She was an art therapist; I discovered that in our first session. Sandy didn’t do a whole lot of praying, or give me scripture to study. She did however, give me art assignments, drawing out my thoughts and emotions, and then we’d talk for a while.
“You’re grieving” she said. “You’ve experienced a loss in your life and this is why you’re feeling the way you are.” She was right. Not only was I grieving but I was being initiated into a deeper level of manhood and leadership, about to take the helm of my own pastorate. My previous position was Assistant Pastor at my home church, my first family of believers, where I had been for eighteen years.
It was traumatic for me to be leaving the nest. I could not decipher the “promotion” I was receiving. Looking back, it all makes sense. At the time, nothing made much sense. After six sessions, and a collection of poster board collages, I left therapy a better man.
Most people seek counseling because they’ve hit a wall. That was me, as a thirty-nine year old pastor, feeling very insecure and emotionally unstable. In reality, we all need therapeutic conversations on a regular basis. After a long day, week, or month, we need something curative, something to renew our perspective. Thank God for spouse, family, friends, and those who care enough to listen, love, and give honest feedback.
I don’t recall ever being taught growing up, how to interpret pain. What do you do when your soul aches? Is there an expression for the lament a child feels, trying to navigate through life, feeling everything for the very first time, with no mentor by his or her side? We do the best we can; time marches on; we build over the unresolved issues.
A few years ago, I was blessed to be taken out to brunch by my family, to celebrate Father’s Day. I found myself thinking about my own dad who passed away seven years prior, at that time. I recall in my early years, me and mom going into the corner drug store to get a Father’s Day card for dad. Naturally, I was not fully cognizant of the whole process and mom pretty much did everything right up to the moment that I handed my father the card. As I got older, I read the messages inside and had some input into what particular prose matched what I felt for my dad. Suddenly, the process of making a final choice got longer. How can I match these heartfelt words on a card to my current experience, or lack thereof, as a son?
Once I had children of my own, dad and I had a new common ground on which to relate. We were both heads of a household and we were both dads. I saw him through a new lens; it changed both of us. As my mom aged, she was stricken with Alzheimer’s. To my surprise, dad took care of her almost exclusively at our family home, where she died in her own bed. We were both on the same team, sharing a common purpose as caregivers. These became some of our best years as friends.
In his later years dad became sick and spent his final two years in a nursing home. We had many special visits in that season; in the meantime I was tasked with selling our family home. I relived a ton of memories, especially in the basement, which served as one of my primary play areas, a field of imagination for a young boy. I had a few hearty cries, reliving memories and knowing that I was forever saying goodbye to this place. Those times of grieving were a fifty-two year old man on the surface, but a little boy on the inside. It was a God-prescribed therapy for my soul.
I wept at Dad’s grave as two Marines folded up and handed me the American flag that was draped over his coffin. A year after he died, we relocated to our present residence in Kansas City, Missouri. For the first couple of years I had many a time of being prompted, “I should give Dad a call”, only to remind myself of the reality of his absence. Thankfully, I was sustained by the reality of Abba’s presence.
I have the benefit today, of seeing the redemption that can take place in a father-son relationship. Healing the “father wound” is a topic I teach on, partly due to the many hours I’ve spent in pursuing my own healing. The pain in my own heart, coupled with my desire to be a different kind of dad for my own children, drove me to be an avid reader of books – I read everything I could find on the healing of memories, and the subsequent antidote – how to draw closer to Father God. I issued an open invite to Holy Spirit, to do whatever was required for my wholeness. I was determined that brokenness was not going to dominate the mix of what flowed in my lineage.
It’s never too late to have a good childhood, if we’re willing to face our losses and re-work them at the source. The Godhead is standing by, with a new frame and canvas, to redeem our storyline.
God is the best therapist and he has some excellent people on his team!
Resources: Hear more of my story and discover related messages here Resources.