Context: A few nights ago I had a vivid, strange and disturbing dream:
I saw a group of very young children who had just been separated from those whose task it was to take care of them. The children weren’t old enough to walk, so they were having to crawl along a rough, narrow, dirty street, moving away from their carers, and towards an unknown destination.
All of them were wailing. It was a heartbreaking sound. In his distress, perhaps blinded by tears, one little boy blundered head-first into a stone wall. He slumped to the ground, and I was shocked to hear him cry out, “They don’t love us any more”, in utter despair, hopelessness and desolation. After that he stopped moving. It was clear that he had given up the will to survive.
My heart went out to him. I jumped up and ran to him, putting my arms round his small body to comfort him. At that moment, I woke up with my arms clasped around my pillow. Instantly, even before I could begin to pray, several realisations struck me hard:
What I realised
Everything I experienced during my childhood laid the foundations of my mental health during adult life.
This includes how I was treated by those who brought me up, as well as by those I was exposed to at school, in churches, clubs, hospitals and all other settings.
Thus, for good or ill, I have been influenced and affected by all the relationships and events I experienced during my formative years.
From my dream, and from the realisations which followed immediately afterwards, I understood even more clearly than before that the damage done to me in childhood caused the wounds and scars I have carried into adulthood.
These wounds shaped the person I have become, including all I feel, think, say and do. They affect how I behave, relate to others, cope with suffering, treat the world, understand God, and even whether or not I want to live. They also affected how I brought up my son, and how I reacted to having a miscarriage.
My dream showed me the mechanism by which so much of my psychological distress and mental illness has been caused. Only God can fully heal the inner damage I sustained, and the consequences with which I have had to live.
I am the LORD who heals you (Exodus 15:26; NLT).
He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.
(Psalm 147:3; NLT).