by Kevin “Mac” McClure
“He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds.”
Psalm 147:3 (NLT)
I have been blessed by inner healing and deliverance prayer over the years and continue to hunger for more wholeness. I was recently encouraged to go through the “Thorough” ministry (five three-hour sessions, as opposed to the “Issue Based” ministry that is just one session) offered by Restoring the Foundations (RTF), a now global ministry that trains healing prayer ministers and is being used by God to provide breakthrough for multitudes. I filled out the “My Story” life history form, all seventeen pages of it! I wondered, “Where will I find the time to fill out all these pages?” A combination of desperation for greater freedom and some Divine Providence provided the time.
The first session was devoted to unpacking the details of the information I furnished in the lengthy form. The lead minister (there were two), Stephen, said, “Looks like from early childhood on up through your adult years you’ve run into a lot of bullies; some in your family and even in the churches you’ve served. You have indicated a very strong reaction to them. Where do you suppose that volatility comes from?” (I had acknowledged that my reaction to bullies throughout my life was violent.)
I said with a wee bit of a grin, “I’m Irish!” and then added, “Maybe some of it does come from that, some from wounding, some from my temperament… I’m not really sure.” Stephen asked me to take time during the next week to ask the Lord to show me the root of my hostility toward bullies.
A couple of days later, the Lord and I discussed it. I had hardly asked Him about it when I recalled a memory. It was not a repressed memory, just one I don’t often think about. It returned with crystal clarity. During the summer I turned 7, my mother, dad, sister and I moved into a new place, an apartment in a typical Chicago blue-collar neighborhood. As I recall, my mom and dad were unpacking stuff when I went out into the neighborhood to check things out. It was a warm and sunny day and there was a group of kids playing. They were mostly my age, but one of them was older. When they saw me, they all came over, and the oldest of them grabbed me and held my arms behind my back and invited the other kids to take turns kicking me in the stomach. One by one each took his turn, laughing, mocking and kicking. I was crying, wondering, “Will this end? What else will they do…?” Finally, they let me go and I ran home crying. My mother held me and my father screamed profanities. I remember telling myself, “I’ll get each one of those boys alone and beat the tar out of them!” And I did.
Over the next two years or so, I found every one of those kids when they were alone and delivered the best beating a little kid could dish out. I even got into it with the oldest of the kids. It wasn’t even close. I clobbered him. It was empowering.
I grew to hate bullies so much that my default response, my reflex, was to hit them hard, fast and continuously. By the time I was eleven, I had broken my right hand twice on the faces of people who bullied me. It didn’t matter if there were two or three of them, or if they were older or bigger than me. Actually, they were always bigger——I was a runt. I had no flight response—just fight. In general, I minded my own business and respected others, and that’s why I became furious whenever I was bullied.
When I became a Christian, life grew more complicated because hitting people was off the table. Yet I found there were many jerks in God’s kingdom! I was surprised at the way Christians would disrespect each other. In the culture where I grew up, you didn’t disrespect people unless you expected a mouth full of loose teeth. I prayed and prayed and worked hard to control my temper. Often I did quite well. In fact, when people were at their worst, I was often at my best. I had grace for the moment, but later I’d begin to think, “That guy has no idea what I could do to him…” And I’d begin to fantasize about the particular ways I could inflict pain. Then I’d realize what I was doing and ask God to forgive me and deliver me from such thoughts.
All through the years, I’ve run into bullies. I seem to attract them.
As I was pondering these things in God’s presence, He began to speak. In my mind I could hear Him. He did not convey the least bit of shame, just awareness, when He said, “You know, Kevin, after those boys beat you up, when you made up your mind to get even, you inadvertently usurped my role as your Protector and Defender. I want you to trust me to be that for you.” We had a lengthy conversation about that. I found myself renouncing that usurpation and asked God to forgive me.
Then I heard God say, again without shaming me, “You became a bully.” And suddenly I knew He was right. I recalled a specific argument with my wife, Laura. I saw a picture of myself and the intensity of my anger, and I realized that such anger itself was threatening, intimidating, and to her it felt like bullying. I felt sick; so ashamed. This shame was not toxic shame. It was holy shame, the godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Then another memory followed. This time I was ranting to my kids about something. I didn’t remember the specifics, but I could see that they felt intimidated by my anger. Perhaps they didn’t realize, even as I didn’t realize, just what I was doing to them. I was bullying them.
My shoulders drooped. I was flooded with deep, deep remorse. I, who hate bullies, had become a bully. Who else have I bullied, Lord? How many other people, seeing me angry over something that I felt justified my anger, have felt bullied? God, forgive me. I’m so sorry. How do I make amends? These are questions I continue to ponder.
I had a conversation with my wife that morning. I asked her if she had felt bullied by me and she said she had. Filled with contrition, I apologized. She was gracious and forgiving. Over the next week or so I met with each of my children. They are all adults now and two of them have children of their own. I told them what I am learning and asked for their forgiveness. None of them hesitated to forgive.
God has done much for me over the years. When I first met Him, He delivered me from some nasty lifestyle practices. He showed me then that He’s better than any pleasure I had ever known or hoped to know, that He is better than any achievement I had ever attained or hoped to attain, that He is better than any material thing I had ever enjoyed or hoped to enjoy. He gave me a love for His Word and a deep desire to help people know they matter to Him. He gave me a godly wife and four incredible kids. Each has chosen wisely in the selection of a mate and each walks with Him. He has faithfully provided for my needs in some pretty lean times. Best of all, He has been showing me that He loves me as I am and not as I think I should be.
I’ve never been happy about my anger—I’ve felt shamed by it, mastered by it and tormented by it. There are reasons for anger, but there are no excuses for unwholesome expressions of it. I received some of the wounds that fostered my rage before I met Jesus, and I’ve received at least as many since knowing Jesus. The world keeps hurting us. Sometimes people in the Church are the ones who hurt us. The good news is, whatever the cause of our wounding, God keeps providing the healing.
I am now 60 years old. I will continue to be wounded and with God’s help, I’ll choose to avail myself of God’s healing resources and receive yet more healing. With His help, I’ll keep on forgiving and keep receiving forgiveness. With His help, I’ll learn to trust Him to be my Protector and Defender. With His help, my heart will grow larger. Unfortunately it is very likely that I will still wound others. But I can always look to Him to free me from the things that not only have injured me, but have influenced me to injure others.
Where do you need greater freedom and wholeness? What is causing you shame? What is causing you to hurt others? Don’t settle for life as it is. There’s more! Whatever your particular struggle, God wants to meet you there and bring you healing.
Kevin McClure is the Lead Pastor at Family Room Church in Roseville, MN and the Dean of Students at The Master’s Institute.