Don’t Waste The Pain

“Revolution might sound a little dramatic, but in this world, choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance. Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You’re going to confuse, piss off, and terrify lots of people— including yourself. One minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time. At least that’s how I feel most of the time… brave, afraid, and very, very alive. Rising strong is the final piece of this transformation.”

– Brene Brown

I’m thinking of the young man (it could easily be a woman) in his 20’s (maybe even 30s) who is trying to get his life together after making a lot of personal mistakes.  He feels like a failure, alone, and abandoned.  He may even be angry at the world for the bag he was given.

What you’ve been through is not fair.  The upbringing was rough…it wasn’t your fault.  And yet this is what you have to come to grips with.  You’ll need a lot of support, care, and love.  There will be days when you can’t make sense of the deep pain you feel in your heart.

Your greatest choice today is to live as one who is willing to rise strong, WITH all the anxiety and stress.  The gift of strength is for you to reclaim who you long to be.  It’s unsettling, uncomfortable, and necessary.  You must remember that you are the beloved!  That is your real identity and at the core of who you are.

You’ll need community, care, and courage.  You’ll need a power bigger than you.

And as a friend once said, don’t waste the pain.  I’m not sure what exactly that means.  But I’m starting to understand that with each set of waves (of pain), there is an opportunity to keep rising, growing, and being transformed.


Using the VIM framework for Pastoral Counseling

I did a spiritual formation retreat last weekend and shared on Dallas Willard and Henri Nouwen’s work; specifically looking at their views on transformation.
Both use the starting point of longing/desire/deep need, which is a “goal” or vision.
I think this can also be used for a general understanding of pastoral short term counseling. It’s goal oriented and it offers a framework for us to “play in”.
I’m generally seeing some “metanarrative” themes when it comes to naming our longings/vision:
  1. We long for/need Love. This could be affirmation, belonging, acceptance, encouragement, community.
  2. We long for/need healing. Much of the work of Jesus was being a healing presence and then talking about it. This healing could be from past hurts, grief/loss, trauma, medical, financial, addictions, depression.
  3. We long for/need meaning and purpose. This could be direction, clarity, identity, mission. We have a God given impulse to contribute to this world and find things that are bigger than us.

Short term pastoral counseling is very helpful for many as a means to address specific inner movements that someone might be experiencing.

Listening: the art of Pastoral Presence

When I think about our work, I think of the God who listens.  He hears our cries, petitions, longings, and hopes.  In Jesus, we find the Good Shepherd making space for others to share their stories (i.e. Samaritan woman, the blind man at the pool).  We see them share specifics as Jesus asks poignant questions.

When we listen to the stories of others, we entering into a dialogue that is already happening with the person and God.  The Spirit is active, working to heal, save, and renew.  So as the people share, we are being invited into the work of the Spirit in their lives.  

  • Be attentive to the specifics.
  • Notice the words, pictures, thoughts.
  • What feelings are you most present to?  
  • How might the Spirit be stirring?

We learn to listen in silence and solitude.  We can only learn to listen as we take moments throughout the day to be still and know that He is God.  God spoke to Elijah in the silence.  Jesus got away to be with His Father…to listen.  

We can deepen our ability to listen through contemplative prayer—the prayer of active silence.  Try it for a few minutes in the morning.  See how it changes the inner contours.  See how you’re more attentive and able to listen.

In contemplative prayer, we silence the mind and heart of anything that is heavy, burdensome, and release it to the One who can carry it.  We even release all thoughts of good intentions, our gifts, and words so that we might receive the Word.  And it’s in receiving that we can then return to the world with a heart that is able to listen.

Pastoral Counseling – A new imagination

One the gifts that I’ve learned in counseling comes from this passage:

Philippians 4:8 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. 

There are some that tend to catastrophize their situation. “I don’t know what I’m gonna do…there are no solutions…he’ll never change…my work will never change…this is too hard of a decision to make

Paul is a great pastor and gives sound advice. He shifts the focus towards something we can do:  reflect, imagine, meditate, think, perceive.

In pastoral work, this might be framing and phrasing it as follows:
  • “What might it look like for you to imagine some new possibilities?”
  • “What would the ideal situation be and how can you play a part in it?”
  • “Sounds pretty heavy…what’s on the other side?”
I believe the Gospel calls us into a new reality that we sometimes don’t have the eyes to see, or the ears to hear. As missional pastors, we are called to aide in that new-reality-imagination vision where all of creation flourishes!  God is at work in the cry of the people. We can bank on that!
May we be used by God in our respective contexts to see healing, justice, and freedom by His Spirit!