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dissonance |ˈdisənəns|: a tension or clash resulting from the combination of two disharmonious or unsuitable elements.That's it really. It's what I do. I create it on purpose as a clinician--a counselor. It is what makes people wake to reality and see how they contribute to their own chaos. It becomes a cathartic and challenging experience well suited for change. I create it accidentally as a husband, friend, son, brother, and believer. I AM: 32 years old; a counselor; a husband to a beautiful woman; a believer in The Way; and most of the time clueless to my own dissonance that I create.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Pain, loss, and trauma are our reality. As a therapist, I come in contact with this daily. Woundedness is in no short supply at least in my experience; and it is the common initiation we all endure as a broken creation. To develop connections in relationship ensures this baptism of pain. With this universal reality, one would assume a level of competence in comforting those who feel its sting; however, this could not be further from the truth. It is said that “sympathy kills,” and this is truth. Nothing re-traumatizes with such acuity as much as the flippant and disconnected comments during a time of loss or pain. “God must have needed him more” or “well, you got to move on” are the platitudes that exude not only our inaptitude for comforting those stricken but also our selfishness in maintaining our own level of comfort. Those whom we can, we avoid. Those whom we can not avoid, we write off with one of these callous comments to put the distance we need between us and their pain.

Yet there is something to be shared here not avoided. We are so agitated, confused, and at a loss with how to handle the pain of another, yet this should be our central purpose as a church body. Christ was known as being “acquainted with grief” which I believe is not limited to his individual trials, but rather it includes the pain of those around him and the entirety of humanity. Are we not supposed to take on this role as his body? Mourning is a sacrament. It is a sacred practice of believers. To avoid it pushes us away from our purpose and cheapens the reality of our experience. It also undermines the very nature of Christ’s ministry that included shedding tears over Lazarus’ death, weeping over Jerusalem’s state, and enduring the sorrow of Gethsemane. We are called to mourn.

Recently, it seems that pain has been introduced to my friends and family—losses that cut to the core of our family or community’s identity. It seems we are faced with the choices of avoidant comfort or mutual sorrow. For me, I embrace sharing this pain with them, because one cannot force hope or faith especially in light of acute pain. The others in our lives must stand beside us and take on that role. We can have hope in the light of our loved one’s hopelessness; we can have faith when our friends cannot believe that God is good; we can stand in the gap when the false foundations of religion crumble to the storm of honest despair.

As tragedy occurs, death creeps into our lives, and unforeseen losses overtake those we love let us not run and hide but rather let us tear our clothes, put dirt on our heads, and beat our chests with mutual sorrow and pain. Let’s suffer with them by mourning and crying out to God the injustices of our world.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Last night, Charley and I, with some friends, went to an Alton Brown book signing at a local bookstore. Alton, as we are on a first name basis now, took questions from the crowd and responded in his TV persona’s quirky way for most of the night. As the questions progressed, a girl in restaurant kitchen attire timidly stood to ask for advice as she plans to go on to culinary school. Alton emphatically stated “Don’t go; at least not yet.” Alton’s response could be seen as a little rough; however, the brusque honesty gave way to concern as he explained that college should be her first step. We were a little taken aback as we watched this girl’s expectations crashing on the floor, but watching the interaction between them, we felt redemption as he promised her a job if she completed college. Wow!

I turned twenty-nine two days ago. I have promised myself to forego the dreading of age, to embrace celebrating each of life’s stages, and to avoid the pitfalls of too much self-reflection on my birthday. This book signing was part of my birthday experience, and this witnessed exchange caused me to break my third rule (or ‘Rule #1’, of my Dad’s accounting). I could not help myself from ruminating on life’s expectations. I have always avoided facing those standards because I always set them so high. Like this poor girl, I often find myself lost in the false hope of my “life’s plan.” At twenty-nine, I am only just now beginning my career; and after three and a half years of graduate school, I am still lacking the credentialing that will take me another two and a half years to complete. After all of those obstacles are conquered, I will still be almost at the poverty level of income. Ha!

In terms of vocation and calling, expectations are a poor marker or standard of success. Expectations are void of maturing and ignore the lessons of life. It is putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Spiritually, they are themselves the obstacles of a life called by God. A certain income, a status achieved, a level of recognition, or even a ‘righteous’ spiritual goal is a boast that we hold within ourselves the key to life. It is as if we could produce a formative purpose and plan. Expectations are our hopes placed on the what of our life instead of the who. It is a faith in anything but Christ. While I am still tempted to be disconcerted by those leering expectations, I am learning that if my expectations had been met, then my purpose would have been lost. I am thankful that I have encountered a moment like the prospective chef—a tough clarity. With this clarity comes some mourning of my lost expectations, but without them, I am free. Free, indeed!