being--grow together.  In time the weeds--the temporal--will be removed and the wheat--the eternal--will be preserved.

Assagioli and Jung both uses the word self in two ways: as the small “s” self and as the capital “S” Self, the self in reference to the temporal, and the Self to the eternal.[1]  Similarly, in the Bible the word Spirit is used in reference to the divine, and spirit to indicate influences or states of the human spirit.  Watchman Nee, in his The Spiritual Man, points out that persons are said to have the spirit of fear or a spirit of grace, and in other instances are said to have a good spirit, a humble spirit, a wounded spirit, or even a perverse spirit.[2]  Here Nee uses the word spirit as Jung and Assagioli use the word self.  His “spiritual man,” however, refers to a higher center of awareness that is free of all “possessing” spirits, free from the multiple and contradicting identities of the ego personality or self--a center of awareness or Self attuned to God’s Spirit.  To a large extent the realization of this God-attuned Self is dependent on dispossessing all other usurping inner voices that tend to preoccupy our minds and clamor for our attention.

Assagioli’s spiritual/psychological method for dealing with these multiple inner voices is a process that involves consciously “disidentifying” with them, one by one.  Of course to do so one must first identify them by observing them.  This is not easy because it means becoming conscious of thoughts that infiltrate our minds unconsciously, as habits of mind or unexamined attitudes we are used to taking for granted.

Assagioli suggests we eavesdrop on our inner conversations.  When we do we may hear ourselves saying “I am angry,” or “sick” or “a failure,” or any number of other states of mind to which we are attaching the whole of our identity.  The next move is to acknowledge but put a limitation on the thought, saying for instance,  “Yes, this may be what I am thinking (or feeling or desiring) but it is not who I am.”  The process can be carried further by asking, “If not, then who am I?”  This question invites a self-examination as to our ultimate spiritual identity.  We may answer, “I am a child of God,” or “an eternal soul,” or “one with Jesus,” or a similar identity that transcends all temporal, changing states of being.[3]

Elizabeth O’Connor, in her Our Many Selves, also points out the importance of discerning the many clamoring inner voices that complete for our identity.  She observes:

If I say, “I am jealous,” it describes the whole of me, and I am overwhelmed with its implications.  If (though) I respect the plurality in myself, and no longer see my jealous self as the whole of me, then I have gained the distance I need to observe it, listen to it, and let it acquaint me with a piece of my own lost history.[4]

Another reason it is important to disidentify from the many partial voices that would lay claim to the whole of one’s identity is to prevent our negative reactions to life from turning into more permanent fixed states of mind such as bitterness or the desire for revenge.  Revenge is often acted out in the imagination because of the sense of relief it gives the emotions, as in the scripture example of when Esau “comforted” himself that he would kill his brother. (Genesis 27:42)  Unfortunately, the result of even imaginative revenge can be real feelings of guilt, guilt that is then repressed or forgotten, but which, because it is “buried alive,” leaves the person dimly aware of a sense of unworthiness or with feelings of self-condemnation.

For true inner peace, negative emotions must be dealt with creatively rather than repressed or denied.  John Powell suggests a number of alternatives to repression.  He emphasizes the need to recognize and accept emotions as “part of the human condition, the inheritance of every man.”[5] He would have us realize we have a choice as to whether or not to act on what we feel.  He encourages acknowledgement of the feeling, at least to oneself, while at the same time separating the feeling from what we intend to do about it.

If I can name and honestly admit what I am feeling, I may be able to avoid acting it out as I did in my eruption over the “unhelpful children.”  Creative as that turned out to be, it was not something I would want to repeat, but rather learn from.  The human capacity for making choices allows us to choose to act or not.  We have a choice of accusingly “speaking our mind” or of reporting what we are feeling while, at the same time, assuming responsibility for our feelings.  We also have the choice of deciding neither are appropriate and instead taking our feeling to prayer in an emotionally honest way.

In the case of my resentment towards my children, too much pressure had built and converged to a moment that ruled out a more conscious, creative choice.  What sent me to prayer was my guilt for behaving so unfairly towards my son.  I realized how disproportionate my reaction had been to the situation, and how damaging to the all-benevolent maternal persona I tried so hard to project.  In my own eyes I was humbled.  When I said, “I’m such a terrible mother and I want to resign from the job,” God heard it as a plea for help.  Was it a coincidence that my boiling point and my psychologist son’s arrival converged so perfectly?  I accepted it as the hand of God in the situation.  Nor was it the release of emotion that was healing; rather it was the resulting humility by which the walls of separation that had been building for a year were broken down.  Sometimes it takes an eruption from unconscious pressure in order for an inner cry for help to be heard.  My outburst certainly got my attention, and my son’s, and in a timely way when the entire family could begin to heal by dealing with our neglect of one another’s feelings, could begin again to hear, to care for, and to cherish one another.

While I have found it most difficult to disidentify from my emotional nature, others may find it more difficult to disidentify from their intellectual dispositions, or from their physical or instinctual natures, even from their identity with organizations, their roles in life, or even their gifts.  In identifying with our qualities, functions or gifts we create false impressions, false images of ourselves.  We see ourselves in certain ways and act accordingly, even when circumstances would call for an altogether different response.  In doing so we are caught in the middle of opposites; for if “I am” this, then “I am not” that.  And we are left, also, without the freedom to break our own self-limiting dictates.  How could I let my son come home to such a disorganized mess! How destructive to my “good-mother” image--to an inner dictate of how I would like to appear to others and how I would like to think of myself as seen through the eyes of others.

Nevertheless, those who advise disidentifying from false or partial aspects of the self also advise us not to judge or label these “weeds” of the personality as “bad,” but instead to recognize how they have served us in compensatory ways or been important to our emotional, mental or physical survival.  Assagioli explains that

Every painful emotion and feeling arouses the desire and urge to eliminate its cause.  Conversely, pleasant and happy emotions prompt the perpetuation of what has produced them.[6]

Some ego-identities have served by helping us bear our painful feelings or fears, or otherwise unbearable circumstances.  “Weeds” they may be but their untimely pulling would uproot the wheat growing along side.

Our lives, like nature, are cyclic, and different seasons of growth call for different responses to life and different ways of functioning.  When harvest-time comes, what then?  What when grace is removed and a disturbance to our equilibrium occurs?  What about when I felt I could no longer devote all my energies to cooking, cleaning, and maintaining order in the family?  As long as I felt that role was appropriate I didn’t fight it, but when grace to do so was removed I could no longer ignore the inner urge to move into the next phase of my life, disruptive as this might be to our family status-quo.  But in order to do so I also had to face my fear of letting go of my safe and comfortable niche in life as “just a homemaker.”  And then there were the three teenagers who were torn between their dependent and independent feelings and urges?  Even Joseph--how did he feel being a child among so many adults or near-adults?  What were his struggles and needs?  What identities and instincts did he rely on in order to survive in the life-circumstances in which he found himself?

In the need to sweep our inner houses clean, nothing so needs elimination as vain regrets.  Nothing so blocks movement into the future as regretting what has been.  Regretting the negative experiences or circumstances of the past prevents a person from enlarging his or her soul as a result of the experience.  We are held back until we can see and say, “God allowed this for some creative purpose and intends to bring good from it.”  This is what Joseph said in forgiving his brothers who had thrown him into a pit and then sold him into Egyptian slavery.  It is, of course, the same message as the Cross.  Fr. Molnar pinpointed vain regrets as that which kept the Israelites in the Wilderness for forty years.  “Oh, well,” I once heard him say, “another lap around Mt. Sinai.”

But there is an antidote for regrets.  It is the willingness to bless all past circumstances and experiences, including those we have perceived as our own failures.  To do so we need to become conscious of any regrets we may be holding on to, or any ways in which we have been judging ourselves or others.  We need to acknowledge that God has used everything for our good and to bring us to the place we now are.  Through each and every experience our souls have expanded as we have gained understanding of ourselves and compassion for others.  Through all we have been uniquely prepared for the creative now in which we find ourselves.


[1] Roberto Assagioli, M.D. Psychosynthesis (New York: Hobbs, Dorman and Company, Inc, 1965)  P. 119.

[2] Watchman Nee, in his The Spiritual Man, suggests the reader refer to a Bible concordance under “spirit.”

[3] For further understanding and methods of disidentification, the reader is referred to Assagioli’s book, Psychosynthesis.

[4] Elizabeth O’Connor, Our Many Selves (New York: Harper and Row, Publisher, 1971) p. 23.

[5] John Powell, S.J, Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am? (Chicago: Argus Communications Co, 1969) pp. 713 74.

[6] Assagioli, The Act of Will, p. 192.




Weekends our first summer at Murray Creek were spent renovating the old miner’s cabin.  We needed it ready for a November retreat, similar to those we had been hosting once or twice a year in Lodi.  As before, the focus would be on inner healing and be led by Cliff Custer, a Presbyterian minister we had met at our first C.F.O.  Our paths had crossed then when Bob’s process of inner healing was just beginning and when Cliff had just taken his “leap of faith” to begin an inner healing ministry “at large.”  A decade down the road we still were walking the same path together.  This year, and for many to come, would find us gathered in the Prayer Closet where the real “work” of the retreat would take place.

From the beginning this twelve by twenty-four foot cabin had been dubbed the “Prayer Closet,” defining it as a place set aside for seeking God either alone or gathered with others.  The former owners had left behind a relic of the early West--an old wooden yoke.  We hung it in the Prayer Closet, a reminder that Jesus had said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” a reminder also of Rufus Moseley’s “easy” way of looking to Jesus as the “perfect everything” of his life.  After the November retreat we would hang a painting beneath the yoke, one that expressed the burst of creativity one of the participants had experienced as a result of inner healing that weekend.

All weekend George had been terribly restless.  After the Friday night session, he had driven the forty miles to Lodi, returning early Saturday morning.  The rest of those participating had spent the night and were just finishing breakfast.  “The forty miles is not the problem,” George explained, “It’s that last three-mile dirt road.” Yet back and forth he had driven all that weekend, until Sunday morning he had not appeared.  Concluding our retreat we were gathered in the Prayer Closet ready to begin a final sharing, when slowly the door opened and in came George, his face glowing.  He informed us he had something to share: “You may have noticed I’ve been coming and going a lot this weekend and not because I enjoy eating dirt and getting my truck and teeth shook loose but because I needed time by myself, to get hold of what was going on inside of me.”

He then related what had taken place as he had made those back-and-forth trips.  Something inside him had been shaken loose from its unconscious hold--the false belief that God’s love had to be earned.  He shared how this had given him a sense of unworthiness and a lack of self-acceptance.  On the surface he consciously had embraced God’s grace as freely given grace, but underneath was a contrary belief.  It was into this dark, unconscious place a light had broken through and divine embraced this other, unworthy-feeling self.

George, to express what he had experienced, had painted the picture that now hung beneath the yoke.  A stream similar to Murray Creek ran through the painting.  The roots of a large tree seemed to be drinking from the stream; springs were feeding into the creek; and there, in the center, was a “burning bush,” symbolizing George’s awareness of the inner revealing light that had “lightened” his burden and was bringing him into a closer union with God through Jesus.  Like the tree in his painting, George, too, had tapped into the springs of living waters.

Over the years, as George’s process of inner healing has continued as, in times of prayer, he has seen a number of things about himself, and, from time to time, shared his healing insights.  There was the time he saw himself as an infant.  His mother was ill and unable to hold and nourish him.  In prayer he re-experienced his infant-self’s hunger and need to be loved.  Through this, and recalling other sibling factors, he identified an inner hunger place--an unfulfilled longing.  He saw how this original need later sent him searching for God,  how he had transferred his hunger for human nourishment and love to hunger for God and the life of the Spirit.

George’s insight into how a human sense of deprivation can lead to a spiritual fulfillment demonstrates the importance of not judging any of the circumstances of our lives as “harmful” or “unfortunate,” or of labeling certain experiences as “regrettable.”  Rather, by withholding judgment, we invite God’s Spirit to reveal how everything we have experienced is working together according to the higher purpose of our lives.  Often, in fact, it is the more difficult circumstances, or the pain we feel from them later in life, that causes us to cry out to God--a cry we are promised will be heard:

. . . at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you. (Isaiah 30:19)

According to developmental psychology, in order to compensate for a lack of either outer or inner security, persons create compensating means of feeling secure which are vital both to a person’s physical and emotional survival.  However, later in life, in order to continue growing psychologically and spiritually, these substitutes over-compensate and create imbalances or narrowness of perspective, and, for the sake of wholeness, need to be given up.  Now they no longer serve, but instead block wholeness.  Security systems go hand-in-hand with ego-identities and, in their sterility, block the creative flow of a life.  Inner healing is about unblocking this flow.

To begin to feel the urgency of giving up a way of functioning that has “worked” is to invite a crisis.  E. Stanley Jones, another spiritual giant of the twentieth century, once commented that the soul gets on by a series of crises,[1] a process Paul described as “being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another.” (II Corinthians 3:18)  Similarly, Cliff often has described inner healing or “growing in grace”  as “not like pitting an olive but like peeling an onion.”  And, as everyone knows, peeling onions can make a person cry.

Elizabeth O’Connor describes the times we experience as crises as so disruptive to life as to cause a person to feel shattered.  But it is at just such a time of crisis, when the inner voice is calling for change, that the conflicting lamentations of inner selves can be heard most clearly.[2]

Each of us in different ways had come to crisis points in our life journeys.  It seemed we were being asked to let go of some of our most vital identities.  We had heard Fr. Molnar describe his resignation as seminary dean in order to follow his vision as “a leap in the dark over a chasm.”  We, too, were uncertain about the consequences of moving away from where there was safety in numbers, away from the security we had enjoyed in the church and in our social standing in the community.  Yet these no longer were nourishing our souls or spirits.  Still we hesitated to let go of the existing structure within which we were functioning.  A Faith at Work conference helped Bob resolve his dilemma and see that he needed to step back from what had become an increasingly frustrating involvement with the organizational aspects of religion, and which he was personally experiencing as spiritually deadening.  At the time he was senior warden of the vestry.  Resigning, therefore, was no small decision.  But, in gaining clarity into his situation, he was able to take the leap.  And one week later we found Murray Creek.  Moreover, without knowing why, we had freed up our time, money and energy for the new direction in which we were being led.

Keith Miller, in his book The Becomers, had provided Bob with a personally meaningful symbol for spiritual growth as a series of trapeze bars swung into view by God.  In order to reach for each new bar, the old hold had to be released.  This, Keith explained, is the leap of faith and what people have paid thousands of dollars over centuries to watch--that one second, where the trapeze artist lets go and reaches for the next bar.[3]

A large part of our security as Christians had been in the roles and functions we had played as group members and leaders.  We referred to ourselves as CFOers, Faith at Workers, as Cursillistas, Charismatics, and particularly as Episcopalians.  These labels gave us a sense of emotional security and identity.  An inner voice, however, had begun to nag:

Let go of these as identities.  Stop looking to others, to organizations, to spiritual leaders, for identity.   Instead, look to Me.  Let Me--moment by moment-- tell you who you are.

Our most difficult letting-go experience was giving up the Friday night prayer group that had met at our home now for so many years.  This group had been an intricate part of our spiritual identity.  Yet we had to let go here before we could take hold of Murray Creek as the new place of what others had described as our ministry of hospitality.

The experience of letting go of important roles or functions can feel like being cut off from the meaning or purpose of life, from what has given one a sense of security and confidence.  A scripture account of letting go is the one in which Peter steps out of the security of his boat and onto the water.  He is able to take a few steps … until, taking his eyes off Jesus, he looks at the water below and begins to sink.  But, in sinking, he cries out in helplessness, “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30).

Feeling helpless seems intricately related to the process of becoming whole.  At a Murray Creek sharing day, when the inner cry for wholeness seemed to be the unplanned theme, I began to see just how, through helplessness, the secrets of the kingdom of God are experientially learned.  Margaret was there that day for the first time and shared how, two years before, she had had surgery for the removal of a brain tumor.  She spoke of a fear that came and went as waves--faith receding, fear surfacing, or fear receding, faith resurfacing.  Over and over these opposites had come and gone until the fear finally had been dissipated and a deep abiding sense of peace had taken over in which she felt assured that God was in charge of her life.  No matter what!  In the midst of these waves of fear she had learned to say, “This, too, will pass.”

In times of crises prayers that express spiritual truth in a few words are invaluable.  What is needed in order to survive the crisis is something simple enough to hang on to, yet powerful enough to deliver one from fear--something as simple and powerful as the name of Jesus, or Peter’s cry, “Help me!” Such prayers are life saving.  Margaret’s words, “This, too, will pass,” formed a life-saving prayer for her, as did words given to my friend Helene Joy, who, finding herself in a cataclysmic crisis, discovered she was unconsciously repeating the words, “Thy will, Lord, Thy will be done.” It was through this prayer, she said, that she was sustained.  Frequently I have hear Bob just barely whispering a prayer, a prayer with only two syllables--Je-sus … Je-sus … Je-sus.

On the particular day when the cries of our inner selves for wholeness were being heard, we had begun by sharing some of the questions we were having.  We had spent a time becoming quiet, entering into a still, inner place.  In this way we had gotten in touch with questions coming from beyond our surface minds.  When we shared our questions we discovered they focused on one thing--our desire to be real, our need to be ourselves, and our wanting to know how.  We became quiet again and listened for God’s answer our questions.

That day, during this time of inner listening and sharing, we experienced a rare unity of Spirit.  We seemed to move beyond our individuality into being the Body of Christ.  Maybe it was because of this that the answers to our questions had a ring of truth for us all.  One question in particular seemed to express the cry of our hearts, and each of our spirits gave witness to the answer that came to the question “Why can’t I be myself?”

You fear the pain of dying, the shedding of the skin, the losing of the bark, the falling of the walls, the decaying of the outer husk, shell, or seed-pod, the stripping of all protection, of all survival mechanisms, of facing a hostile world utterly naked.

The stripping away of our protective layers has to do with the death of self--our self-sufficiency, our self-determination, and, however much we deny it, our vulnerable human sameness.  No wonder we sometimes cry in the process of this inner onion-peeling!

As I was meditating on this inner cry for wholeness, it occurred to me that there was a clue in the spelling of the word crisis:  cris-i-s--the “cri(e)s” of our “I’s”--cris-I-s

This was what Elizabeth O’Connor had been saying: that when events disrupt our lives and cause us to feel shattered, it is then--in a time of crisis--that the cries of our souls are heard, a time when

The Lord waits to be gracious to you … at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you.  And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.  And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left (Isaiah 30:18-21).


[1] E Stanley Jones, A Song of Ascents, (Nashville and NY: Abingdon Press, 1968,) p. 392

[2]  Elizabeth O’Connor, Our Many Selves, p 3

[3] Keith Miller, The Becomers, (Waco, Texas: Word Book, Publishers, 1973) P. 163.





He does not turn the light on to hurt but to help.  Happily for us we are going to be enabled to see every fault, error, and imperfection of thought, of word, and of act until these imperfections give place to his perfection.  It would be tragic for anyone to miss the judgment of enlightenment, to miss seeing everything that is to be repented of and forsaken, and to miss seeing everything that is to be attained to, perfect union with Jesus and his perfect everything.

                                                          Rufus Moseley, Manifest Victory





When we took possession of the Murray Creek ranch, the old miner’s cabin that is our present Prayer Closet was in a sad state of neglect.  Layers of mildewed linoleum covered the partially-rotting floor, and, between the cracks in the pine-paneled walls and ceiling, were the leavings of mice, rats and bats.  A padlocked closet in one corner was lined--walls, floor and ceiling--with wire-screening.  It was here the old miner had kept his food, sharing the rest of the cabin with the “varmints.” Our work began with stripping the cabin bare.  Next we swept, vacuumed, washed, and sprayed with disinfectant.  Finally we nailed down a new wooden floor, and the closet we utilized to store wood for the old iron stove rescued from the nearby community of Camanche just before this historic town disappeared beneath the waters of a huge reservoir. 

The cabin now was ready to be furnished as a Prayer Closet.  An altar-table was placed under the east window that framed ancient giant oaks.  Existing high-hung shelves were filled with books.  Cushions and a rug completed the furnishings . . . along with the old wooden yoke.

Without realizing it, in cleaning and restoring the cabin of its former neglect, we were acting out a parable of what is accomplished as past memories, attitudes and emotions are brought to light to be healed and transformed.  In re-seeing hurtful memories, in reliving wounding experiences, in releasing repressed emotions, in these ways the personal history levels of the unconscious minds are renewed.

Agnes Sanford, in The Healing Gifts of the Spirit, includes a prayer that, in part, says:

I ask You to come, Lord, as a careful housekeeper might come into a house that has long been closed and neglected.  Open all the windows and let in the fresh wind of Your Spirit.  Raise all the shades, that the sunlight of Your love may fill this house of the soul….  If there be any ugly pictures on the walls, take them down and give to this memory-house pictures of beauty and of joy.  Heal old wounds by Your redemptive love, and turn them mysteriously into a love that heals the wounds of others….  Purge this Your child with hyssop, 0 Lord, that the heart may be clean.  Wash this one that the soul which is created in Your own image and after Your own likeness may be whiter than snow.[1]

By visualizing Jesus in our interior houses much of the dirt and dust and many of the cobwebs of life are eliminated.  But some memory-houses contain rooms with doors that are locked and bolted.  Behind these doors are parts of ourselves whose existences are known only by the uncomfortable feelings that surround them.  Mrs.  Sanford suggests that these deeper inner wounds are connected with subconscious awareness of sin, either our own sin or our grievous reactions to the sins of others.[2]  Under grievous reactions would come resentments, feelings of self-pity and, perhaps, even more deeply-buried feelings of anger, hate and revenge.  About the healing of these, Mrs. Sanford says:

The therapy could be called the forgiveness of sins or it could be called the healing of memories.[3]

The healing of memories, as outlined by Mrs Sanford and others, often begins with self-examination, with choosing to remember things we previously have chosen to forget.  An actual memory is recalled and seen on the screen of the imagination, what Ruth Stapleton’s book, The Gift of Inner Healing, calls “faith-imagination.”  Jesus, then, is invited to enter the scene.  With him present we re-see the past.  Frequently the very contents of these memories are changed, old memory-tapes are erased, and new ones are recorded.  How do we know when a memory is healed?  Mrs. Sanford says that the way we can tell is that now, around the old painful memory, there is a “rush of joy.”[4] When a healing is completed, the emotional aura that surrounds that memory is transformed.  Now, we actually can be thankful for the experience.

If an old memory is re-seen with Jesus present, but without an emotional release or any sense of joy, what then?  In this case we are advised that the memory may be in the process of being healed.  Seeing Jesus there is, in itself, a healing.  His light has entered and is penetrating the formerly darkened area.  Moreover, we can continue to see Jesus there until the healing is complete and the surrounding emotions have been transformed.  There was the time Jesus healed the blind man who afterwards saw the trees but upside down.  So Jesus repeated the healing and then the man saw the trees right side up.

Genevieve Parkhurst, in her book on the healing of memories, quotes Fritz Kunkel who explains how, as a result of his study of the New Testament, he concluded that because Jesus was the greatest psychologist who ever lived, Christians should therefore be able to admire and open-mindedly learn from sociologists and psychologists, but should be able to do better than secular research in the area of human life and personality.[5]

More than any form of prayer we so far have experienced, the healing-of-memories way repeatedly has demonstrated the greater power that is available to Christians--the very power by which the barriers to wholeness and to becoming real are removed.

Kunkel writes:

Spiritual growth is arrested time and again by the memory or discovery of what people have done to us.  Why did my father not understand me better?  Why was that first grade teacher as stupid a disciplinarian as she was?[6]

I had one of those first grade experiences that, for many years, inhibited my spiritual growth.  It illustrates how the healing of memories and forgiveness are interrelated.

My very earliest childhood memories were filled with a sense of being loved and accepted, especially by two women--my beautiful and gifted mother and Lottie, my black nursemaid, or “mammy,” as such persons were called in Missouri in those days.  Always I had felt my birth was an important event, just from the way my mother had related it to me; how, even though the eighty-year-old country doctor who had attended the home delivery expected a still-birth, my mother, nonetheless, insisted I would live.  Being told this seemed to condition me to expect that there was a purpose for my life.  But, like Jacob, it also encouraged an egocentricity and a sense of feeling special.  Life, however, would deal with that, and soon!

About the same time I entered first grade, my parents were in the process of separating.  Feelings of insecurity clouded my personal atmosphere, feelings, perhaps, that made me seek the acceptance of some other little girls on the particular morning when the memory that haunted me for thirty-five years was created.

It was recess.  I was in the girl’s lavatory.  In there, also, was a group of little girls, all of whom seemed to be friends.  Another little girl was there, too--who seemed to be no one’s friend.  The in girls called me into their circle and dared me to pull the other little girl’s hair.  I never will forget this little girl.  So obviously poor and nutritionally deprived, her flaxen hair was dull and thin.  But I took the dare.  I took hold of her hair and gave it a tug.  To my horror a whole handful of her pathetic strands came out in my hand.  Off ran the little girls whose acceptance I had tried to win.  Off they ran to tell Teacher the terrible thing I had done.  The teacher called me to her desk, and there, before everyone, told what I had done and tied my hands together with a cord.  I spent the entire rest of that school day a publicly-shamed example.

I believe it was that day that I formed some of the beliefs and determinations that have followed me through life.  I determined, for one thing, to keep myself separate from others and to become an independent and self-sufficient person.  I made the assumption that others will befriend you only to betray you.  Others have too much hurting power; they use you to suit their purposes without consideration of the consequences to you.  And I determined that under no circumstances was it safe to carry out another person’s idea.

The humiliation I experienced also convinced me that I was basically a cruel, a “not nice” person.  I, therefore, determined to cover this up with an image of “self-sacrificing goodness.” I set my will, then, to forever bury my “not nice” self.  But, as always with unacceptable self-images, my “not nice” self was buried alive.

This memory went through several stages of healing before the healing was complete.  Ten years before the day Jesus walked into this memory and changed it both visually and emotionally, I had read Agnes Sanford’s Healing Light.  At that time I had followed a method she suggested:[7]

Divide your life into seven periods of years.

Spend a few minutes each day for seven days, praying to have any “unforgiven sins” or “uncomfortable memories” in each period brought to light.  Do this with paper and pencil.

Then, choose a way of asking for and receiving forgiveness, formal or informal, according to one’s own inclination.

By following this method my first grade memory came to light, and I took it to Communion where I received God’s forgiveness for my cruelty to the other little girl.

A few years later I repeated this exercise and this time encountered a different aspect of the same memory.  This time I listed the incident among other “uncomfortable” memories and, on closer examination, discovered I needed to forgive the little girls who had dared me and then told on me.  And I also needed to forgive the teacher.  This time I simply wrote down those whom I wished to forgive and then burned the list, giving thanks as the paper went up in smoke.  After this I forgot about the episode and never thought of it again until Bob and I were attending a C.F.O conference where Agnes Sanford was one of the speakers.  It was our first year on the Council Ring, and, as members, we were eating breakfast at a table in the far corner of the dining room, attending to “Ring” business before the morning talk.

It was the second or third day of camp.  Bob and I were assigned to different prayer groups.  In his group there was a young woman with an infant.  This particular morning the young mother’s husband, who happened to be in my prayer group, came into the dining room, obviously distressed.  He looked around, seemed to spot me, and headed across the room towards our table.  Following him was a California State Park ranger.  That morning I was wearing a long skirt, and, as the young man approached me, I distinctly remember experiencing myself as a mother hen whose threatened chick was seeking protection.  Ranger and young man, both at once, began telling their stories in the presence of the Council Ring--those of us responsible for the camp and responsible, also, to the conference center that those attending comply with the conference-ground rules.  The ranger had two complaints: one, the young man, his wife, her sister, and the baby were living in a homemade camper parked on the conference grounds.  This was against the rules.  Two, they had been caught cooking.  And that was real trouble!  It was at a time when the whole State of California was in extreme fire-danger.  In fact, the collective prayers of the camp were being directed towards the containment of a fire raging out of control in nearby mountains.  My objectivity, however, failed in the midst of my highly-charged emotional identification with the young man.  The solution seemed obvious--the “Ring” should give them scholarships entitling them to rooms and meals.  I took it personally when the scholarship committee reported there were no more funds.  I wondered why we couldn’t simply transfer money from the surplus general fund.  Then someone suggested Bob and I solicit a special scholarship fund for this particular need.  We agreed, though both of us hated nothing more than asking people for money.  As it turned out we didn’t have to, because as word of the need spread sufficient contributions were freely given.

At the time I had no idea that the emotion I was experiencing was anything more than altruistic empathy for this young man whom I felt was being publicly humiliated.  Still caught in the heat of the emotion, I went to the auditorium for the morning talk.  Mrs. Sanford was speaking that morning on the healing of memories.  Looking back I see God’s hand at work in what I have heard called “the economy of the Spirit,” and in a way I also have come to recognize as being a “divine setup,” as when circumstances converge and intensify a situation by which something in the present connects with something from the past in order to bring insight and transformation..  But at the time I simply was caught in the circumstances and experiencing such an intensity of emotion that I had neither objectivity or suspicion that God was working both within and through my emotions.

At the end of her talk Mrs. Sanford directed the entire group of some four hundred to close our eyes and let whatever memories the Lord was ready to heal come into our minds.  She said a general healing-of-the-memories prayer, asking Jesus, in great detail, to sweep clean our inner memory-houses, room by room, stage by stage of our lives.  As I remember she suggested that when something specific came to mind we should stop listening to her words and, instead, watch and see what Jesus would do on the screen of our imaginations.

The young man’s experience with the ranger had put me in touch with the emotion of my own public humiliation.  I was feeling this emotion but, until now, had not connected it to my first-grade experience.  As long as I had continued to project the emotion out, feeling critical and indignant, taking up someone else’s cause, I had missed seeing it as an opportunity for letting this outer-situation and my reactions to it become a mirror to something in me that needed healing.  Mrs.  Sanford’s talk, however, helped me gain distance from my emotion.  Now, as I followed her prayer, letting it lead me back through the years of my life, onto the screen of my mind came an ashamed-feeling child; a child who also had experienced being shamed publicly; a child who had felt threatened, isolated, and rejected; a child who was still as bound to these feelings as her hands, that long-ago-day, had been tied to one another.

Before, when I had been in touch with this memory, I had seen myself in the act of pulling the child’s hair.  Later, I had re-experienced the other little girls telling on me and the teacher tying my hands.  Now I saw myself on the way home to Lottie.  I knew Lottie would never scold me.  But what would she feel when she saw my bound hands?

I have no memory of ever experiencing anything but kindness and understanding from Lottie.  I think, though, that the intuitive wisdom of my child-nature knew Lottie would take my humiliation personally and suffer vicariously for me.  I deeply loved this short, round, black person who had cared for me since my birth, this person whose own earliest memories were of standing on a chair helping in the kitchen where her mother had been a slave.

Shortly after this incident I would be separated from my beloved Lottie and move to Kansas City where my mother would begin her long and successful career in radio and television.  Then would come the morning my mother received the phone call informing us that Lottie had been killed by a train as she had crossed the tracks to her unpainted shack among other unpainted shacks on the other side of the tracks.  For years, whenever I would approach train tracks, and see or hear any sign of an approaching train, I would panic.  If Bob was driving, and should cross against signals or with a train anywhere in view, my panic would near hysteria.  Then one day it dawned on me that my phobia about train crossings had to do with Lottie’s death.  And, miraculously, as soon as I acknowledged that a part of me still grieved for Lottie, the phobia disappeared.  From that time on I have felt assured that Lottie and I are eternally inseparable.

But now, thirty-five years later, I was again reliving the memory.  In my imagination I saw myself that day on my way home.  In my mind I could hear what I anticipated Lottie would say as she untied my hands: “It’s all right baby, white folks just don’t know better.” Beneath these words I sensed her humiliation and suffering, and knew it was not hers alone but the suffering of a people and of all the oppressed members of the human race.  In my mind I was again that child.  In reality I was a forty-year old mother of six, sitting surrounded by four hundred persons who were all praying, all focused on the presence of the living Jesus.  And I was re-experiencing all of the emotion that accompanied that past memory.  I then remembered Mrs Sanford’s instructions to see Jesus there and to observe what he  would do about the situation.

What he did was totally unexpected!  He began untying and setting my hands free! Next, he carefully unwound a golden cord from around his waist and tied one end of it to me and the other end to Himself.  In my imagination Jesus spoke a few simple words: “From now on you are bound only to Me.”

The healing was complete!  All trace of that sense of shame and humiliation was washed away as waves of love passed over and through me.

When Jesus freed my hands and threw away the cord, I felt a rush of joy, felt my inner child leap, sensed a spontaneity in me being set free, sensed a wellspring of creativity begin to flow up from that inner child who had been wounded.  No wonder this child is said to be the means of entrance into the kingdom of God (Luke 18:17).

This healing led me to reflect: As a child I had often seen things through Lottie’s eyes, then much preferring “black folks” to “white folks “ and often fantasizing how happy I would be if only I could live in Lottie’s shack and play with her grandchildren.  They would never tell me to do something just to tell on me and get me in trouble.  Later in life, even now, I still identify with the oppressed part of the human race, with “underdog” causes.  Because of the humiliation I experienced as a child, I can empathize with others who are oppressed; this has not changed.  But now my hands--my actions--are no longer in bondage to unconscious feelings of rejection and exclusion.  This is not to say that I do not still sometimes experience feelings of rejection and a sense of being isolated from others, but now I can consciously identify these feelings and can deal with them in prayer where they can lead to further insights into those attitudes and emotions within me that are still in the process of being transformed.

The healing of memories is an ongoing process.  Anytime and anywhere we are put in touch with an unhealed memory, anytime something in the present connects with something from the past that needs to be healed, we can, in the following way, invite the presence of the risen Jesus:

Close your eyes and, on the screen of your imagination ask to see a memory or to be made aware of one that is now ready to be healed and transformed.

Choose to remember.  Be open to remembering.  But do not try to force or make anything happen.  Simply let what will come onto the screen of your mind.  And allow yourself to experience any emotions that accompany it.

Ask Jesus to come into the scene.  Be aware of the power of his presence permeating the scene.  Observe what he does, or what he says.

Respond to him from an overflowing, grateful heart. 


[1] Agnes Sanford, The Healing Gifts of the-Spirit (Philadelphia and New York: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1966) pp. 120-122.

[2] Ibid. p. 126.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. p. 125.

[5] Genevieve Parkhurst, Glorious Victory Through Healing the Memories (St. Paul Minn.: Macalester Park Publishing Company, 1973) p. 8.

[6] Ibid, p. 92.

[7] Agnes Sanford, The Healing Light (St. Paul Minn.: Macalester Park Publishing Company, 1947) P. 123.





Thinking of our lives as many-storied houses helps us visualize the inner areas of our minds that are being transformed and renewed.  Genevieve Parkhurst was the first one I heard speak of this when, at our first C.F.O. Healing Conference, she gave a talk on the hurts of the inner child who lives in the basement.  It was after this talk Bob took his walk on the beach and met Jesus.  We have a tape of this talk which, over the years, we have listened to often and lent to others seeking inner healing.  On it the house of life is explained in this way:

The conscious mind is the man who lives on the ground floor of his house of life.  He is the man who goes in and out and meets people and puts on a good face.  He likes to have his living room clean and presentable to the public.  So, if there is anything about it that is unsightly, he just opens the door to the basement, pushes it down there, and shuts the door.  The basement becomes cluttered with the things the man upstairs doesn’t care to bother about or doesn’t want to look at.  And that is the state of the unconscious mind.  It is full of a lot of clutter that the conscious mind has pushed down into it and tried to hide.

There’s somebody in the basement.  It isn’t empty.  This unconscious mind is the basement and this unconscious mind is a child.  It always was a child and always is going to remain a child.  But Jesus loves it just as much as he  loves the man upstairs.  It is this child that Jesus spoke of.  This child in the basement of your life does not live by reason; it lives by emotion.  It does not think primarily; it feels.  And when there are hurts pushed downstairs it can hurt terribly with grief and brooding over past traumas.  Sometimes it sends the effects of this grieving to the man upstairs and effects his life greatly.  If we are to be made every whit whole (as scripture says we are) we must be whole in our conscious minds and must also redeem the child in the cellar which is our subconscious mind.[1]

When I discovered my own hurt child, the one whose hands had been bound, I also discovered that, in her bondage, she had made some will-decisions.  These determined my attitudes and assumptions towards life and caused me to function in certain ways.   In an effort to rid myself of my feelings of unacceptability and humiliation, I sometimes, unknowingly, had projected these feelings onto my own real-life children.

In becoming whole, at some point and in some way, these long-ago will-determinations that are still effecting our lives need to be seen.  When they are seen they frequently reveal the subtle motives behind some of the good works we have undertaken, responsibilities that now may be overloading our nerves and overburdening our hearts or that may be creating stress and strain in our family or work-relationships.  We may have no recollection of having made a decision to function in a certain way.  We may not be aware of our willingness to take on overburdening responsibilities.  If, however, we are willing to have these things revealed to us, then God, in his timing, will cause them to come to our minds and will set us free from their unconscious influences.  For instance, we may have learned that being a “good girl” meant covering up our true feelings, or that acceptance, and therefore security and its accompanying feeling of being OK, came in proportion to our willingness to “be responsible,” “helpful,” to “work hard,” or “please others.” We may also see the ways we have played on others emotions to get what we felt we needed in order to feel secure, important, or to gain power in order to compensate for our inner helpless feelings.  Moseley says:

We must see the whole truth, learn to love it, act upon it, and become free.  For, nothing could be worse than to be permitted to drop back into unconsciousness and fail to see the truth about ourselves, God, and all things.  As I understand the loving purpose of God, no one will be permitted to escape his truth.  Happy for us if we accept it and react to it in joy.[2]

The setting of our wills was often part of the creation of the masks we assumed, in order to survive or compensate in our life situations.  “Little children have no mask,” explains John Sanford:

Not until an adult world forces it upon them by approving one side of their personality and disapproving of the other do children learn to adopt a false front and hide their true feelings.[3]

Becoming whole involves seeing the whole truth and learning to love it.  This would involve seeing why one’s inner child set his or her will in certain ways in order to survive in sometimes hostile or depriving environments.  The next step would be to love this hurt child, offering, now, our own understanding and love to this child who lives in the basement, and, perhaps in our imaginations, taking this child to Jesus or taking Jesus down into the basement of our lives to minister to our inner child. 

Adults often project their own inner hostilities or fears onto children, repeatedly and for years.  In living with such adults a child has to learn to duck and dodge or find a corner or dark room in which to cower or hide.  That there is cruelty and darkness in the human heart is accepted.  However, as long as we remain unconscious of it as a tendency in ourselves, we may overreact to it in others, trying to eliminate in them the very thing about which we are unconscious in ourselves.  I am sure the teacher who judged and condemned me for being a cruel person was projecting onto me her fear of her own repressed, unrecognized cruelty.  This blocked her from dealing creatively with the situation.

I remember overreacting, one time in particular, to what I judged an act of cruelty by one of my children.  In so doing I repeated the teacher’s pattern of dealing with me: I transferred onto my child the fear of my own cruelty which, by now, I successfully had repressed in myself.  Down the street from us lived a little boy who was blind and who frequently played with one of my sons.  This child had a courageous mother who encouraged her blind child to live and function with a remarkable lack of fear.  Through the living-room window I observed my child placing an obstacle in the path of his blind playmate, just as he came skipping down the sidewalk.  I ran out the door, screaming and rescued the situation.  I grabbed by own child by the scruff of the neck and pulled him into the house where I loosed onto him a tearful tirade about cruelty.  Later that day, I again happened to glance out the window, this time into the backyard, and just in time to see my child throwing a large piece of cement into the air and then standing there as it came down on his head.  But it all happened too fast for me to rescue this situation.  I intuitively knew, though, that my child was physically punishing himself for the guilt my tears and harsh judgment had inflicted.  Then, feeling guilty myself, I took my small son on my lap to comfort him, terribly worried he might have given himself a concussion.  Not having consciously faced and forgiven my childhood act of cruelty, I over-reacted to it in my son, maybe even misinterpreted his act, but in any event heaping the coals of my own guilt onto his head and to which he responded with an act of self-punishment.

These were significant, yet isolated, situations from my life as a child and as a parent, but a friend of mine was raised in an environment of hostility and verbal cruelty and, as long as I had known her, she had wrestled with depression and suicide impulses.  She said she finally understood the feeling behind her impulse--a desire to rest from the struggle of living.  She had a sense of extreme fatigue, not from the physical effort to survive but from the emotional effort to go on living.  I knew her to be a person who was nearly completely cut off from her emotions.  In fact, there was often a tension in her throat and a look in her eyes, revealing her effort to keep tightly locked the steel box containing her unbearable memories.  Rightly she had feared the contents of her unconscious and had avoided situations that might have opened her “Pandora’s Box” before God’s timing.  But there came a day when, if she were to continue functioning in life at all, an inner release was necessary.  Part of her was reaching for life, and since I was her friend she reached out to me for help.  I had stopped by on this day to see her, and, over coffee, she had told me the hopelessness she was feeling.  I had told her that there was a way of praying that I felt could help her.  “My situation is hopeless,” she had said, “I’ve nothing to lose.  Pray for me.” Then she had added, fear looking out through her eyes, “in any way that comes to you.”

I truly believe God, that day, set up every detail of the circumstances that led to her inner release.  When she agreed, to be prayed for I felt the need for a prayer partner and called Frances.  Frances was right by the phone that morning and, came quickly to join us.  As we began praying, simultaneously, to both Frances and myself a prayer image came--the Blood of Jesus, flowing from the Cross.  We verbalized what we were seeing in our imaginations, visualizing the power of the Blood of Jesus pouring back into my friend’s life, back over the setting of her will, over her long-ago determinations to deeply bury emotions too painful to face.  A prayer of great power and authority came, one that was directed at her unconscious, one that bypassed her conscious resistances against which, by this time, she was helpless.  We saw the Blood of Jesus flowing into the contents of her unconscious, into hidden areas of her life where an inner child cowered in fear.  We saw this power that was released from the Cross flowing back through the corridors of her life, under every closed door, through every locked keyhole.

After we finished praying she said that she saw herself as a child, curled up in a “waterless womb.” “But,” she sighed with apparent relief, “Just as I expected, nothing happened.”

“No,” Frances had countered, “something did happen.  The consent of your will to be prayed for was genuine.  I know the prayer got through to your unconscious.  In the next few days things will come to your mind, not in an overwhelming way, but in a way you will be able to receive.  And understanding and guidance about what to do with what you receive will come, also.

Frankly, at the time, I wondered how Frances could be so sure.  But she was because she had been in a similar place at one point in her life and so could stand on a faith that knew God’s power was greater than my friend’s fears of her buried emotions.  Two days later, at dinner time, she called: “It happened,” she reported.  “I’ve begun to see things from my past, to remember and feel why my inner child curled up into that womb position and locked herself behind a door.  And something prompted me to go to the library and take out a book I once read--Your Inner Child of the Past.[4] When I read it before it was interesting, but now … oh my … now I see what I’ve been doing to myself and my family, how I’ve been projecting onto my present life these things from my past.  I don’t like what I’m seeing, but now I can accept it and live with it, where before I simply couldn’t face it.”

All her emotional energies had been going into keeping her steel box lightly locked.  No wonder she had felt too tired to go on living! No wonder, with her inner child in a “waterless womb,” she had been cut off from the wellsprings of life.

In my friend’s case her need was for others to intercede with power for her, for others who were willing to bear her pain with her, perhaps even bear some of it for her, until her personal past could be faced in ways that were relevant and creative to her present life circumstances and could give her insight and new choices for the future.

In one degree or another, we have all retreated from negative emotions in ourselves or from those around us and locked parts of ourselves behind doors.  In so doing we have lost the trust and spontaneity of the inner child--the child who holds the key to the kingdom of Heaven.

In the transformation of the unconscious areas of the mind, there seem to be several steps or stages.  The healing of memories is one, but not every memory is re-seen or re-experienced.  Rather the sum total of memories that have left dark-feeling impressions are healed.  Healing light is focused on some particular memories, but it is the area of the collection of similar memories that are simultaneously healed, the oppressive feeling that is lifted, the wounded area of the soul that is restored.  Nor is every will-determination we have ever made consciously recalled and invalidated.  But the limited directions of our lives, determined by us in order to bypass further hurts or depravations in life, it is from this limitation we are set free.

When God’s light begins to shine into the unconscious areas of our minds, we see certain circumstances in which we drew faulty conclusions about life and formed false assumptions and destructive or limiting attitudes.  We sometimes now see the absurdity of the lies we have believed and upon which we have based our lives.  For instance, when I followed the suggestion of the other little girls to pull the lonely little girl’s hair, and, then, when they told on me, I concluded it was not safe to carry out other person’s directions.  This has made it difficult for me to work cooperatively with other people.  It has caused me to follow an independent, lonely life-path.  In one way, this faulty assumption encouraged a high degree of creativity in my own life but a personality that was lopsided, that needed to be balanced towards wholeness by again daring to trust and work with other people.

Another step in the transformation of the unconscious mind is the release of our repressed or suppressed emotions.  In some lives, getting in touch with buried emotion leads to the re-seeing of memories, while, in others, memories are re-seen and only later are the emotions connected with them released.  Sometimes the release of emotions and the re-seeing of memories happens at the same time.  A later chapter speaks more of this release of emotions.  Another step in inner healing and the subject of the next chapter is the withdrawal of the critical judgments we have projected onto other persons.

Many of our fears and hurts, though, can be faced by taking Jesus down the stairs into our basements to minister to the child who lives there.  In Genevieve Parkhurst’s talk on this innerchild-of-our-lives, she said:

In helping people to overcome their troubles, I usually have found there is an area in their lives which is covered up.  And they do not find release until that area is touched and cleansed by Jesus.  Sometimes we do things in life, trying to work out something to overcome a feeling that is in us--deep in us.  We do these things to compensate for these feelings.  But when the child is healed we don’t have to retaliate or compensate.

Jesus can go into the basement of our lives.  The thing we must do is face the fact that there is an unpleasant situation in the basement and ask the Lord to go with us downstairs and root it out, carry it out doors into the sunshine.  The cure for mildew is to carry it out into the sun and so with anything of life.  Ask Jesus to go with you and carry any buried memories out in the sun and expose them to God’s light.

Go boldly into the basement, accompanied by the presence of the living Christ, and with his help uncover what is there--fears, hurts--and ask him  to carry them into the sunshine of his love.

An interesting thing about memories buried in the basement, they remain there with the same emotional impact that surrounded them when they were put there.  And usually that emotional impact was that of a child, the child who is more easily hurt than an adult because he is tender and sensitive.  These hurts remain with the same impact as they had when they were put there.  But when we take them out they are not so bad, because we look at them with adult eyes and see they are largely bugaboos.

But, still, I think it is a lot safer to go down into the basement-of-life with Jesus.  Wherever there is a hurt child Jesus can go and find that child.

Help us Lord Jesus, to relive some of the circumstances that caused this child within to be hurt.

And, as we relive them, at the crucial moment of the greatest pain, will You walk on the scene and take over and come between us and that which brought us our great hurt.

Jesus, lover of our souls, lover of little children, lover of the children in our deep minds, we would lay bare everything within ourselves and not try to hide anything from You, but allow You to bring everything into the light and make everything right.[5]


[1] From a taped talk, used with Mrs Parkhurst’s permission.  The reader is also  referred to Mrs. Parkhurst’s book, Glorious Victory Through Healing the Memories, published by Macalester Park Publishing Company, and which is an indepth study of inner healing.

[2] Moseley, Manifest Victory, p. 190.

[3] John Sanford, Kingdom Within, p. 108.

[4] W. Hugh Missildine, Your Inner Child of the Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc, 1963).

[5] See note #1 above.





If the inner houses in which we live are many-storied, if there is an acceptable self who lives upstairs, a hurt child who lives in the basement, there is also another inner self who lives just inside the basement door--the shadow.  This shadow is said to be the compensation of our respectable self, is, in fact, a composite of all that is incompatible with our upstairs “parlor” self-image.

From a spiritual point of view this shadow could be all the things from our personal past that stand between ourselves and block God’s light from our lives.  The shadow could also be said to be whatever is separating us from the child in us who holds the keys to the kingdom of God, and without whose spontaneity and joy life would seem dark and dull and not worth living.

E.  Stanley Jones, referring to the “unconverted subconscious mind, “suggests there is an inner duality behind the scenes of our lives.  Paul speaks also of something in us that causes us to do things contrary to our conscious resolutions:

I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate .  .   I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  (Romans 7: 15, 18)

Paul says it is not “I” (the conscious self) but “sin which dwells within” that acts contrary to the “I.”

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  (Romans 7:21)

The shadow behind the door could also be called the “game” player--the trickster--the part of us that trips us up when least expected, making itself known through emotional outbursts, or, if we are too tightly controlled for that, causing us to make unconscious remarks we later regret.

John Sanford suggests the shadow, when redeemed, becomes the servant of our lives.[1] But until then this shadow self is constantly dividing us against ourselves, as well as creating divisions in families, on the job, and in churches and other groups.  New Testament letters suggest shadows have not changed much in 2,000 years:

I hear that there are divisions among you. (I Corinthians 11:17)

[Disrupters,] grumblers, malcontents, [are among you] following their own passions, loud-mouthed boasters, flattering people to gain advantage.  (Jude 16 )

Shadows may well be the channels through which evil enters into and is expressed through human nature.  But for the most part, the shadow is personal--an expression of the personal rather than the collective level of the unconscious mind.  And although Jude’s New Testament letter suggests “devilish” influences were functioning in their midst, these are also ways similar to how shadows act.

At one of our sharing days at Murray Creek, no sooner had one person asked for prayer for a particular area of the healing of memories than someone else present actively tried to sidetrack and disrupt the request.  Perhaps the person felt threatened by the area of the need.  Perhaps it hitting too close for comfort.  While the interference was gently overcome, it made us aware of how vulnerable to suggestion one person’s shadow can be to another’s, and the extent to which a shadow self will go to remain hidden.  I seems likely that in this instance it was the unconscious shadow aspect of the one creating the interference--and not this person’s conscious self--from which the fear was coming.

Shadows are notorious game-players.  John Powell offers a “catalog of games and roles.”  A few examples of his headings are: the braggart, the competitor, the crank, the cynic, the dominator, the flirt, the gossip, the loner, the martyr.[2]  I don’t recall if it is Powell or someone else who suggests that when we “see through” the games others are playing that we use our observations to get in touch with our own unconscious ways of similarly functioning.  This can be done by questioning ourselves:

How am I like that?

In what disguised-from-myself ways do I function like that?

Another suggestion for how to unmask the way our shadow disguises itself is to make a composite of the kinds of persons we dislike the most and what we dislike most about them.  More than likely this will turn out to be a self-portrait of our own shadow for the very reason that our shadow is composed of what we reject or criticize or condemn in others.

Guilt and self-blame plague the shadow self because of its unacceptability feelings.  However, rather than accepting these feelings and offering them for redemption, the shadow blames others for how it feels and tries to inflict its guilt feelings onto others in an effort to feel relieved of its own heavy burdens.  It says, “You’re always doing that to me!” Or, in unspoken ways, acts irritated or upset or about to explode, while all the time communicating: “Aren’t you ashamed to be doing this to me?  upsetting me so?” Powell, in his catalog, lists the “fragile, handle-with-care” person, and the “inflammable, handle-with-caution” person.  I recognized myself in the later and began to observe ways I was trying to inflict guilt onto others, particularly onto Bob and the children.  Nor was it all game playing.  My inflammable self had exploded enough times to make them fear my capacity to let my feelings fly.  My handle-with-caution self had become a very effective emotional blackmailer.  All that wasted energy--that is the pity of it! Whether it is anger, resentment, self-pity or fear, however we expend our emotional energy negatively withdraws it from our capacity to live creative lives.

There is a way of reading the Bible that helps us see the shadow behind the scenes of our lives.  Tolstoy, in his short story “Where Love Is God Is,” tells of an old shoemaker named Martin, whose wife and children have all died tragically.  Martin has become a bitter, lonely old man living and working in his basement shop, in a day-to-day existence.  From the one small sidewalk-level window Martin recognizes the persons on the street above by the shoes they wear.  One day an old friend who has become a “holy man,” visits Martin.  Martin opens his heart to the holy man and tells him all the tragedy and sorrow that has befallen him.  The holy man counsels Martin to buy the Gospels and begin reading them.  That very day Martin does purchase a Testament and begins to read each evening.  He comes to the story of when Jesus was invited to dinner at the Pharisee’s house.  The woman comes in and washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and dries them with her hair (Luke 7:38).  The Pharisee criticizes Jesus for his lack of judgment in allowing this.  To this Jesus replies:

I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. (Luke 7:44-46 )

As Martin is reading this scripture the power of God breaks through into his life.  A revelation comes to him that changes his life.  He asks himself, “Am I like that Pharisee?” In what ensues Martin is delivered from his shadowy existence back into the full sunlight of a life whose purpose and meaning is restored.  Thus Martin’s joyless shadow becomes a joyful servant of life.

Because of the nature of Jesus’ gospel teachings, particularly in his parables, there are numerous passages where we can ask, “Am I like that?”

Am I like the rich young man?

Am I like the good Samaritan? or like those who passed by the injured man?

Am I like those who made excuses why they couldn’t come to the banquet?

The shadow, as long as it stands as an unrecognized enemy, blocks or misdirects our capacity for both “being” and “doing.” In Eastern cultures the emphasis is largely on “being,” where the Western ethic stressed “doing.” In Jesus, however, the two are in perfect balance--a “doing” that is moment-by-moment guided by “being” aligned with his Father’s will, and that is free from ulterior motives or inner fears.  In Jesus, his will and his motives are in agreement.  Becoming like him  involves such an alignment in our lives, too.  Our shadow must be converted from enemy to servant, to one who now freely opens the basement door, making way for the child within to bounce up and down the stairs of our lives, bringing its joy, spontaneity and its ever-renewing energies.  In this way our inner duality is bridged:

If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday… you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters fail not …you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. (Isaiah 58:9-12)



[1] John A. Sanford, Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language (Philadelphia and New York: J.B.  Lippincott Company, 1968) This book contains an indepth study of the shadow and how it is transformed.

[2] Powell, Why Am I Afraid.





Our son Joseph had a Bible storybook titled How Tricky Jacob Got Tricked.  It told what happened to Jacob after he fled from his brother’s threat to kill him.  You will remember the thing that provoked Esau’s rage was the final trick Jacob played in cheating him out of the blessing that rightly belonged to him as the first born of the twins.  But in going to live with his Uncle Laban Jacob would learn one of the most valuable of life’s lessons: that we see in others what we are blind to in ourselves.

Being forced to leave the only home he had ever known was devastating for the forty-year-old Jacob.  For a first time in his life he felt helpless and alienated.  In this mental condition he had a dream in which God promised to help and protect him.  Taking courage from this, Jacob moved towards the land of Haran.  As day after day he continued his journey, his fear of the unknown wilderness and of his future increased.

Finally, Jacob neared his uncle’s land and was greeted by a lovely young shepherdess whom he soon discovered was his cousin Rachel.  He watered her sheep, and then the full impact of having at last reached his destination came over him.  He took Rachel in his arms and kissed her.  The relief, the joy, the quickening of Jacob’s heart as his eyes met Rachel’s caused Jacob to break down and burst into tears.

Excitedly, Rachel ran ahead to tell her father of the arrival of his nephew, the son of his own sister Rebekah.  Laban’s greeting was so warm-hearted, so cordial, in fact, that Jacob immediately felt in rapport with his uncle and told him the whole story of why he had come to the land of Haran.  Laban responded: “Truly you are bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” but Jacob, unaware of his uncle’s own tricky shadow self, failed to appreciate the subjective truth of his uncle’s words.

When Jacob realized he was in love with Rachel, he asked Laban permission to marry her.  The marriage was agreeable to Laban, with one stipulation: Jacob must work for Laban for seven years.  Because of Jacob’s growing love for Rachel, the years quickly passed by.  Finally the day arrived when, at last, the lovely Rachel would become his bride!

According to local custom, the bride was heavily veiled.  So it was not until after the vows were completed that Jacob learned that Laban had substituted Leah--his plain, elder daughter--for the vivacious, beautiful Rachel with whom he was so passionately in love.

“How could you do this to me?” Jacob denounced his father-in-law.  “How could you be so deceitful.  So dishonest?  And to your own flesh and blood!”

Laban simply shrugged, explaining it was his country’s custom to marry off the elder daughter before the younger (Genesis 29:26).  And, since Laban was an opportunist, he offered Jacob another deal: If he would sign on for seven more years of labor, then Jacob could marry Rachel as well, and as soon as his honeymoon with Leah was over.  (Genesis 29:27)

That was how Jacob ended up with two wives and with each wife’s maid added in to the bargain.  This gave Jacob two wives and two concubines, four women with whom to begin his new family, when all he had ever wanted was Rachel, the one and only beloved of his life!

And so it was that Jacob experienced what it was like to be on the receiving end of another’s tricky shadow self.  Jacob, however, was still blind to his own baseness.  He failed to appreciate that Laban had done to him what he had done to Esau--cheated him through trickery.  Here, in his uncle, his own mother’s brother, he had met his comeuppance!

We are never so righteously indignant as when someone does to us what we do to others, but with which we have not yet come to terms.[1]

When Jacob had said, “How could you be so deceitful,” he did not even hear what he was saying.  He had no way, at this point, of making the window through which he saw his uncle into a mirror of self-evaluation.

The process of becoming whole has been described as “the spiral way.”  This is to say that time and again we find our selves in life-situations that feel familiar, that have been similarly experienced in some other time, in some other place, in some other circumstance of our lives.

Shadow selves, early fears, secret greeds are not vanquished by a single encounter or overcome by a single choice.  Over and over they must be met at each turn of the spiral way.[2]

In many ways Jacob’s life with Laban became a repetition of his former home life.  The degree of jealous competition that had existed between Jacob and Esau now existed between his two wives.  Rachel had won Jacob’s heart before and during the early years of the marriage, but Leah began to score favor in her marriage by bearing him sons--four--while Rachel bore none.  Although the cause of the jealousy between Leah and Rachel seemed to stem from the one’s fertility and the other’s barrenness, the real issue was that Leah was unloved and Rachel adored.  The drama of Jacob’s past carried over into his present and was determining his future.

Yet even though Rachel was her husband’s favorite wife, she still felt left out.  Having no children of her own, she envied her sister and complained bitterly to Jacob: “Give me a child or I shall die.” When this approach only angered Jacob, she sent her maid Bilhah to her husband in order, as was customary, to claim any offspring of that union as her own.  Through Bilhah, Rachel acquired two sons.  Leah next challenged her beautiful sister’s standing by sending her own maid, Zilpah, to Jacob’s bed, with the result that, through Zilpah, Leah was able to add to Jacob’s offspring yet two more sons.  Then another two sons were born by Leah herself, making her total eight sons to Rachel’s meager two.  Finally, when the second seven years Jacob owed Laban for Rachel were nearly over, Rachel, the love of his life, bore him a son.  This very special son of Rachel and Jacob was Joseph (Genesis 30:1-24), in whose life the family curse of jealousy would be re-enacted when his older brother would sell him into Egyptian slavery.

Now that Jacob had attained his heart’s desire, he longed to return to his own homeland and family.  Again, he met with his uncle’s opposition.  Laban begging him to remain, claiming that a fortune teller had told him that Jacob brought him good luck.  (Genesis 30:27)

“Name your own wages,” Laban propositioned.

“If I remain you won’t have to give me anything,” Jacob replied.  “I’ll continue to keep your animals if you will let me go through your flock to remove the speckled and spotted sheep and goats and the black lambs.  These can be my wages.”

Laban agreed but went right out ahead of Jacob and removed all the agreed-upon animals.  He drove them three-days journey away where he put the animals under the charge of his own sons. (Genesis 30: 28-35)

At times Jacob and Laban seemed actually to enjoy their game of matching wits, but while Jacob was a born Laban seemed always on the losing end.  Jacob had come to know God personally and rely on God’s guidance.  Laban, on the other hand, looked outside of himself--to a “fortune teller”--for guidance, and only to have his own sense of worthlessness confirmed in being told that Jacob was his luck.

Towards the end of Jacob’s stay with Laban, the same jealousy and envy that had existed between Esau and Jacob, and that had come between Jacob’s two wives, now crept into his relationship with Laban’s sons who began murmuring accusations that Jacob was cheating them out of their inheritance.

Evoking jealous competition seemed to have been the outstanding negative character trait that dominated Jacob’s life: first in the family life of his youth, then in the years of his marriage to the two sisters, and finally in his relationship with his in-laws.  Yet surprisingly, out of Jacob’s union with Laban’s two daughters came the twelve sons who were to become the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel, and from whose lineage Jesus would be born.  Jealousy is an all-too-human shadow characteristic that harbors in the subterranean depths of everyone.  And in jealousy the entire gamut of other negative emotions are let loose.  It has been observed that jealousy stems from not living up to one’s own potential.  Jacob lived up to his but provoked it in those around him who failed to do so, and who blamed Jacob for their own failures.

At another sharing day, Bonnie, whom we’d not seen for several years, told of the many changes that had taken place in her life.  “But, she said, “one insight has brought about the greatest change in my life--seeing that violence is the result of violating who I am, of not feeling free to be myself, or of trying to be something I’m not instead of living up to my own potential.” Bonnie had been experiencing a truth Erich Fromm had expressed:

The more the drive towards life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive towards destruction; the more life is realized, the less is the strength of destructiveness.  Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life.[3]

Bonnie, after two disastrous marriages, had been learning how to take charge of her life.  But through her failures she had gained a great deal of self-knowledge and self-honesty.  “I am beginning to know when I’m acting or responding out of fear or out of a need to attract attention.  Out you go! I’m learning to say to the cowardly and phony parts of myself.”

When we see into our shadow selves, we see that in essence they are negative expressions of emotions:

Fear is related to safety and security needs.

Lust is related to what gratifies the senses and also to the desire for power.

Anger is the inner fury and desire to destroy or eliminate whatever blocks what self wants, but that can also be expressed as helpless frustration, or as passive aggression--violence turned inward.

Self-pity is the feeling of having been abused by life, and the belief that the universe is a hostile place from which one desires to escape.[4]

Each of these emotions, however, also has a positive-but-hidden potential.  When redeemed the negative side of the emotions become the empowered servants of God in our lives, serving God’s higher purposes for our lives:

Fear becomes reverence for life;

Lust becomes sacrificial, selfless love;

Anger becomes the energy that rights wrongs;

Self-pity becomes contrition for one’s own and humanity’s sins.

Hunger and thirst are time-old symbolic descriptions of natural human urges--hunger for food, substance, things, gratification, affection, attention, recognition, power.  Hunger is the term that best describes the human drive to fulfill one’s own needs, but which can never be satisfied because instinctual human nature is such that the more it is satisfied the more it wants.  Hunger for God, however, can be fulfilling, can be satisfying.  In coming to recognize the difference between the two, we can begin to reflect upon our actions and responses to life, and begin to determine when the lower drives of self are functioning and therefore violating our higher transcendent human potential.

E. Stanley Jones, in speaking of the “unconverted subconscious,” noted that the basic drives that reside there are self, sex and the herd instinct.  About his own shadow encounter he wrote:

I found something alien began to rise from the cellar of my life.  I felt there was something down there not in alignment with this new life I had found--ugly tempers, moodiness, deep-down conflicts….  There were disturbing intrusions from the depths….  What was this dark something within?[5]

This “dark something within” is descriptive of one’s tightly suppressed, “incompatible” inner twin.  How prophetically the pregnant Rebekah had interpreted the struggle between the twins in her own womb.  “If it’s going to be like this,” she had said, “why go on living.” (Genesis 25:22)  Even then she had felt helpless and incapable of coping with the dual nature of the two she was to bear.  And so it can be that within an individual there are two warring natures.  This was the dilemma Paul was up against when he cried out:

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 8:24-25)

For Christians, Jesus on the Cross symbolizes the reconciliation of inner duality--the split between shadow and conscious realities.  When the risen Jesus is invited to come down off the Cross and be resurrected in our lives, then he becomes the bridge that makes it possible to face the soul’s inner depths without fear of being swallowed up by the light and dark that co-exist in human nature.  Since Jesus’ union with the Father is fixed in eternity, when our lives are placed in him then a sense of inner stability is established.  Dr. Jones speaks of a complete surrender of will:

If you belong to Jesus, you belong to the Kingdom that cannot be shaken through death or old age.  Christianity means to say Yes to his Yes.  Surrender to his will and you will be saying Yes to his Yes.  The whole universe is behind it.[6]

Surrendering to Jesus, seeing ourselves as belonging to him, as led by him, this gives the ego the strength it needs to consciously confront the shadow elements behind the scenes of our lives.  In surrendering our lives to Jesus we covenant with him to become free to be our real selves.  Such a surrender invites him to take us through the judgment of enlightenment, where we can lay at his feet all of our unconverted attitudes, emotions and memories.   It asks him to turn on his light in the basement of our inner houses.  It invites Jesus to become the perfect everything of our lives.  It affirms with Paul that in Jesus:

The divine “yes” has at last sounded …for in him is the “yes” that affirms all the promises of God.  (II Corinthians 1:19-20)



[1] John Sanford Man Who Wrestled, pp. 36-37.

[2] Wickes, Inner World of Choice, p. 4.

[2] Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom (New York: Hold, Rinehart and Winston, Publishers, 1941, 1969).

[4] M. Esther Harding’s Psychic Energy, a Princeton/ Bollingen Paperback, gives an indepth study of man’s basic drives and emotional energies.

[5] E. Stanley Jones, A Song of Ascents, P. 51.

[6] E. Stanley Jones, The Divine Yes, (New York: Pillar Books, Copyright Abingdon Press) pp. 21-22






I had not seen Howard for a number of years.  When I first had met him he had been around thirty-five years old and unmarried.  The one word that described him best was intense.  He went from one prayer group or religious meeting to another, apparently traveling in circles as he searched a way out of his particular wilderness.  Though he had received prayer and advice from many, his face revealed unresolved inner conflict.  Then, on meeting him one evening I perceived with one glance that a miracle had happened.  Joy and peace now replaced the years of tension and repression I had been used to seeing on his face.

“What in the world has happened to you?” I exclaimed.

“So many things you wouldn’t believe it! For one, I’ve been married for nearly a year now.”

“Married life must really agree with you!”

“Yes, that is certainly part of it.  But what you’re seeing is the result of the hours I’ve spent in the “Prayer Closet,” releasing years of repressed feelings and angers I had no idea were in me.  This changed my life.  It was through the minister who taught me this way of praying that I met Karen.” Howard turned to the lovely young woman at his side.  Karen, in turn answered questions I had concerning the release to which Howard referred.  Still amazed at the change in Howard’s countenance, I turned back to him.

“Tell me more about this minister who helped you?”

“His name is Bishop Whitlock.”

“Oh, a bishop.  In what church?”

“No,” Howard laughed, “Bishop just happens to be his first name.  Most people call him Brother B.  If you’d like we’ll see that you get some information on his ministry.

Howard explained that his release was an ongoing prayer work.  After searching for years for someone who could say one powerful prayer over him and deliver him from all his outer-problems and inner-anxieties, God, instead, had led him to someone who taught him that the power of release was within himself.  He had begun praying in a way that had let out his repressed feelings.  Before God he had let go of pretending he was free of negative feelings--angers, resentments, fears, and self-pity.  As he had released these feelings and thoughts, his conscious mind had assumed responsibility for them and had given them to God.  Consequently, Howard had re-seen previous circumstances and relationships in a different way and had been able to forgive persons related to his negative emotions--even God, the universe and Life itself.

This chance meeting and the revelation of an old acquaintance’s transformed life brought another dimension to my prayer life.  Again it proved that God is renewing and transforming the Body of Christ through many different approaches to inner freedom and wholeness, through ways that meet different persons different needs.

Karen and Howard did ask Br. B to send me further information explaining the prayer-closet way of praying.  My meeting with Howard took place several months before we found Murray Creek.  It was Howard’s transformed life that inspired us to name the old miner’s cabin our Prayer Closet.  Seeing Howard caused me to appreciate the need for a set-aside place where persons could be emotionally honest and vulnerable before God.  Then, during our first year at Murray Creek, we happened to be reading Powell’s The Secret of Staying in Love,[1] which pointed to the need to be emotionally honest and vulnerable in relationships with other persons as well as with God.  However, it was not until I learned to release my real feelings in this prayer-closet-way that I really began to dare to be vulnerable in revealing my feelings and thoughts to others.  In this way I learned how freeing it can be to say who I am and how I feel, to dare to reveal my needs and fears, and to know that when I tell others who I am that rather than causing their rejection, as I had feared, it levels existing walls and builds bridges between us.  Together these two secrets of honesty before God and in relationship with others led me out of my self-imposed prison of independent self-sufficiency.

For a number of years Br. B kept me on his mailing list.  His approach to inner healing was different but I couldn’t deny the difference it had made in Howard’s life.  Moreover, I had to admire the determination behind his convictions when I read he had rented a number of rooms in a hotel in downtown New York City and was distributing thousands of invitations for others to use these rooms as their “prayer closets.”

Howard had discovered the power of release was within himself.  This discovery released the wellsprings of joy and creativity that were also within him.  My first memory of Howard was when a friend of his had brought him to our Friday-night prayer group.  In introducing himself, Howard had quoted scripture at length, ending with, “and my name is written in the Lamb’s book of life.” This was undoubtedly true, but Howard was then one of those Christians who didn’t seem to know how to enjoy his salvation.  How different he was now! It was no longer necessary for him to quote scripture as to who he was.  He had become a living example of a transformed life.

How can a similar release be found by those who have no one like a Br. B.  to personally instruct and demonstrate how repressed feelings are released?  To answer this question I went over the literature I had received on the prayer-closet method.  What seemed clear was that it was God’s Spirit in us that effected the release from repressed emotion.

Br. B speaks of “liberating the bruised.” (Luke 4:18)  He also makes an inner application of the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah:

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  … Then shall your light break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up speedily … And you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not … (Isaiah 58:6-14 )

Most Christians, according to Br. B, fail to grasp the full meaning of the word “pray.” He points out that in the original biblical sense, he points out, it is not merely a verbal activity, but a physical, emotional activity as well.  He says that the word proseuchomai, one of several biblical words translated “pray” is used in two particular passages that clarify the kind of activity and emotion that praying in the closet involves.  This particular word is used in Jesus’ instructions about praying in the closet in the sixth chapter of Matthew, and this same word is used to describe Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane.  Here he is described as being in “agony,” but nevertheless praying even more “earnestly;” as he is “strengthened by an angel” and as “sweat as great drops of blood” come from Him.  This, says Br. B, is proseuchomai--prayer-closet prayer.

A pamphlet titled “How Jesus Teaches us to Pray” contains the following:

Prayer takes on a completely new meaning when I realize that seeking the Father in secret, in my closet, with the door closed, is not an activity of getting a message through to him  in some far-off place, but is rather a matter of yielding my members to Him.

He is in me.  He knows my every need, both for cleansing from within, and changes from without …He knows every pocket of fear in my being.  He knows the condition of every cell.  He knows every thought in my mind and heart.  He knows just how resistant to him  my spirit is, or is not.  God knows.  He is willing to perfect me, but he  will not force me.  Thus my praying becomes a time of learning to surrender.

His Divine Purpose is to make me to conform to the image of his Son, Who is in the image of the Father.  In other words, God desires to bring me again into the image of God.  I do not have to talk him  into it: he  has already proposed it.

My part is to ask, seek, knock, that all resistance of my flesh be removed; all stubbornness of my spirit, which was resistant to his Will from my first breath, be broken, and that my heart, which also from the beginning, was deceitful and very wicked, be replaced with a heart upon which only his laws shall be written.

This is all work to be done from within.  When I seek the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and receive of his Spirit, he changes me from the inside according to my diligence in seeking, yielding, desiring.

Travail is the power of Christ within me….  As he  moves from within the depths of me, he casts out that which is offensive in his Kingdom: the fears, the angers, the lusts, the evil imaginations….  This is proseuchomai, touching God, by opening up to Him, and allowing him  to touch us.[2]

Br. B helped me understand two other words related to what can happen in the prayer closet.  The word translated “break,” as “in every yoke,” is a Hebrew action word meaning “to tear off,” “break off,” “burst,” “lift up,” “pull (out),” “root out.” And the Hebrew word that is translated “undo” could also be translated “to be violently agitated,” “to shake off.” These action verbs, according to Br. B, describe the ministry of the “liberation of the bruised.”  The results are transformed lives.

A friend of mine discovered, on her own, the secret of praying in the closet and the release it brings.  In the past two years, Phyllis had suffered one blow after another, until she found herself wondering what she had done to bring all this on herself?

Then came the final blow--a routine medical checkup that indicated cancer and the immediate need for surgery.  At this point Phyllis said she “fell apart at the seams.” She called us for help but we had gone out for the evening and didn’t receive her message until the next morning.  When I returned her call she related how she had reached out for help in three different directions but finding no one at home had gone into her bedroom, closed the door, and had let all she was feeling come out.  “I found myself,” she told me, “telling God just exactly how I felt about life and how I had been treated.  I found myself kicking my feet, pounding my pillow, crying, sobbing, screaming, until I was utterly exhausted.  But, all this time, I was also listening to and observing what I was saying and feeling.  I couldn’t believe it! Always I have thought of myself as a friendly and outgoing person, as a positive person.  Yet underneath it all I discovered a me that I hadn’t even known existed, a me that honestly felt life was unfair, that the universe was against me, that everyone, including God, was against me.  I don’t know yet what I am going to do about it, but I have this sense of relief now.  It feels good to have at least uncovered that other me.  And I know enough about negative attitudes and emotions and illness to see how I’ve unknowingly set myself up for cancer, what with all the resentment and anger feelings I had buried in me and that were eating away at me.  Now, at least, I feel I can face whatever is ahead.”

A few days later, when Phyllis went to the hospital for surgery, she was in a state of peace and trust.  Even though the diagnosis had been correct and she had had major surgery, she felt assured her recovery would be complete.  She knew that the real surgery had been accomplished behind the closed door of her bedroom, when her unconscious destructive-to-life attitudes had forced their way out, and God, finally, had an opening into the center of her being and could give her divine assurance that Life and the entire universe was not against but for her.

E.  Stanley Jones tells of coming to a time in his life when he “knew the game was up.” In that “dark hour,” feeling totally broken, he told God how he honestly felt: “Lord, I’m done for, I’ve reached the end of my resources and I can’t go on.”

“If you’ll turn that problem over to Me and not worry about it, I’ll take care of it,” an inner voice had replied.   This experience, says Dr. Jones, was a “total rescuing from myself to his Self.”[3]

I have one last example of the power of released feelings, and how their underlying attitudes are transformed:

Eugene Jones was one of the speakers at a C.F.O. which our family attended.  Eugene, for many years, had been an Oakland fireman.  His prayer closet (although he didn’t call it that) was, in this instance, his car, and later the choir loft of his church.

This particular Sunday morning, Eugene and his wife and children were a few minutes late leaving for church.  Since Eugene was the soloist this morning he was somewhat tense as he wove in and out through the Oakland traffic.  When another car cut in front of him and cut him off, he said this “riled him but good.”

“That so and so.  What’s he think he’s doin!” And off took Eugene--fire engine style--while all the time his wife was saying:

“Eugene, stop that! Stop that, Eugene!” Finally, he pulled up in-front of the church, let his family off, and continued his pursuit--anger and indignation all the time rising, intensifying.  Soon he spotted the car.  It was parked.  Eugene pulled along side it, got out, and began telling off the driver, concluding with: and man, I’m suppose to be down there in church now.  At which point the driver of the other car interrupted,

“Man, you say you goin’ to church.  Hey, man, would you pray for me.  I really need help.” Disarmed, Eugene backed off.

“Yeah … sure man … sure” and into his car he got shaking his head and racing back to the church, where he parked and hurried to his seat in the choir at just the moment the organ sounded the first note of his solo.  Eugene stood up, cleared his throat, and began singing: “Lord, I have started to walk in the light….  I’ll pay the price” … (his voice began to break) …“whatever others do” … (his eyes filled) …I’ve started with Jesus” … And out came great, deep racking sobs, tears flowing in streams.   Eugene collapsed back into his seat, unable to regain control of what was pouring forth from him, from a place he knew was within him but from a depth that also seemed beyond him.  Now, from all over the church came similar strange sounds as others began crying, some softly, some sobbing uncontrollably with Eugene.  In telling his experience Eugene pointed out that this was not a “stereotype black church, this was a black so-ci-e-tee church.”  Yet here a spirit of repentance and contrition was breaking forth not only from within Eugene but from within every person in that church, and, as a body, they began moving down to the front where all began spontaneously re-surrendering their lives to God.

“Something happened that morning,” Eugene concluded, “that no one understood.”

Nor could it ever be explained.  Only this is certain: No carefully planned and delivered sermon ever had that kind of power.  But a human spirit, being broken in its hidden depths, did touch and move all those present.  I cannot imagine anyone consciously choosing to die to self in such a helpless, public, humiliating way.  Come to think of it, though, what better words--helpless, public, humiliating--what better words describe the way of the Cross?

A heavy burden of emotions was lifted up and out of Eugene that morning.  It began with his getting agitated (one of the meanings Br. B gave for the word undo (as in heavy burden).  Eugene’s agitation built up and intensified--until it broke (as in every yoke).  It was then that the real burden that was underneath the anger came forth--the pain and sorrow, the suffering and sin that had been buried alive--his own, his people’s, and that of the human race.

As for the rest of the words of Eugene’s solo, how descriptive they are of our walk with Jesus, of the cost of discipleship, of what is involved in becoming real--

I’m going thro’.

I’m going thro’,

I’ll pay the price,

Whatever others do.

I’ll take the Lord,

And his despised few.

I’ve started with Jesus,

And I’m going through.[4]



[1] John Powell, The Secret of Staying in Love, (Niles,Illinois: Argus Communications, 1974).

[2] Bishop Whitlock, How Jesus Teaches us to Pray, Trinity Institute, Drawer D, Lewiston, Calif. 96052.

[3] E. Stanley Jones, Song of Ascents p. 89.

[4] “I’m Going Through,” words and music by Herbert Buffum, Copyright, 1914, by W.B. Rose, Agent, Free Methodist Publishing House, owner.






At the Cross
At the crossings of life,
Where separations are crossed out,
Where individual destinies
are re-constellated.
At Gethsemane,
At Calvary,
At the Cross,
Where the divine and the human meet.






On a beach one night at Asilomar Bob had been in a state of confusion.  He had walked along the beach, alone, until he had found a rocky place to rest.  His old ways of coping with life would no longer work.  He had been trying to make contact with God, but he had not been able to make that work either.  For three months he had been saying: “Jesus, help me want to love you.” Now, he had decided to say it one last time.  As his mind had formed the words, he had been in a mental state that did not expect an answer, but in a state, also, that had no answers of his own.  This time, however, there was a response: Love--overwhelming, immersing, filling and overflowing love--poured into Bob’s life.

This love had been only the beginning of the transforming, healing power of God at work in his life.  You may remember from Chapter II that Bob’s parents had taken their own lives when he had been thirteen-years-old, and how, in the intervening twenty-five years, he had never shed one tear nor faced his buried feelings concerning their deaths.  For twenty-five years all his unexpressed, repressed emotions had been buried alive in the dark cave of his unconscious mind.  Then, on the beach that night, a tidal wave of love had washed over the protective wall built around his emotions, washed into the dark cave where a thirteen-year-old boy’s too-painful-to-be-experienced hurts had been buried.  This inundating love had prepared the way for the healing of those hurts.

When Bob had experienced the presence of Jesus and had taken hold of his hand, twenty-five years of loneliness had disappeared.  Then, three days later, those memories and emotions had been healed, and the very substance from which his inner walls had been built had come crumbling down and been washed away.

One of the inspirational books Bob had read previous to going to Asilomar had been Agnes Sanford’s The Healing Gifts of the Spirit.  Since he had been almost through reading this book, he had brought it with him.  Now it was Wednesday of that same week at Asilomar.  Bob and I had gone up to our room after lunch to rest during what was called the “horizontal hour.” Very soon I had fallen soundly asleep and Bob had turned his thoughts inward.  In his mind, pieces were beginning to fall into place--he  was becoming aware of what was to be done about the emotional numbness he had experienced in his personal relationships all these years.  Bob picked up Mrs.  Sanford’s book and turned back to an earlier chapter.  She told of experiences which she called the healing of the memories and suggested certain techniques that a person troubled with childhood hurts could do to heal early memories.  Fresh in Bob’s mind, also, were some of the things Genevieve Parkhurst had been saying that conference week.  She had spoken of healing the child in the basement, the child living within our memories who has been so hurt that even though this child is now grown, the little child in the basement of the memories still remembers the hurts and, through them, distorts and limits and cripples the adult.  Mrs.  Parkhurst, too, had suggested techniques of meditation and of prayer that could reach inside and heal this little child.

Bob began to go over in his mind the suggestions made by Mrs. Sanford and Mrs. Parkhurst.  He very carefully began to recreate in his mind that day in 1941, the eleventh day of March.  It came back to him very vividly: The arrival home on the school bus; the cold, bright day; the walk up the steep steps in the front of his house; cutting around the walk along the side of the house towards the back door where he always went in; being met by a young man, a friend of the family, who gently told him that his mother was dead, that she had taken her own life.

In Bob’s mind now, however, as he relived the scene, when he started up those steps to the house he was not alone.  The figure of Jesus, the person of Jesus, the Jesus whom he had just met, walked with him, walked beside the thirteen-year-old Bobby.  He walked him along the side of the house and he  was standing beside Bob when the young friend of the family gave Bob the news.  Bob saw his mother there, too.  And then this Jesus reached out and seemed to fill the whole scene with light and his love and his forgiveness.

Then, as Bob lay on his bed in the Asilomar room with his eyes closed, the scene in his mind jumped ahead three months to the June morning when he had awakened to the horror and turmoil of the house and had been told of his father’s death.

But again, as Bob relived this scene, when he awoke that morning Jesus was there, beside him with the others in their grief.  And, again, Jesus had reached out and surrounded them all with his light and his love and brought Bob’s father into the scene and reached out, blessing and forgiving Bob’s father just as he had blessed and forgiven Bob’s mother.

Up to this point Bob had been following the instructions of Mrs. Sanford and Mrs. Parkhurst, somehow putting the two together in a single meditation.  These instructions had pretty much directed the scenes of Bob’s imagination.

“Then suddenly,” as Bob has described what happened next, “the meditation got away from me.  It went off on its own and this imaginary Jesus that I saw in my mind suddenly turned and looked at me, his love seeming to radiate toward me.  Then he  said very gently to me:

“ ‘And I forgive you, too.’

“I was startled and shocked.  I answered back and said, ‘Why, Lord, why are you forgiving me?’ And Jesus looked at me and replied very gently:

“‘I forgive you, right now, for all the resentment and bitterness you have harbored in your heart all these years against your mother and your father because you felt they had left you and gone away and you were without them, and now I forgive you.”’

Bob said that the impact of this was like an explosion, that “suddenly my body seemed to go out of control and I began to sob.  Loud and rackingly and with tears flowing out of my eyes and covering my face.  And I couldn’t stop.  Twenty-five years of accumulated grief and tears poured out of me during the next four or five minutes.”

(All this time I was still sleeping soundly in that same small room, unaware of the miracle that was taking place.  For this Bob was grateful because this was something he said he had to do alone.)

“Finally, though,” he said, “the tears slowed and stopped.  And I was filled with peace and I felt healed.  These walls within myself, these walls that had kept out the emotion and the deep love and commitment that I had wanted to be able to share, to express towards my children, my wife, these walls had crumbled under the impact of this love, this forgiveness, and these glorious tears.  The walls had come down, and, now, I was free to truly love because I had been forgiven.  I also knew I could trust Jesus with my life.  No matter what came, I knew I could trust Him.  No matter what I might face in the future, it would be different, now, because I knew Jesus, knew that he  would never leave me.”

In the years since Bob’s initial healing, we have both experienced a continuation of healings--one seeming to lead to another, and to still another.  More, I believe, this has been true in my life, perhaps because Bob’s initial healing was so powerful, was equivalent, in fact, to the resurrection of one whose spirit had been cut off from the waters of Life.  In three short days Bob had experienced the rebirth of his soul; a baptism in Holy Love; and the healing and transformation of the most painful and crippling memories of his life.  Significantly, it was just a week over nine months since Bob’s illness, on Christmas Day, when he was forced to turn to God for help.  Nine months--the gestation period of birth and of Bob’s rebirth!  Perhaps in Bob’s case so much could take place in such a short time because he was faithful to his commitment to “give religion a try.” Most of all, it was his childlike willingness to keep on saying that “Jesus-help-me-want-to-love-you” prayer.  That prayer, I would venture to say, was spiritual dynamite.  For three months this plea had been bombarding those inner walls; had been weakening them against the time they could be crumbled and washed away; against the moment when Jesus would find a way into Bob’s life; and there, from within, speak the words

“ . . . and I forgive you.”





There comes a time in each of our lives when we meet the “Angel of Destiny” and are offered opportunity to confront the inner factors behind the attitudes and assumptions that are determining our lives.  When these--our preconditioned patterns--change, then the outer circumstances of our lives change accordingly.  It is thus the Angel of Destiny who challenges us to turn the windows through which we accusingly see others into mirrors of self-knowledge.  In this way the hidden “rulers of darkness” in our lives are brought into the judgment of light, crossing over into the light of consciousness to be redeemed by the saving power of the Cross--by a forgiveness that is both given and received.  In this way our perception of ourselves, of others and of life itself changes, setting us free to make new choices and to begin functioning from our true, our real center of being.

Just as heavenly bodies are said to form constellations, so also do inward factors collect together in certain ways to form the complexes that predetermine persons’ lives.  In accepting the Angel’s challenge, in willingly wrestling with our own unconscious strongholds, we no longer are controlled by these unconscious determinants.  Our destinies, then, are re-constellated.  Something like this happened to Jacob at the Ford of Jabbok the night he wrestled with the Angel.

Jesus, in the New Testament, is frequently shown setting persons free from the unconscious influences of their lives.  It must also happen to each person who embarks on the journey towards inner freedom.  It may happen, however, so gradually that we are not aware, until looking back, we see how drastically our attitudes and assumptions have changed and with this our old judgmentalism.  Moreover, situations that formerly evoked anger or self-righteous indignation now bring forth understanding and compassion.  Old fears have been replaced with new courage.   The need to please others and to win their approval has given way to self-acceptance.  Our aggressive self-assertiveness has yielded to consideration of others.  We no longer fear standing up for our rights; nor do we resentfully bend to the willful domination or inconsideration of others.  The roots of our human nature have been divinely transformed.

There is such a thing as wrestling against the powers of darkness which is a part of our prayer warfare (Ephesians 6:12).  There is also a higher realm beyond this in which God wrestles with us.  Prevailing prayer . . . doesn’t necessarily completely change the roots of our nature.  The wrestling of God with Jacob required in turn a wrestling on Jacob’s part  In some mysterious way [Jacob’s] wrestling caused the divine power to come to grips with his own nature, and when the wrestling was over Jacob’s very nature was changed![1]

Something similar to this happened in Evelyn Carter’s life.  Again, Evelyn was someone we met at a C.F.O. camp where she was one of the speakers and where she shared her experience of having the very roots of her nature changed.

The first time I saw Evelyn I felt a deep love for her--probably for the wrong reason--because she was black and reminded me of the beloved Lottie of my early childhood.  Even though she stood a whole foot taller than Lottie had, still there was something about Evelyn that put me in touch with all Lottie had meant in my life.  For this reason her story made a deep impression on me:

Evelyn told of her earliest memories of feeling ashamed and of the ways she had learned to compensate for these inner worthless feelings.  In one of her talks she mentioned that The Amplified New Testament, in Ephesians, says we wrestle against “master spirits.”  She then went on to tell of how God set her free from the “master spirit” that had ruled her life--a sense of shame stemming from having been born illegitimate.  It was an inner voice that said to her, “You have no legitimate right to be.” Part of Evelyn had truly believe this lie.  Her attitudes and assumptions towards herself, towards others, and towards life in general had been poisoned by it.  There came a day, however, when God reached in and pulled “this dark thing” out from the core of Evelyn’s being.  Then God gave Evelyn an antidote for the poisonous lie she had swallowed.  God told her that as her heavenly Father he--not man--had called her into existence and given her the right to be.  Furthermore, never again could anyone tell her otherwise!

Similar to Jacob, Evelyn was a conscious participant in interacting with God in order to gain the inner freedom to be who God said she was.  Without her willingness to see the unconscious deception which expressed itself in her life as anger and frustration she could not have been set free.

Evelyn found herself in a situation where her pointing finger and accusing heart was being directed outward towards another person.  In the heat of emotion she turned away from the outer, apparent cause of her anger and to God.  And when she did the outer situation became a mirror that reflected back to her the real cause of her anger--her inner sense of shame.  When God showed her this truth she saw how it had been unconsciously ruling her life.  In detecting the deception its hidden stronghold was broken.  But there was also the need for the antidote to the lie that as a child she had believed.  The antidote was a living Word from God which told her the truth of who she really was, and in doing so legitimatized her existence for all eternity.  Nor could any human being or “principality” ever again tell her otherwise.

Evelyn’s experience points to how the two human faculties of will and emotion work together to open a person’s mind and heart to the light of God’s revelation.  Evelyn, in the heat of her anger and frustration and by an act of will, turned away from the outer apparent circumstance and inwardly towards God.  I can imagine myself in her shoes, whispering a desperate plea to understand why.  Why again?  Why this repeating story of my life?  Why was I again the brunt of somebody else’s lack of consideration?  Why this blatant disregard of my plans? my time? or a hundred  other “whatevers?”  I, too, was familiar with the adrenaline rush of rising anger.  I, too, had observed the frustration of helplessness beneath my surface anger.  “Don’t I count?  Don’t I have rights?  Don’t I deserve consideration?”  And then Evelyn caught herself--”gotcha!”  The moment she turned from the outer situation to within--to God--she heard the inner voice of Spirit reveal to her the lie she had believed and upon which she had based her life..  Having seen through the deception she now was free to receive the antidote to the lie:  God was the Source of her life; it had been God who had called her into being and who had given her the right to be.

Evelyn’s experience suggests that the time to enlist the will in opening the mind and heart to the light of God’s revelation is when we are in the heat of an intense emotional reaction to a life situation that finds us over-reacting, and in which the emotion being experienced has an all-too-familiar feel to it.  In such a state the desire to know is most intense and therefore we are most open to receiving divine insight.

Assagioli, in his The Act of Will[2], offers suggestions for engaging the will in the quest for insight.  The following reflects his guidelines:

When you observe yourself reacting in anger, frustration, self-pity or some other negative emotion, turn from the outer problem and go within.  Increase your focus by visualizing the Cross, or calling upon the name of Jesus, or invoking the help of the Holy Spirit.

Ask to see the underlying cause of your response to the outer situation.

Wait for an answer.  Be open. Be receptive.  Expect to receive an answer.  Know that because you have asked, God will answer, will reveal the hidden, unconscious cause behind what you are feeling, what you are reacting to.

Write down whatever comes to mind.  Ask for further clarification if this is needed.  Ask again and until you can name the “master spirit”--the root cause.

Then ask that this root of shame, or bitterness, or rejection, or whatever, be pulled out, be uprooted from its unconscious stronghold.

Finally, continue waiting prayerfully, remaining open, receptive, and expecting God’s  living Word of divine assurance to you.

In almost every instance our negative reactions to others, especially our over-reactions, will be found to originate from a shadow self rooted in a sense of shame, inferiority, worthlessness, or in hidden fears of rejection, abandonment, or loneliness.  In our willingness to be changed at the roots of our nature we covenant with God for wholeness.  In doing so we accept the Angel of Destiny’s challenge to wrestle with whatever “master spirit” or shadow self has been controlling our destiny.  In wrestling until truth prevails over deception we receive a new name, i.e., a new nature, and with it our destiny is re-constellated.

In Gospel accounts Jesus’ frequently is shown setting persons free from unconscious deceptions and misconceptions.  There was the woman at the well, “who was seeking for things that would not satisfy.” Jesus, instead of condemning her way of life, offered her himself as the Water of Life. (John 4)

Perhaps this woman had been ruled by a lack of self-acceptance, or been deprived of a  father’s love, which sent her searching for a relationship that could fill this empty place in her life.  It was not until Jesus offered to fill her with Living Water that she saw the truth that was needed to set her free.

Then there was the time Jesus came to the pool called Bethsaida and met the lame man who, for 38 years, had been waiting to be healed.  At this pool an angel was said to come down “in certain seasons “ to trouble the waters.  According to tradition[3] whoever would step into the troubled waters would be healed.  And so it often is that the troubled waters of life lead to an experience of inner healing.  In this instance, Jesus said to the man, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6).  Recall how the man evaded Jesus’ question, explaining he had no one to help him into the waters when they were stirred.  Jesus, ignoring the man’s sense of helplessness, or perhaps his self-pity, went behind the apparent cause to speak directly to the man’s need to be freed from his self-defeating passivity.  Jesus, seeing the man’s potential for wholeness, commanded him to become a participant in changing his destiny: “Pick up your bed and walk! “  One could say that Jesus shocked this man’s paralyzed aggression into action, forced him out of his dependency-bound posture, proved to him he could carry his own weight.

The Jacob of the Old Testament and the lame man of the New Testament are a study in contrast: Jacob’s aggression ruled his life, causing him to push himself and his needs out in front and push others aside; the man at the pool, on the other hand, was controlled by his passivity and therefore lacked the self-assertiveness to say with conviction, “I’ve been here the longest, it’s my turn.” Had he said this surely someone would have come to his aid.  Had he done so, I can see those who had watched him being pushed aside all these years standing up and applauding and cheering him on.  I know I would have.  I would have identified with this man because of my own fear of being open in asserting my rights.  It is interesting to note that in this New Testament story the lame man is healed, where, in the story of Jacob’s wrestling with the Angel of Destiny, Jacob is lamed.

In the Genesis story, Jacob’s wrestler is not named, but merely referred to as a “man.”  Hosea, though, refers to the wrestler as an angel:

In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and in his manhood he strove with God.

He strove with the angel and prevailed, he wept and sought his favor.  (Hosea 12:3-4)

In re-examining Jacob’s experience I found myself relating to it personally as those times when I have wrestled in prayer in the process of becoming conscious of some hidden feeling or misperception.  My subjectivity, in fact, in retelling the next part of Jacob’s story will be easily recognized.

As Jacob prepared to leave his uncle’s, his twenty-year-old fear of Esau came out of its hiding place.  Fear and Faith began to wrestle within him.  Round after round, the “reasonableness” of his human instincts told him to fear Esau who, after all, had vowed to kill him.  But there was that other “irrational” inner voice that told him to walk right into the thing he feared.

Faith won these first rounds, but only because Jacob knew God was directing him to leave.  And more than his fear of Esau, Jacob feared the consequences of disobeying God.  Therefore Jacob, with his family, his herds, and all his possessions took off for Canaanland--but without Laban’s knowledge.

Not until three days later did Laban learn they were gone and begin to pursue them.  It took him seven days to catch up.  When he did the two were able to report their grievances and honest feelings towards one another.  This enabled them, in parting, to promise never to inflict harm on one another. (Genesis 31:52)

In leaving the land of Haran, Jacob took with him his great accumulation of wealth and, of even greater value, the lesson he had learned from his cunning uncle--what it is like to be on the receiving end of another’s trickery.

As he approached the stream called Jabbok, which bordered his homeland, Fear and Faith continued to wrestle within Jacob.  Then, as if to add fire to his inner torment, Jacob’s scouts came reporting that Esau knew of Jacob’s return and was coming to meet him with 400 armed men. (Genesis 32:6)

That night Jacob prayed.  He prayed as never before.  Trying to build up his faith, he thanked God for past help, guidance, and protection, and then Jacob told God just exactly what he was feeling:

I implore you, save me from my brother’s clutches, for I am afraid of him. (Genesis 32:11 Jerusalem Bible)

Jacob ended his prayer reminding God of his promise of continuing help.  And then he slept.

On waking, Jacob knew what he should do and began preparing a “reconciliation gift” to send ahead of him to Esau: a gift of goats, sheep, camels, cows, donkeys (Genesis 32:13).  He busied himself all day with the preparations.

Then that night Jacob sent his wives and children and all his possessions across the stream while he settled down to spend the night in prayer.  The next day he would face Esau.  Before that he needed to be alone with God and come to terms with his inner turmoil.

The inner wrestling which had begun as Jacob had prepared to leave Laban, now reached full intensity, coming in waves that threatened to pull Jacob into a state of hopeless despair.  But Jacob hung on, refusing to succumb to his fears.  He kept affirming his faith in God and claiming God’s promise to see him through.  Round after round he wrestled, as wave upon wave of fear came over him.  In each round his faith in God’s power proved greater than his fear of Esau.

At some point that night, Jacob became aware of a strange Presence.  At the same time, he also became aware that he was no longer sure exactly who he was.  He felt disorientated.  He no longer seemed to be himself but several different persons.  At times, this strange Presence seemed to be his friend, at other times his foe.  In this state of mind, Jacob seemed to be seeing his brother Esau before him.  Next Jacob’s own sense of being seemed to merge with Esau until Jacob was seeing himself through Esau’s eyes.

Through Esau’s eyes Jacob saw what he had done to his brother.  From inside Esau’s skin Jacob experienced what Esau had felt when Jacob had tricked him.  Nor was it Esau’s anger he felt, rather it was pain--unbearable pain beneath the anger.  Tears came to Jacob’s eyes as he experienced Esau’s sense of being rejected by their mother.  Great sobs came up from a depth Jacob had never before known.  Now he knew how hurt Esau had been when their father had allowed Jacob to usurp his blessing.  Soon the sobs quieted, but Jacob continued, alone in the night, weeping tears of repentance.  Jacob was once again himself, but alone--terribly alone--sorrowing for what he had done to his brother, but not at all sure he would have the opportunity to right his wrong.  Finally, when all the emotion of remorse was spent, a deep sigh came from Jacob, and he felt a great burden of guilt lifted from him.

Soon, though, the figure again appeared and again the wrestling began.  Again the face seemed to change.  Now Jacob was looking into the face of Laban.  Standing before him Laban was laughing up his sleeve at the tricks he had played on Jacob.  As Jacob watched, old feelings of anger towards his uncle arose.  Then his anger, as it had in the past, turned to determination.  Somehow he would outwit Laban.  But as he watched, his uncle’s face changed until it looked to Jacob like his own face.  Again, as with Esau, Jacob now experienced himself as looking out from inside of Laban.  What he saw was himself, laughing up his own sleeve at how he had outwitted his uncle in breeding the animals.  In that moment, Jacob knew he was no better than his uncle, and from his heart he forgave his uncle.

Again a scene appeared before Jacob.  Now he was re-seeing his last farewell with Laban.  This time Jacob was also saying farewell to the part of himself that was like his uncle.  He knew that never again would this part of himself take unfair advantage of another.  As Jacob watched, Laban and Jacob’s trickster-self faded away, disappearing from Jacob’s life, forever.

But once again Jacob was holding tight, wrestling with the angel who was saying, “Let me go for it is almost daybreak.” Jacob, though, was saying, “No, not until you bless me.”

Again faces appeared, the faces of his beloved Rachel, and of Leah who had given him so many fine sons.  Jacob saw each of his sons and his one daughter pass before him, and his sheep, and goats, and cows, and camels, and donkeys, and all his servants and possessions.  As they paraded before him Jacob was hearing something Laban had said to him: “All that you now possess belonged to me” (Genesis 31:43).

It was true!  He did have Laban to thank for all that was dear to him.  In that moment, Jacob saw that even though Laban had tricked him God had allowed it, in fact had used it for Jacob’s own good.

Then, one last time, the face of the mysterious Presence reappeared, this time asking Jacob a question:

“What is your name?”

“My name is Jacob.”

“Your name shall no longer be Jacob but Israel, because you have been strong and passed through this your dark night of judgment.  You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have prevailed. (Genesis 32:28)

With this the light of a new day began to dawn; the sun appeared over the hills; and, at the same moment, the angel disappeared.

As Jacob stood and began to walk it was with great difficulty.   Something was wrong with his thigh.  In wrestling it had been put out of joint. (Genesis 32:21)  And from that day on for the rest of his life Jacob would walk as one who had wrestled with God, who had won, but who in the process had been maimed.


[1] Gordon Lindsay, “Crises That Make a Prince with God,” Christ For the Nations Magazine, October, 1976 (Dallas, Texas: Christ For the Nations), p. 7.

[2] Roberto Assagioli, M.D., The Act of Will, Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1973

[3] See footnote in RSV for John 5:4.






Jacob was limping as he crossed the Ford of Jabbok.  Twenty years ago his journey of transformation had begun, but only now had he come to the crux of that journey--to the Cross--to the place of forgiveness.

In all this long, difficult, exciting journey …one need comes again and again.  This need is for forgiveness.  Man longs to be forgiven.  He longs to be able to forgive.  Why?  Perhaps because forgiveness is, in a very real sense, the process of transformation of his inner and his outer world.[1]

During Jacob’ s long night of wrestling, his inner world had changed, but he still had not encountered Esau face to face.  Now it was no longer his own personal safety for which Jacob feared, but his family’s safety and that of his servants and flocks.  He now had one personal desire and the words expressing this desire began forming in his mind.  More than anything, Jacob wanted the opportunity to say to Esau:

“Brother, forgive me.  Before I took from you; now I want to give to you.  Before I was insensitive to your feelings; now I know how you felt.  Before I betrayed you; now I want to be your friend.  Before I acted arrogant and rude to you; now, I humbly beg your forgiveness.”

As he approached Esau his old aggressive, self-determined way of walking was gone, as was his ambition to rule the clan or to possess great wealth.

He could just see the figure of Esau coming towards him.  Jacob bowed as he approached Esau, paying homage to his brother but also begging God’s mercy.  Closer they came.  Jacob could almost make out the expression on Esau’s face.  Was it anger?  Resentment?  Again and again Jacob bowed to the ground.  The gap between the brothers was closing.

Jacob then noticed Esau began to run towards him.  Esau was smiling; his arms were open; tears were running down his checks.  Esau was glad to see him! Joy flooded Jacob’s heart; tears now streamed down his face, too.  Into each other’s arms the two brothers fell, embracing, kissing, washing each other’s faces in their tears.

Jacob begged Esau’s forgiveness, but could hardly believe it when he heard Esau also asking for his forgiveness.

There, in that moment, a whole lifetime of hostility was crossed out, as each brother forgave and was forgiven.

It would seem from Esau’s openness towards Jacob that something also had taken place in Esau’s heart.  I would imagine that seeing Jacob’s humility in approaching him, and even Jacob’s limp, must have effected Esau’s feelings towards Jacob, but perhaps this only confirmed what Esau already knew in his heart, that the climate between himself and his brother had changed.

Twins often are known to have strong unconscious ties to one another; one twin sensing what the other feels.  On this intuitive level, it seems likely that Esau could have experienced the change of heart simultaneously with Jacob.  From even the little that is understood about how intercessory prayer works, it seems likely that Esau was actually healed and set free when Jacob vicariously experienced Esau’s own deep, inner pain.  Then again, Esau also might have wrestled that very night with an angel, and received the blessing of self-acceptance, and knowledge that he was acceptable to God, that he did have a right to be.  In the economy of the Spirit, it seems likely that God had set up every detail leading up to the encounter and reconciliation of these twins who were also representative of two aspects of what it means to be human.

God’s has a way of bringing those on the journey towards wholeness to places where they can experience their sameness with all other human beings.  This is said to be “the wisdom of the sage.”[2]  It is this realization of sameness that releases persons from separation and loneliness.  In experiencing our sameness with all other human beings we are set free from self-deception, which in turn frees us both to receive and to give forgiveness.

When I retold Jacob’s night of wrestling and his reconciliation with Esau, I was doing what John S. Dunne calls “passing over.”  He  suggests that when we empathetically relate to another’s life we be receptive to any images or impressions that express the other’s feelings.  From such we can gain insight, not only in order to understand the other, but to understand ourselves, to gain insight by which to be guided in the course of our lives.

According to Dunne, the cause of personal suffering is our refusal to “pass over” into empathetic relationship with others.  He calls this the “hell of private suffering.”[3] We choose independent isolation over dependent vulnerability.  It is from our self-imposed and self-perpetuated prisons most of us are seeking to be freed.  As children most of us started out in life being openly vulnerable by nature, but, at some point in growing up, we began building walls between ourselves and the hurting power of others.  I have seen how this happened in my own life, in Bob’s life, and in the lives of our children.

One of the children in our family was different from the rest in his openness, his friendliness, and his vulnerability.  That was Willy.  And though I now know that Willy suffered many hurts as a child and as a teenager, he remained open until he was nearly grown.  He might have been better off to have built his walls sooner, but then he wouldn’t have been Willy.  By nature Willy was spontaneous and trusting, and seemed always to have the expectation that others were as interested in him as he was in them.  Perhaps it was this expectation rather than his spontaneity and openness that made him so vulnerable.

When Willy was little he sometimes used to embarrass me.  There was a time when he was almost five and I was expecting Anna.  Robert Jr.  was off to school by then, and Willy was my constant companion as I cooked, cleaned and prepared for the birth of our third child.  Although I had a very natural rapport with this second son, I sometimes was impatient with his questions, such as the one he kept asking about the baby I was expecting:

“Mommy, is the baby in your tummy going to be a little sister baby or a little brother baby?” Willy just could not seem to accept my:

“I don’t know Willy.” Until finally I said, and not at all reverently, “God only knows.” A short time later, Willy and I were in the post office, and out of the blue, Willy said to the postal clerk, pitching his voice to make sure he was heard:

“You know what?  Only God knows what kind of a baby is in my mommy’s tummy.”

Had I not been so embarrassed I could have appreciated the deep reverence with which Willy said this.  Well, that was Willy--the natural born giver-of-himself-to-others member of our family.  The one word that described him was willing--Willing Willy.

Once when Willy was in his early twenties and home visiting, I mentioned to him that he hadn’t been home for some months.  “More than I like to count,” he said.  But I had counted! I knew my son was avoiding me! For more than three years a tug-a-war had been going on between this son and myself.  At times I had felt hurt by his independent disregard of my advice for his life.  But now we were together again and during our time of separation something seemed to have changed.  Willy explained he had been working through some “heavy inner feelings.”  I told him I had, too! And I said a prayer of thanks that God, in wisdom, had kept us apart until it was creative for us to be together again.

One of the things Willy mentioned on this visit was a memory he had recalled: he was taking out the garbage and being his usual happy, cheerful self, whistling away while he helped.  But there was a pain-feeling in this memory--an emotionally-charged hurt--that was related to something he had overheard me say to a visiting friend: “The wonderful thing about Willy,” I had said, “is that he not only takes out the garbage for me, but he whistles while doing it.” Willy said that this remark, made those many years ago, still gave him a sinking, hurt feeling such as when someone you thought was your friend punctured your balloon.  Willy said that this remark caused him to say to himself, about himself: “I am not accepted for myself but only for my willingness, and only then if I am cheerful about doing what is expected of me.”

I understand now why this memory felt so painful to Willy, but at the time he shared it all I could say was: “But Willy, that was not true.  Whether you felt that way or not, you were accepted and loved; you were acceptable and you certainly were loveable.  I am truly sorry to have hurt you, but I did love you very much, then, now, and always.”

There was an unusual openness flowing between us that day as there in the kitchen Willy, still being helpful, pitched in with the lunch preparations.  He understood that there was truth in what I was saying, too, and explained that he was not sharing the memory to inflict hurt on me, but because it was important to him to feel accepted, not for what he did or did not, but for himself.

That day there was a sense of loving, understanding forgiveness interchanging between Willy and myself.  However, it was not until a week or so after Willy’s visit that I realized the full impact of what he had shared.  Bob and I had gone to a movie in Sacramento.  After the show we had stopped by a bookstore where I picked up Paul Tournier’s The Naming of Persons, and which was subtitled, “The fascinating role of names and naming in the formation of our personal identity.”[4] I leafed through the pages, stopping at a chapter on the problem of possessiveness.  I knew there was a message in this book for me.  I bought it.  Nor could I go to sleep that night until I had read it.  In reading Tournier’s book I finally understood why my unthinking (unconscious) remark had inflicted such deep and lasting pain on Willy’s soul.  I could no longer escape facing the source in me from which the remark had come--not my sensitive, loving, mother self, but my possessive, insensitive-to-the-personhood-of-the-chiild, other self--the one  Jung archetypally defines as the “terrible” or “devouring” mother--she who seeks to hold and bind her child to herself in dependency rather than loving the child unconditionally for his or her own self.

In the twelfth chapter of Revelations, the creature who comes up out of the sea and tries to devour the child born of the “woman clothed with the sun,” could be describing this “terrible” aspect of motherhood.  But, in the scripture, the divine Mother is given two wings (praise and prayer?) by which to rise above and protect her child from the creature.  Although this scripture has other interpretations, it might also be speaking of the unconscious maternal tendency to want to bind our children to ourselves, even looking upon them as extensions of ourselves to be manipulated and controlled for our own purposes.  This dark side of motherhood, in failing to acknowledge the personhood of the child, withholds the reverence that is the child’s due, and relinquishes her role to protect and nurture the child’s inner Christ-Self.

It had not been my thoughtless words that had instilled the pain of Willy’s memory.  It has been my possessive attitude, a darkness that I had to admit existed in me and could be unconsciously acted out through me when least expected.  In realizing this I heard a plea for help come out of my heart

Mary, Mother of Jesus, teach me to love without possessing, to have and to hold without controlling.  Teach me to love my children as you loved yours.

Looking back on Willy’s life, I can see how his name and his open nature helped form his personal identity.  Was he not Willing Willy, always ready to help others, and to happily whistle while doing it--even when he didn’t feel like being helpful?  Such a heavy burden on a child’s back can not but create an inner, opposing reality that must, at some point, at some passage in life, be felt.  Perhaps it is for this reason that hurtful memories must come to light: in order to expose the absurd lies our souls have believed and upon which faulty foundation we have tried to base our lives. 

It is absurd that God, whose nature is Truth, and who, in his role as loving Father, would ask his children to do whatever was asked of them, no matter how they might feel about it, and then expect them to pretend to be happy about it.  In Gethsemane, Jesus was willing to accept the Cross, but he  travailed.  He was willing only if there was no other possibility by which the purpose for which he  had come could be fulfilled.  Nor was Jesus afraid to express his true feelings to his heavenly Father.

Now is my soul troubled.  And what shall I say, “Father save me from this hour?” No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. (John 12:27)

In the garden Jesus was demonstrating the will functioning on its highest possible level--a soul willingly fulfilling his destiny, but at the same time recognizing and acknowledging his human fears, desires and need to feel supported by God and by others:

And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death; remain here, and watch.” (Mark 14:34)

Willy was asking to be free to discover the meaning and purpose of his life, but he was asking also for my loving support, even when, in my judgment, he made mistakes and seemed to be going in wrong directions.  He was no longer asking for approval but for love--for non-possessive, unconditional love. 

In coming to this place of both independent freedom and dependent vulnerability, if we are not to feel isolated and cut off from human warmth, then there is a great need to be both forgiven and forgiving, for only then can the heavy burdens of life be lifted.

Dunne, in explaining “passing over,” pinpoints “the moment of forgiveness” as the moment one’s “hell of private suffering” ceases to exist.  The moment of forgiveness, he says, is the moment of coming back to oneself and to one’s life situation.  Now, one is free of the heavy burden that has been crushing and burying the real self.

Everyone I can ever recall reading or hearing speak on the subject of inner healing or spiritual wholeness has underlined forgiveness as the key to the kingdom of heaven.  The symbol of forgiveness is the Cross, but the Cross is not only a symbol, it is a place.  It is the inner place where forgiveness still takes place, and not just once but over and over again.   The Cross is where the darkness in oneself crosses over into the light of consciousness where it can be seen and yielded up.  It is where we can come to see our sameness with every other member of the human race, and therefore can acknowledge our own vulnerability to darkness.  It is where we can see into our own dark hearts.

Jacob, before he could complete his journey back home, had to see that he was no better than his uncle, that he, too, was a cheat and a trickster.  When finally he could feel the pain he had inflicted on his brother, and could weep both for Esau and himself, at that point both were released.

Life also has a way of bringing us, as it did Jacob, to times of crossings.  But before the crossing or passage can be made, the old cords that bind us must be loosened--the old fears and resentments that still connect us to the past and to all the times we have felt let down by others or have felt we let ourselves down by not being true to ourselves, even the times we have acted happy about helping when all the time we were resenting it but helpless to say so because of our need for approval, or our fear of rejection, or of not measuring up and therefore not being acceptable even to God.

In my experience of empathizing with Jacob, I actually felt Jacob sobbing for his brother, for Esau’s pain of feeling rejected by his mother, let down by his father, by friends, and even by God.  I am sure that through identifying with Jacob and Esau, I touched some of my own inner depths.  I felt sure that Esau’s pain was so great that on some level he felt rejected by life itself; that he felt utterly alone, with no one to give him the right to be or to confirm him as a person in his own right.  Esau’s name, meaning “hairy,” “shaggy,” i.e., “earthy,” was an indication of his nature and his identity.  Perhaps his pain--his sorrow--had come from the very earth itself.  In any event, it felt familiar to me.  I once had awakened from a dream sobbing like that.  Why I hadn’t known, perhaps for inner hurts still too deeply buried to feel except in a dream, hurts that might even have extended back through the generations out of which I was born.  I really hadn’t known for whom or for what I sobbed, only that it was deep, and that even after awakening it felt to have come from a level deeper than my own personal being.

Moreover, I believe that cries that come from inner depths are prayers of release, not only for ourselves but for those we have hurt, or to whom we may be generationally linked.  As Paul suggests, in Christ there are deep, unfathomable mysteries.  In the twelfth chapter of I Corinthians he speaks of the inter-relatedness within the Body of Christ.  This scripture could explain how the reconciliation between Esau and Jacob actually took place before they were reunited physically.

           If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.  Now you are the Body of Christ and individually members one of the others.  (I Corinthians 12:26, 27)

As the shadow selves that stand between Christians and God are faced, as our projections onto others and our expectations from them are withdrawn, as we forgive and are forgiven, in this way we are healed.  Moreover, when we are healed, we are not healed alone.

One sharing day at Murray Creek we had been discussing what the Body of Christ meant to each of us.  It was Genia who said something like this:

           To me, if the Body of Christ is anything, it is a forgiving community.  I need to be able to tell you my honest feelings and I need your forgiveness.  I need this because often I cannot forgive myself and often I simply cannot believe that even God can forgive me.  But if you can accept me, if I can feel forgiveness coming from you, then I also know God forgives me.  Maybe this is not how it should be, but this is how it is with me.

If we have learned anything over the years it is that the work of transformation in our individual lives cannot continue unless we are honest about our feelings both to ourselves and to one another, and unless we are forgiving towards ourselves, towards our past, and towards one another.

At C.F.O. Agnes Sanford spoke on Jesus’ words from the Cross: “Father, forgive them.”  She commented that because the power of forgiveness is the greatest power in the universe, when Jesus came to the decisive moment on the Cross he uttered these words--“Father, forgive them.”

Jung holds that there is an actual power inherent in a true symbol; and that the symbol itself is a transmitter of the power it embodies.  The power of a symbol is, in fact, added to as over time it serves to focalize the force--the power of the principle--it symbolizes.  For 2000 years now the Cross has stood for the sacrificial love of God for the world.  As such, it is the most powerful of all symbols, having the power not only to transform persons but to redeem creation as well.  During a time of inner listening this came to me:

           If we could rise up and over the earth, and view the Cross from far above; if we could time travel also, and view the Crucifixion from then until now,  we would see it surrounded by a light that rather than dissipating over the centuries has been steadily increasing and expanding until it encompasses the earth.

           With spiritual vision we would see bridges of light extending out from the horizontal beam of the Cross to every person who lives, or ever has or ever will.

           We would see the source of the light as coming down through the vertical line of the Cross, being grounded by Jesus on the Cross, and sent out from there through him.

           Looking down from above we also would see individuals--one by one--coming to the Cross, kneeling at its foot, reaching out, touching it, and its power passing through them and into the earth itself.

In my mind’s eye I saw this as what creation had been awaiting; this as what the whole of creation had been “groaning in travail”--for the sons and daughters of light.  And I asked:  How many more will it take?  How many more before Earth herself is reborn?

On Calvary, with two splintering pieces of wood and with three or four nails, the breech was repaired and the chasm between heaven and earth spanned by an arc of the greatest power in the universe--the power of unconditional forgiveness.  Thus the greatest of all possibilities has been opened and offered to all--the possibility of stepping out of our “hells of private sufferings”; the possibility of “passing over” from judgment to empathy.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.… that you may become sons of light.  (John 12:23.26)

The Cross, therefore, is not “just a symbol,” nor is it simply a reminder.  It is an inner place to which we are being called, being drawn, in order to be empowered with that greatest of all powers--that of a contrite and broken heart, one overflowing with compassion and forgiveness for all, and by which the sons and daughters of light are to be recognized.

It is now somewhere around 4000 years since Jacob wrestled at Jabbok.[5] There the very roots of one man’s nature were transformed, and through Jacob the Twelve Tribes of Israel--the hereditary line of Jesus--was established.  Jabbok was a crossing place for the human race, as was Calvary around 2000 years later.  And now, after another 2000 years, we stand at another collective crossing as the eternal Son of God is born and reborn en masse and the redeeming work of the Cross is extended to all of creation, to nature itself, and into the depths of human nature.

At the Cross
at the crossings of life,
where separations are crossed out,
where new possibilities cross over,
where individual lives--
one by one--
are redeemed,
where individual destinies--
one by one--
are re-constellated,
at Gethsemane,
where two lines meet,
one vertical--
for God--
one horizontal--
for man--
at Calvary,
where the divine and the human meet. 


[1] Fritz Kunkel, as quoted in Man the Choicemaker by Elizabeth Boyden Howes and Sheila Moon (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 3.973) P. 22.

[2] John S. Dunne, The Way of All the Earth (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1972), p. 230.

[3] Ibid. pp. 53-57.                                                                                                                          

[4] Paul Tournier, The Naming of Persons, (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1975), Chapter 2.

[5] The Chronology in my RSV Bible places the Patriarchal age beginning with Abraham around 2000 B.C.; Isaac around 1900; and Jacob around 1800 B.C.



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