Earlier this month I wrote about the importance of building a scaffolding, so let’s talk about the tools that help us make it a strong one. Each of these tools and rungs of our scaffolding are vital in moving toward secure attachment.
Change is hard, but earned secure attachment occurs one step and one minute at a time as we tell our stories to an empathetic listener who invites us to see them through a different lens.
It’s as simple and hard as that.
This courageous storytelling and empathetic listening can happen around the dinner table, at a friend’s house or over a cup of coffee, during a conversation with a parent or spouse, or in a rare, insightful connection when the world slows down for just a moment in the middle of a party. Those times of connection and someone listening and retelling our stories through a different lens are an occasional, unplanned, and unexpected gift.
But you can also plan specific times to heal and restore through storytelling. Here are the tools I used: time in God’s Word and prayer, the Psalms, and regularly scheduled time with a counselor. These might seem self-explanatory on the surface, but when we peel back the layers, we’ll see how necessary they are for healing.
On my path to restoration, I set aside time each day for prayer and meditation on God’s Word. I think most Christians tend to look at prayer and Bible reading as something on our “ought-to” list rather than our “want-to” list. It stems more from the narrative of, “If I don’t take time to be in God’s Word or pray, God will be disappointed in me” than “I get to take time to be in God’s Word and pray because God delights in me.”
The first time I read about the way we move toward secure attachment, I felt as though I understood the purpose of prayer and Scripture reading for the very first time. They were both God’s way of building a secure connection with me, His beloved child.
But where do we start, and how do we begin moving out of the rut of duty into a relationship of delight?
Repeatedly throughout the Scriptures, we are invited to “meditate” on God’s Word. Rather than being some mysterious term that brought to mind sitting down with my legs crossed and my eyes closed, I learned that to “meditate” on God’s Word simply means “to think out its implications for all life, and to ‘delight’ in it means not merely to comply but to love what God commands.”
We have to learn to apply focus, concentration, and effort into thinking through what God’s Word says about who He is, who we are, and how we are to live, act, think, behave, and worship Him in every area of our lives. When we learn to first think about the most important thing, we then let every thought about lesser things flow out of our meditation on God’s Word.
We also have to trust that God’s Word is true, that our Father knows best, and that His voice will never lead us astray. His words are for our good. His instructions are always for our good and His greatest glory, whether we agree with Him or not.
Meditating on God’s Word also takes a great deal of surrender. It takes laying down our own thoughts and agendas when they do not line up with the Word of God. It takes not saying what we want to say even when it feels right, if it will be said with a motive of revenge or malice. It takes not doing what we want to do when it will be done with motives of selfishness or fear.
God did not give us His Word through the prophets so He could have regular sessions of lecture or discipline with us as our word for “law” in the English language implies. He gave us His Word as a father gives instruction to his beloved children for the purpose of relationship, for hope, and for life.
In its truest form, meditation on God’s Word is building earned secure attachment with your heavenly Father. It is telling Him your story and listening for His Word back to you, thinking through all its implications for your life. Those implications help you to see and imagine your life through a different lens that leads to the joy-filled, secure life He created you to live.
With my Bible in one hand and Tim Keller’s daily devotional book, The Songs of Jesus, in the other, I began my meditation on God’s Word with reading, reflecting on, and praying the Psalms. Only after several years of doing this did I recognize poetry as another powerful tool to help our left and right modes of processing in our brains integrate. In the Psalms, we do not just read a list of dos and don’ts about the Christian life. We read other people’s stories about the Christian life and are invited to insert our stories into those.
As poetry, the Psalms also can bring together and synthesize different layers of our brain, helping us focus on the power and presence of God in history and in the personal events of our lives. All these components combined can help to move us from an insecure attachment to a secure one.
Instead of stuffing their issues or venting to anyone and everyone who would listen, God’s people were processing their issues before the very face of God. The Psalms are our invitation to do the same.
Every Monday afternoon for a year, I went and told my story to a counselor. This was not convenient storytelling—it was an incredibly busy season in my life.
To take an hour every week for a year on one of my two precious free days while homeschooling my children on the other three week days cost me something besides finances. It cost me time, focus, and endurance too. But the results were amazing. Every time I left the counselor’s office, my soul was a little lighter, and my capacity to hear the true narrative of my story was a little greater.
I know not everyone will be able to see a counselor consistently for a year. But I will tell you this: you will not and cannot heal unless you make sense of your story and learn how to tell it in an honest, clear, realistic, and redemptive light. To make sense of your story, you must tell it first to God and then to someone near you who is wise, trustworthy, and honest. If you cannot meet with a counselor, find a friend or mentor you trust who has the time and space to meet with you regularly.
Using all three tools consistently for that year pulled me out of the pit. It’s a pit I still have to fight being lowered into, but I now know how to hear and tap into the narrative God speaks. My senses are more alive, more in tune, and more in connection with the God who knows me and invites me into a real relationship with Him.
Working toward secure attachment is not a quick fix. Earned secure attachment is a long obedience in the same direction. It requires time, persistence, and patience—patience with yourself and from those around you.
When you learn to hear your story through a new narrative, you can move toward becoming the person of God who is confident in his or her identity as God’s child and lives out of that. You can begin to believe you have a good Father. When you make these moves, ruins are rebuilt, identities are shed, and the kingdom of God moves forth on the earth with the power to rebuild the ancient ruins and heal.
This new year, you and I can spend our time on so many things. But let’s choose to spend it on learning to listen to the voice of God, trust His Word is true, and allow it to be the lens through which we rebuild our lives. Not only will your life look different, but the lives of the people around you will look different as well.
For more information on restoring your attachment through your senses or earned secure attachment, check out Susannah’s book, Restore and download the first chapter for free!