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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.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Arrogance

I was talking with someone the other day about training I was attending the following day for Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). After mentioning the title of it, she instantly seemed to discount it with a flippant remark of “I hope whoever is teaching it has kids.” I instantly got defensive, as I do not have children yet my profession is working predominantly with children and parents by facilitating and promoting healthy parenting skills. I told her that hers was an ignorant perspective. Now I could go off for quite some time about this perspective because I face it quite often. By experience, I have met too many parents who were really bad at parenting to believe that it is a magical and inherent trait that comes naturally through childbirth. I do believe that the experience of the role of parent will carry lessons that will augment my therapy and further my empathy for the stresses that it carries. In truth, I was offended and spoke out of turn; and I will rest in the reality that I have been able to help many parents with troubled kids who desperately needed my assistance.

What interests me about this interchange is the measure of arrogance that comes from our rigid perspectives. I am right and they are wrong. Not only personally and professionally does this pride seem to creep into our lives, but also in our spiritual and theological perspectives. This discussion often leads to a digression into the abyss of relativism. My intention is to avoid that error. I do not purpose that absolute Truth does not exist; but rather that our grasp on it is tenuous. The nuances of a fallen creation reach out of our past and muddle our perspectives leaving us insecure and defensive. We tense at the first signs of challenge to our worldview. “How could they be a democrat! That is unChrisitian!”; “How could someone believe in Calvinism!”; or “Parenting is a skill set; stop embracing that ignorant perspective!” These come from a place of fear and insecurity; as though someone else’s non-adherence to our perspective somehow challenges our very identity.

I think that this is the key—identity. Fallibility is a difficult and unstable reality that causes us to build up our defenses with the paper mache coverings of truth (note the lower case t). We do this to protect the “truth” or reality that we create to feel secure. I really enjoy Volf’s take on this “truth” in his work Exclusion and Embrace. For Volf, truth in light of “pervasive non-innocence” is an impossible task. Neither the offended nor the offender can see from the perspective of Truth (note the big T). God alone has this perspective. If we are called to seek after Truth, then are we charged with an impossible task? In this life, I think yes. Our faith is our abiding in Christ. We hope. We must let our false coverings fall to the floor to embrace the reality of our limitations. The arrogance that we hold, to ensure the safety of our false realities, only serves to sever the relationships that we hold dear.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Apart

I had one of those dreams when you are back at high school the other night. It is a disconcerting prospect to say the least. Most of the time these consist of my having to return to take a class that is required or finding out that I have not been attending a class and there is a test I must take. Generally, dreams like this are incredibly anxiety provoking. I always wonder why these take place in my high school. I have gone to both an undergrad and graduate schools that have, academically, been much more strenuous. However, there is something about those formative years that leaves a mark.

If I were to characterize my early years with a word, it would have to be loneliness. Of course, there was the constant exertion to ‘fit in’ or be socialized; however, for me this experience was only the superficial coverings of a deeper struggle. This loneliness penetrated deep. Friendships, social acceptance, and even girlfriends seemed only to serve as a means of deferring this feeling—a distraction from the distance I felt. It never cured me. As I have matured and let go of the social pressure to be accepted, my relationships have become more satisfying, but even still, this feeling remains today. As a seminary student, I have discovered community, a deeper appreciation for scripture, and perspective on my Christian walk; but this feeling of distance shades every new experience. In my spiritual life, loneliness embarrasses me. Surely, there is some deficit or sin that causes this to exist? I recall being told once, in disclosing this shameful feeling, that it was training as a call into ministry—a ministry apart. This perspective enabled me to embrace this as a part of my vocation and calling, but if I am to be honest, loneliness continues to shade my heart no matter the coverings I choose to wear.

There it is! No real resolution or rationale to offer. This separateness is a part of me, and yet I wonder if this is not part of most everyone? If they will allow themselves to quiet their heart before God in complete nakedness without the coverings that enable our comfort and avoidance, then maybe they would discover this experience. Perhaps this is a part of the human condition that we are driven to be known without satisfaction until the eschaton? Maybe this could be why Christ promised the church that he would “be with you always” at the ascension. Why not remind the church of future glory and resurrection? Or wouldn’t the “more than conquerors” scripture reference be more appropriate here? I think that Jesus knew the very personal experience of loneliness. I must embrace this lonely feeling as a call to walk in faith and not in my feeling, no matter its pervasiveness. Perhaps this loneliness is a reminder that we confess in faith the presence of God in our isolation. While we cannot escape the long road ahead, it is a reminder that though we feel we walk it alone, in actuality, we do not.