My journey began in February when I confessed to the Lord my dissatisfaction with my physical self and asked for His help. He said very unequivocally that He would do it through ‘inches of surrender’. Soon after that I was contacted and asked if I would like to take part in the pilot programme of Living Waters (Elävät Vedet) as a team member. For some years I had wanted to take part in the programme itself or the one week training in Finland. However, both these hopes didn’t seem to work out as there were never enough people to start up the programme in Jyväskylä where I was then living, and I was always summers abroad when the training week would take place.
However, God’s timing is perfect in all things and I was finally brought to the day of fulfilling my dream, and in the best way possible: I was accepted into the intensive training week run by the Living Waters and discipleship programme in the UK. It was thanks to Andy Chambers, the Living Waters (LW) coordinator that I ever got to hear that training can be done in other countries and in other languages, if one is willing to pay the extra costs of travelling. Now many months after my time there, I have no regrets financially or otherwise. In fact the Lord truly filled my cup until it was overflowing and deepened my relationship with him and with myself.
As so much happened, it might be easiest if at first I sketch out the themes of the programme. Of course, the opinions are mine alone, but there was no doubt that all those who came expecting God to do something during that week did not leave empty-handed, but with their laps filled and running over. I know I did and am slowly reaping the benefits and pondering how the Lord will continue to help me to help myself.
The book we followed, The Journey of Grace, written by Dr. Lisa Guinness, is an adaptation of the original Living Waters book, but the themes are the same. The only difference I’ve seen after taking part in the Finnish Living Waters programme this past autumn, is that The Journey of Grace makes the links between various themes a little more clear-cut, includes more diagrams and visualisations and includes more interactive tasks.
The Healing Week, as it is called in England, took place in a college on the outskirts of an English village and turned out to be an ideal setting for much soul-searching and navel-gazing, as well as excellent fellowship and healing. The programme began Sunday afternoon – after an introduction to the programme and the team leaders and members, the first theme ‘In the Beginning God…/Creation’ was broached. It was already apparent from the beginning that the atmosphere was truly Spirit-soaked. I had my three intercessors praying for me in Finland, and the programme had their own onsite intercession team. Already in the first evening, as I pondered what the Lord really wanted to work on in me during that week, He made it crystal clear, and I was able to share that the following day when we shifted to the theme of ‘Setting the Scene: My family story/testimonies’. As is common in these types of programmes, in my application, I had already written out extensive reflections on my own journey of healing and discipleship, about my family members, and what I thought the Lord had already been dealing with and would want to deal with. The focus for the week for me was my problem with honouring my body and taking good care of it through exercise and diet. He didn’t change the issue that Sunday night, but He did take me one step closer to the root by revealing to what the real issue was – my hatred and self-loathing of my own body, which I had never previously realised or acknowledged. It was with great joy that I shared this on that Monday morning during the one-minute testimonies given by all delegates. However, the Lord went even deeper to the kernel of the issue, but that was revealed slowly through the week.
The other themes that we went through during the week were: The Fall: The loss of our true nature, blessing, authority; Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit; The Cross: the place of healing and comfort; Our Mothers; Shame at being an Orphan; Addiction; Abuse, Receiving Motherly Love; Our Fathers; The Cross: our need to confess our sins and own our addictions; Receiving Fatherly Love & Renouncing my Idols; Siblings & Peers; The Cross: Forgiving others & ourselves; Healing our Feminine; Healing our Masculine; Reconciliation; and finally Staying on the Journey.
Of course, we didn’t just sit there all morning or afternoon, but after a full teaching session, we would usually retire into small groups and discuss what the themes had brought to mind and then receive prayer from our small group leaders. I had two wonderful ladies who at first had to deal with my resistance at being in the position of being prayed for and being subject to them. After a few small group meetings and clear evidence that the Lord was using these ladies, I finally submitted. I am not proud of admitting this, but I think it is rarely acknowledged that those of us who are used to being in positions of leadership, do not always easily submit to others’ authority; especially if they seem younger and less experienced. Well, the Lord knocked that idea well and truly on the head, and I write this as a reminder to myself and a caution to others. I received more than I could have imagined through these small group leaders and it was the ultimate luxury to sit (or sometimes lie) back and receive such abundant prayer, love, care and words of wisdom and knowledge.
An excellent inclusion to the week’s programme was the chance to play sports and do other pursuits in between meal and small groups’ times. Although I have never been one to go running after a ball or a frisbee, it was great fun to watch others doing it, and it was a chance for the team members and delegates to try to thrash the other with no fear of retribution!
The free time provided was also essential to be on one’s own and to reflect upon what had been learnt and to listen to the Lord anew. For myself, almost every single teaching session gave me something to chew on, despite the fact that I have been through quite a few healing courses, trainings and seminars in the last 10 years. The best thing was however how the Lord began to separate a lot of the strands of my issue of what had seemed at first like a horrible mess of different influences, sins, attitudes and events. This happened through many things: the teaching, the small group sessions and prayer, my daily times of devotion and reading Scripture, and the special events when we concentrated on one theme such as confession of sins, sexual and otherwise.
One aspect of the programme which surprised me, but which was the most rewarding was the visual and interactive nature of the week. We didn’t just sit, listen, talk and pray all the time, but we were encouraged through visual and concrete aids to seek the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all the time and at any point, even right in the middle of the teaching. The Father was concretely symbolised by an armchair draped with majestic colours of red and purple to represent the Father’s throne. The Son was represented by a huge wooden cross and a large pair of cupped wooden hands. The Holy Spirit was depicted as a river with beautiful lengths of various blue cloths strewn across the floor and actually buckets of water placed on this river. The river ended at the foot of the cross. All of these points were at the sides of the large hall, so that you could easily get to any of these points without disturbing the teaching or others. It was wonderful to see people at different times sitting at the foot of the throne, or even draped across it as if they were sitting on their Father’s lap. I myself on one crucial occasion (for a deliverance) felt led to sit and later lie in the cleansing waters of the Holy Spirit. The large wooden cross and the hands were used as part of the bigger themes during the week, but also on an individual basis – you could pin prayer requests, or confessions, or idols onto the cross, or lay them in His hands.
One particular evening after the theme of ‘Renouncing my Idols’, we had to wait upon the Lord to reveal what idols we had in our lives, write them onto individual white bathroom tiles, enclose them securely into a doubled plastic bag, repent and renounce those idols by smashing the tiles with a hammer, and then hammer that limp and crushed bag to the cross. I felt real anger and release as I smashed the idols revealed to me. One of the other delegates was crying in rage or some other great emotion as he battered his into smithereens. It was the right place and time to fully feel and fully surrender those idols to the Lord.
Through these concrete acts we were forced to acknowledge our own responsibility for our sins, and also to make way for the correct response to God’s mercy, grace and cleansing. Another incident that I recall is in connection with the theme of ‘The Cross: Forgiving others & ourselves’. We had to write down all those we had to forgive, including ourselves. We then walked a little away from the college grounds and burnt the slips of paper in a big bonfire. This was done largely in silence, although I don’t recall us being asked to do it in silence. I think the weight of our confessions and desire to release all past bitterness and unforgiveness kept us quiet. When all the papers were burnt, someone started to sing a simple song of thanksgiving to the Lord and the beauty of that moment with a soft rain falling upon us deepened the delicate, but awe-worthy atmosphere. It was a fitting end to our act of worship to the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
e.g. Anya, Espoo