Spiritual Direction – all the Vineyard pastors are doing it. (Not really, but it seems like it.)
This spring, Emily told me I needed to go to counseling. This was neither shocking nor upsetting. It was just a moment… She was serious and I needed to face the truth.
I was discouraged to the point of depression. I was on the brink of burn out leading a small church through a major culture shift. And, I was taking it out on my family too often. I was often very short-tempered with the boys when they didn’t fall in line. The fact that I was discouraged, depressed and burned out (can I admit that) was working its way out through bursts of anger toward my family. The truth is, this had been going on for years, but I would overcome it for short periods and lie to myself, believing it wasn’t that bad. Emily was frustrated and wanted me to get help.
We decided to compromise a bit and I talked to a few spiritual directors about beginning to meet with them. Late in the spring I started to see a retired Sister of Charity at Mount St. Joseph who spends most of her time now in spiritual direction. We had had only a few meetings when the bow broke.
It was a blow up with Jack, my soon to be 12 year old. While I was yelling at him one morning to get his stuff together and get out the door to school, momma bear went to protect baby bear and papa bear roared at momma bear. This did not go over well with momma bear, if you know what I’m sayin? I honestly can’t remember the details of the argument now, but I remember feeling disrespected and like she gave Jack permission to talk back to me. I felt justified in my rage – in the moment. Ugly.
This happened on the morning of my third visit to the Spiritual Director. I literally walked away from the blow up, got in the car, drove to Mount St. Joseph (a 45 minute drive from Mason) beating myself up, and walked into my appointment with Sister Betty.
Now, you might not be into the Holy Spirit and you especially might not think that God works through the Spirit to let you suffer towards repentance and change – but I am – and this is exhibit A in the case for the fact God had decided it was time for me to work on this issue in my life.
I am fairly certain I would not have openly talked with Sister Betty about my anger issues or really about my relationship with my kids on my second or third visit if this blow up did not happen on the morning I had an appointment with her. She started that morning with, “what are we talking about today…?” I would have been the biggest coward in the world if I avoided that one.
That morning, I got asked if I had hit the kids. If I had hit Emily. If I was suicidal. If I wanted to divorce Emily. The answer to all those questions was no, although from time to time I have been rough with the boys breaking up scuffles or removing them from meltdowns or just using my physical force to make them move or do what I am asking them to do. It’s not pretty… and it never de-escalates a situation. It just makes it worse.
So – there I was – face to face with my skubalon (look it up).
Sister Betty said, “Ok… here is what we are not going to do. We are not going to beat ourselves up. You are a good man.” Then she asked me a question that has become a familiar question now, “what does your theology of God tell you right now?”
She is asking me, “do you really believe God loves you – the Father God loves you –right now – in this stuff?”
I have to say, I know the answer is yes, God even loves me in the midst of this sinful part of me. This brokenness. But, the truth is, this is an area of my life that I have struggled to let Jesus into. It is a part of me that I have struggled to really know God accepts about me and is willing to love me through. To hold my hand through. Sister Betty telling me, the moment after I had confessed the darkness of my shadow side, that I was a good man was the Word of Grace from Jesus to me in that moment. It was what I needed to hear to begin the journey of repentance. It changed my mind about what I thought God really thought about this part of me.
I heard Jesus say to me, “this does not disqualify you from my love – it makes you more dependent upon me for it…”
What is the “Word of Grace” you need to hear to help you start your Journey? Who is your Sister Betty?
This summer has been a summer of surrendering myself to spiritual direction. We have been processing my stuff. It has been hard. I tell my wife Sister Betty is mean. But she is just the one God has called into the journey with me right now to help me face the truth.
This summer has been a summer of surrendering myself to my boys. Laying down my life for them. I have been doing a lot of daddy daycare this summer. This actually made me very nervous, because it felt like an opportunity for failure when the summer was approaching. But, because of Spiritual Direction and Sister Betty, it has been an opportunity for growth and faithfulness. I have surrendered to what my boys need from me. Patience. Intimacy. Loving Kindness. Time. Playfulness. Attention.
It has been so good.
The Lord said to me, “You are a good man…”
What is he saying to you?