Tag Archives: Restoration

Irene Ascough: Being Restored

Mental Health Initiative 2018

by Irene Ascough

For the past year The Messenger has published articles that have spoken about Mental Health and Mental Illness. As a Mental Health Initiative in the EMC, we hope to have sparked conversation and discussion among our churches. Our articles have asked people to consider how the church can care for people who have a mental illness. We have looked at how we can become communities that promote the mental health and well-being of youth. We have also considered our role in supporting the healing work of God and how can we interact with the systems and supports that surround us.

This article contains part of my story, and is an example of how we all experience brokenness, pain and challenges to our mental well-being. It is based on the belief that our mental, emotional, spiritual, relational and physical health are inter-related. In 1 Corinthians 12:26 we read, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.” I believe that this is true of both our individual selves and of the Church.

My Story

One day this summer I was out for a walk and listening to a devotional app that I use. The reading that day was Psalm 23 and as I heard the familiar words, “He restores my soul,” it became personal and clear to me that God is restoring my soul. While I knew a sense of longing for it to be true, I also wondered what had happened to my soul? While we all suffer under original sin and need restoration, I knew that I had committed myself to God many years ago and had not walked away from that commitment. So, I wondered, what had happened to my soul?

Albert Barnes, in his commentary, says that the reference to the soul here is not to the soul as wandering or backsliding from God, but to the life or spirit as exhausted, wearied, troubled, anxious, worn down with care and toil. And the heart, thus exhausted, He re-animates. He brings back its vigour. He encourages it, excites it to new effort, fills it with new joy.

Well, that described my soul at the time. I had experienced multiple losses that were sudden and unexpected and, therefore, traumatic. My spirit was exhausted, weary, sad, troubled, anxious and worn down with care; and it was amazing to hear God speaking to me through His Word that He would restore my soul.

Restoration

I got curious about the word restore, and thought about where else we use that word. I thought about the things people restore, such as old buildings which probably cost more to restore than to tear down and build new. Or old furniture that is given new life and purpose with fresh paint and hardware. There are art restorers who painstakingly clean the dirt and grime off an old painting to uncover the original colors, shadows, and vibrancy that the artist first created.

People restore things because they see the original beauty and the value of the craftsmanship. They recognize that they do not have some mass-produced, cheaply made, disposable item, but something interesting and unique and made to last. They also know that they will never get back what they put into it, and that doesn’t matter because what they do is a labour of love and it brings them great satisfaction and joy.

Now think of yourself as the building or furniture or piece of artwork and imagine God as the restorer. We are His creation and in the beginning we were very good (Genesis 1). However, our souls become weary and worn, battered and bruised from a combination of many things, including our choices, the things that happen to us, and the fact that we live in a broken world.

Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Masterpieces aren’t made by run of the mill craftsmen; they require the skilled hands of a genius. They are one of a kind, never to be repeated gifts to the world. Stripping off the false layers and dirt that cover up your unique qualities and life is complex.

What adds to the complexity is that we are not inanimate objects that God works on as He wills. We have our own will and can choose how we respond to His work in our lives. If we consent to His restoring work in our soul, then we can join Him by creating an environment that will allow him to do what only He can do in our lives.

The difference between Mental Health and Mental Illness

Making Room

For me this has meant that I make space for God to do His healing work in my life in the following ways. I accept the prayers and support of family, friends and my church family, and I am grateful for the way God meets me in those relationships. I went to see my physician and a mental health professional and rely on their expertise as they guide me in ways that encourage my physical and mental well-being.

I also meet with people who provide pastoral and spiritual care to me, and I am grateful that they understand my journey and help me to process grief through spiritual practices such as reading scripture, praying, participating in community, worship, and service.

These practises are becoming like food and water to my soul rather than the things I should do. I am discovering that I can read the Bible so that I know the “Word made flesh” more deeply and intimately. When I pray, I spend less time telling God what I want Him to do and I am learning to say as the boy Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

As I am being shaped and formed by the Holy Spirit in these practices, my life in community, my worship and my service are also changing. For example, when I spend time with others who are being restored, I am able to focus less on what we are doing and see more of who we are becoming. This allows me to hear others’ stories with compassion and grace.

Irene
Irene Ascough

I like to think that the work God is doing in me is just one small part of the work that He is doing in each of us and in all of creation. Even though the journey always has ups and downs, I am grateful that in the process of restoring my soul, I am also finding greater health in my physical, mental, and emotional well-being. I trust the words of Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Irene Ascough, BN, has experience in and is passionate about health promotion. She is currently pursuing training as a spiritual director and is an active member at Kleefeld EMC.

Letters November/December 2016

God Himself Corrects Israel

I agree with Don Plett (An Ill-Advised Resolution Against Israel, October 2016) that Scripture tells us that Israel is a nation chosen and loved by God. I disagree with Don Plett about how to bless Israel. God has spent all of history loving and drawing unfaithful Israel back to Himself through correction and discipline, often getting very angry! I do not feel that blessing the nation of Israel means turning a blind eye to the atrocities taking place in Palestine.

Scripture is clear about how Israel is expected to behave toward the alien and stranger. Leviticus 19:34: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him….” Deut. 10:19: “So show your love for the alien….”

I don’t know if sanctions on Israel are the appropriate Mennonite response to the oppression being wrought on Palestine. But I certainly feel that Mennonites can despise the ungodly actions of the Israeli Defense Force and ought to support some form of non-violent response to illegal settlements and brutality.

– Jen Kornelsen, Winnipeg, Man.


Conflict and Friends

I appreciate the balanced approach featuring a column by Senator Don Plett and a response from Dan Dyck, representing Mennonite Church Canada.

I agree with brother Plett that as Christians we have a connection with the Jews and are called to seek the blessing of Israel and pray for her peace.  I certainly affirm her right to exist as a sovereign people in the land.  With brother Dyck, I deplore the violence that has been perpetrated against Israel by groups such as Hamas.

While brother Plett warns that the resolution affirmed by Mennonite Church Canada delegates is “an extreme position against Israel,” he offers no alternative solution to address the ongoing conflict. Granted, no simple solution exists.  But I believe that as Christians seeking to be peacemakers, we have an opportunity and an obligation to start somewhere.

The resolution in question may in the long run achieve very limited results. But it is a way of responding to the pleas of our Christian Palestinian brothers and sisters, and can raise awareness of the issues.  To do this does not mean that you are anti-Semitic or against Israel.

I would hope that to be a friend of Israel includes being willing to challenge her on current destructive policies, and encourage her to take steps that make for peace and dignity for all within her borders.  True friends tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear.

The biblical record shows that Israel’s occupation of the land was always conditional on her faithfulness to God, including the treatment of the alien and stranger in her midst.

– Ward Parkinson, Morris, Man.


Restoration

The October 2016 issue hit on some important issues hopefully precipitating further discussion: forgiveness of sins (Harvey Plett), The Gospel defined (Darryl Klassen), and policing (Layton Friesen). Two of the articles touch on an issue needing further clarification—reconciliation.

Dr. Plett states at the end of his article that after forgiveness, “reconciliation and renewed relationship should happen” (my emphasis). Layton Friesen similarly states “we have to find more peaceful, humane and effective ways of resolving conflict. For example ‘restorative justice’….” Dr. Klassen also hints at “reconciliation” in his last paragraph.

These statements tantalizingly imply processes that are involved and far from automatic. My concern is that where there is offence, for example, in domestic abuse that there is also a justifiable loss of trust that is not easily repaired (Do we put a thief back in charge of accounts receivable?). The loss of trust often makes it pragmatically impossible for a relationship to be restored to where it once was.

The church has sometimes forced (coerced?) an abused and vulnerable spouse back to a partner who cannot be trusted, and it is predictable that the offence will recur. This puts a double onus on the person wronged—to forgive the abuser again and then to refrain from lawsuit against the church for foreseeable harm done. It is not enough merely to put the couple back together assuming that this is the biblical answer!

Some of us have also experienced cases where the church has intervened to protect the wronged spouse. These actions have at times lead to a healthy and happy remarriage or contented “singleness” opted for while the abuser usually finds little in the way of healing.

We are left with the question, then, “What is the church’s responsibility in bringing about reconciliation and healing?”

– Ray Hill, MacGregor, Man.