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.


Words at the end of Life

In the 12 years of doing marketplace ministry, I’ve now had more experience doing bedside visitation at the time of impending death and loss.  It has always felt like an honor to listen (when possible), pray, and bless during this time.

The other day, I went to visit a 91 year old man in his home.  He lives in my “parish” (about 3 minutes from me).  He was recently diagnosed with brain and lung cancer.  He is now receiving hospice care.

During the visit, we were getting to know each other and I heard him say, “I’m in misery and pain, I feel useless, and I’m ready to go.”  His words were sincere and even apologetic for saying he was ready to go.  I was moved by his words and feelings, asking that God would help me to listen attentively, and also hoping to see how God was present.

I was compelled to ask Rich (pseudonym) to give a young buck like me some advice for life, noticing that even at 91 and sick, he was sprite and caring.

Rich said,

Be nice to others.  Be good to others.  It will come back to you.

If you have family, love them and spend as much time as you can with them.

Always work on yourself and never stop growing.  I never went to college but had one of the highest positions in my naval department that a civilian can have.  One door closed, and another one opened.

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs but I’ve tried to keep getting back up when I fell down.

He went on to share some more stories about his life that made it feel like he did the best he could to be caring and loving.  The tone was hopeful and bountiful in the room.  This is isn’t always the case.  Some people have lived tough lives and for reasons beyond me, it was hard for them to put their lives together in such a way that their death could give life.  It saddens me when I see this and am moved to ask for God’s mercy for the person, but also for myself so that I might see my life put together in a such a way that it will bless others.

We talked about how Jesus, at the moment of death, committed His spirit to the Father, and breathed His last breath.  I think Rich was comforted by this image of Jesus. Rich is Catholic and was deeply touched by his faith.  When I asked what prayers he might have in his heart, he immediately said, “the Our Father”.  I reached out for his hand and began to pray for God’s mercy and peace to be with him.  And then we both prayed “The Our Father” together.  His 91 year old voice.  My 39 year old voice.  A man at the end of life.  Me in the middle of life.  Him a Catholic, having lived a good life.  Me, a follower of Jesus, trying to learn to live the good life.  Both hands clasped together, incarnating the Body of Christ.

I think that when visitations go well, both patient and priest feel like each has been blessed by the other.  Both feel God’s presence and consolation in different but unitive ways.

His thoughts on being good and loving your family struck a chord in me.  My parents had just finished getting on the train to head back home after a weekend visit.

Rich, thank you for your life of service and your words of blessing.

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.

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!