In this series, I’ve used the words healing and formation quite frequently, and it occurs to me that I ought to clarify what I mean by each in case it’s assumed I use them interchangeably.
In short, I believe the process of healing always includes formation but the process of formation does not always include healing.
Now, let’s unpack that a bit.
In my exprience, healing work is tied to specific events and circumstances — ways in which we were wounded in precise moments or series of moments or chain of events. Those events formed us in certain ways, and perhaps a better way to say it is that they usually de-formed us away from the intended image of God in us. We were harmed, and in our need for protection, we often grabbed coping mechanisms that helped get us through. We often, too, picked up new beliefs that implanted themselves on our souls as a result of what we experienced.
In a process of healing, we need two things, then. We need healing at the place of our wounding, and we need God to walk with us through an intentional process of re-formation. (This is where I am in my current journey.)
Formation, on the other hand, is always happening in our lives.
There’s the general formation that’s always at work — ways in which our daily habits and choices and circumstances continually form us for good or ill, even without our conscious involvement. If you are a human being, you are always in the process of being formed in some direction or way.
And then there’s the formation God is about in us.
This is the place of invitation, where God is seeking, continually, to form us more and more into the image marked out for us from the beginning, which is the unique imprint of God in us in the world. All throughout our being, all throughout our lives, there are places God wants to touch, invite, re-teach, re-form. This process, too, never ends. (This can be cause for rejoicing sometimes and cause for frustration at others!)
Now, here’s what I mean when I say the formation process doesn’t always include healing: These places God pricks and invites into our awareness for continued formation aren’t always called out because of wounds. Sometimes it’s because of the Fall. Our mere humanity. Our need for growth. Sometimes it’s time for shedding. For refinement. For maturing.
When we become aware of the invitation, then we get to say yes or no. And if we say yes, then we get to step into a process of intentional formation in partnership with God.
I hope this clarification is helpful. Is there anything you would add or further clarify? Any questions you’d like me to address?