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The Emmanuel Promise

Updated: Apr 22

Rev. Summer Joy Gross

Learning from Anne Halley over ten years ago about how our attachment stories impact our relationship with God was a game changer for me. I started reading and researching everything I could get my hands on from Dr. Daniel Siegel to Dr. Sue Johnson to books on attachment within adoption. I knew there was a clue here that would unlock my own healing journey. 

I had grown up in a wonderful Christian home with loving parents, but I had always had a strong fear of abandonment, a lack of security, and a tendency to people-please in order to keep myself safe. All of these clues led me to understand that I had an attachment wound which needed my Abba’s care. As the head of the Healing Care Center, Maggie Rhine says, “Some things are not blame-worthy, or shame-worthy, but they ARE grief-worthy.” My birth came in the middle of a lot of family stress, my dad caregiving for me at the same time that he was going to medical school in Italy. Later, when I was a year old, my father, my main caregiver, brought mom and I to the States and then left for nine weeks while he went back and took exams. Mom was, of course, bereft. 

This fear of abandonment affected my relationship with God as I was constantly fearful that if I “stepped out of line” God would decide He had had enough of me. I was constantly looking for a song, a scripture, a prayer, or a formula that would bring him back. Practicing the Presence of my grace-filled Emmanuel has been essential to my receiving an earned secure attachment with God.

After attending the Formational Prayer Conferences and hearing from Dr. Terry Wardle, first, and then Dr. Anne Halley, I began leading one Healing Care Group after another, paying attention to how spiritual practices like lectio divina helped the participants begin to find homebase in the heart of God. I knew how essential the trust that comes from attachment was so that when they walked into their wounds, they felt secure in the gaze of Emmanuel who was walking with them. Sometimes I would even slow down the group to insert a few sessions of what I called attachment practices after discerning they needed more time to soak in the love of God before opening up places of trauma. 

I began to learn that building a secure attachment is slow, and trust is established one cry and response at a time.  This work has now become a book, The Emmanuel Promise: Discovering the Security of a Life Held with God with Baker Publishing. It has Healing Care’s message at its heart. It’s a profound joy to teach. As people begin to understand their attachment style, shame starts to fall off and they have hope they can experience God’s tender embrace. They begin to believe receiving an earned secure attachment with God is possible. 

My goal in writing The Emmanuel Promise was to make understanding attachment with God as simple and Monday-morning-practical as possible, including simple and repeatable tools we can use over and over as well as a whole website of videos. Of course, this is not a quick fix, it’s a journey. By practicing drawing near to our Abba on the easy days, we can learn to ride out life’s hurricanes braided into the embrace of the Trinity. 


Summer Joy Gross, The Emmanuel Promise, excerpt of chapter 1

Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2024. Used by permission.

Attachment with God

Every Tuesday during the summer before I went to college, I walked through the door to Trudy Roberton’s office in a repurposed, white clapboard house in Norwalk, Ohio, and sat down. Trudy, a marriage and family therapist, had been trained at nearby Ashland Seminary to pray her Christian clients through trauma. She taught me to go from a sense of safety—in my case, a couch in our family room—to a memory, then watch it unfold in front of me and ask God, “Where are You in the room?” and “How do You feel about what happened to me?” Slowly, memories were being transformed as I watched Jesus weep with me. As I prayed with Trudy, I remembered pushing open that large metal door to my junior high. But this time, Jesus walked into my fifth-grade classroom, set up a cross, and got up on it. I was stunned. Silenced. Christ on the cross took my breath away. There was nothing more that needed to be said.

I couldn’t put this prayer experience into words for a long time, but every time I thought of the school building, or even dreamed of it, the cross was there in the fifth-grade room. Every time I saw myself pushing through those doors, I was going to visit Jesus, and He was declaring, “This place is mine. I hold the power here.” The tree of life had been planted. The roots were spreading the kingdom through my memories.

Somehow, this message also endowed me with value. I heard Him say, “She’s mine. I died for this one.” Encountering Christ’s presence in this place of hurt transformed my junior high experience from one of shame to one of safety and security. If I walked into any of the rooms in the school in my memory, the power of the cross completely shifted my emotions in the present. I was secure. Emmanuel present was the only message I needed; He was the final Word. My internal earthquake ended in His presence.

Emmanuel Is in the Room

Years later, at the Advanced Formational Prayer Conference in Ashland, Ohio, I sat at a round table facing Dr. Anne Halley, a spiritual director, professor, and practitioner in this realm of

attachment with God.7 The fluorescent lights were strong, but the autumn light pouring in through the windows of the conference room was even stronger. That day, Anne wore a blue sweater and her characteristic warm smile. It was 2010. Anne was teaching us how becoming aware of our attachment with our first caregiver still affects our relationship with God. During our session, she invited us to ask the question, “Jesus, where are You in the room on my behalf?”

I sensed Jesus was far away in the corner but near in His attentiveness. He was turning toward each of us in delight. In fact, He was turning toward me in delight. I was experiencing the

Emmanuel— God-with-us—holding my gaze with tenderness. The room stopped spinning. My breath deepened. My shoulders dropped. In the midst of a full conference room, my orientation

shifted from overwhelmed to grounded. Christ is here, I thought. He who holds the world in the palm of His hand is present. As I opened up my awareness to the Emmanuel’s presence, I

experienced feeling safe, seen, soothed, and secure. What if we could experience an attachment with God so grounding that we feel safe in every room because we are oriented to His anchoring presence? What if we learn to stop at every threshold, take a deep breath, and ask, “Jesus, where are You in this room?” And then as we step into the space, we join the One who is perpetually welcoming His children.

That day, I began to comprehend what the disciples learned that stormy night on the Sea of Galilee: peace is a person, and when we are aware of His presence, waves of anxiety are stilled. I also learned that coming awake to this truth is our chief work. Author C. S. Lewis said, “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He

walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labour is to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more, to remain awake.”8

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, the author of the letters that became the classic text The Practice of the Presence of God, said, “I cannot understand how religious people can live contented lives without the practice of the presence of God. For myself, I withdraw as much as I can to the deepest recesses of my soul with Him, and while I am thus with Him I fear nothing; but the least turning away from Him is hell for me.”9 Then Brother Lawrence invited us to form this habit: “In the beginning a persistent effort is needed to form the habit of continually talking with God and to refer all we do to Him but that after a little care, His love brings us to it without any difficulty.”10

Over the last decade and a half, I’ve asked myself this question daily: How would my anxiety today shift if I awakened to God’s presence, the promise of Emmanuel? What if I could be safe, seen, soothed, and secure because Jesus’s face was always shining toward me, always attentive, always connected? Like a dancer doing pirouettes while focused on a clock in the back of an auditorium, could I orient myself to the presence of my Emmanuel, eyes trained on the One who is always attentive to me? Psychologists who study attachment theory have described secure attachment as a bond between child and caregiver where there is trust that care is available. So I began to wonder if I could experience the building of a secure attachment to the almighty God.

Dotted throughout the Old and New Testaments, the presence of God was provided as the security of God’s people, for their safety, for their peace, for their comfort, and for the ultimate encouragement that the God of the universe walked right beside them. Throughout the Gospels, we see that, in the presence of Jesus, stories are transformed, people are fed, the dead are raised,

storms stilled, and darkness flees. Rooms shift when we become oriented to the presence of Christ.”

To pre-order Summer's new book by April 30th, use the QR code below or CLICK HERE. Once you order, CLICK HERE to get free gifts!


Summer is an Anglican priest with a Masters of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, VA. After seminary, she, along with her husband, spent 10 years together as parish priests on the coast of Lake Michigan. That's where she first experienced the gift of Terry Wardle's teaching and Healing Care and drove to Ashland, OH as often as she could. For ten years she led healing care groups and had a front-row seat witnessing God's transforming power in Michigan, Pittsburgh, and Georgia where she now resides. Her 2-year spiritual direction certification is also through HCM where she appreciated the blend of classic and inner healing learning modalities. Summer is now the founder of “The Presence Project,” a podcast and teaching ministry of spiritual care that helps people find home-base in the heart of God through spiritual practices as a way to heal attachment wounds and overcome anxiety. Her upcoming book, The Emmanuel Promise comes out with Baker Publishing April 30th. She’s a mom of 3 teens, and married 29 years to her high school prom date from Mansfield Christian school. They spend their days off fly fishing in ga’s mountain streams. You can find her on instagram @revsummerjoy or on her website

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