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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.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Overwhelmed

It’s nine hours home from Wilmore. It’s not a quick kind of ride. I have the original Nano that cannot store the entirety of my music library, which in all honesty is not that extensive. I rarely update it anyway and end up listening to the same old stuff; however, this trip home led me to explore some high school era fads, namely Five Iron Frenzy. Ahhh, my ska days…another desperate attempt for me to be both cool and Christian. Charley and I sing to the top of our lungs more reminiscing and being playful than reflecting on the lyrics. Then we get to “Where the Zero meets the Fifteen.” The song narrates a tipping point moment for its author who begins to realize the gravity of desperation around him and his own incompetence to evoke lasting change. I guess I began to identify with the music because I had to start fighting back tears.

I am learning that the counselor’s chair is a hard one in which to sit. I am charged with sifting through the pieces of a lot of broken lives. My original conceptualization, during college as I first started this vocation, was one that foresaw my “saving” people from their heartaches. I was voted “most likely to ‘save’ the world” in high school after all. So far, this vision has been shattered. Instead, I find myself crawling up beside another bent-over individual searching for the missing pieces and hoping that in some small way I am a help. I found myself crying out with the singer and asking God what it is that I contribute, really? The lyrics go,

I put my face down in my hands,

water wells inside my eyes.

What do I have to give them?

Does it matter if I try?

I can't stand to see you suffer,

I try to intellectualize,

a formula to end your pain,

it doesn't work,

God knows I've tried.

I want to try and save the world,

but it never goes that way.

God I don't know what to do,

down at Colfax and Broadway.

I don’t intend to be a wet blanket; my purpose is not to be a discouragement, but rather to express this deep yearning to meet the needs of my clients. I want them to see the love of Christ in my service to them, but I also hope for them to be made whole. I don’t have the answers for them. Most of the time I’m struggling to come up with a treatment plan that is efficacious. In my friendships, it’s the same story just with a different twist. I give a very imperfect kind of love. I offer brokenness in exchange for brokenness. It is not despair that I am evoking, but rather, it is a realization that what they need does not come from me. This would be a disconcerting idea if what I was hoping for was to be a form of salvation; however, this is not mine, my family’s, my friend’s, nor my client’s hope. Our hope is not in what I have to offer anyway; it is way beyond me. The reality is that just like the author of the song, all I have to offer is “thirteen cents and a broken pen.”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Yearning

I admit it. I am a Christmas nut case. If I could put up a Christmas tree in October, I would. Something about the excitement of waiting for Christmas day truly stirs my soul. There is an electric feeling as everyone around you is decorating and preparing for all the celebrations, parties, and community events. Gingerly, I admit that I love even the cheesiest of Christmas traditions. Bring on “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “Elf,” and the twenty-four hour Christmas radio stations I say. This is not a popular perspective in seminary circles because of the march against the commercialization of Christmas, and in reality, I also agree that sometimes it feels like the Christmas story is so mixed up that one cannot distinguish between magic elves and the greatest condescension that ever occurred—God made flesh.

Growing up Southern Baptist, I had never heard the term Advent before coming to graduate school, but experiencing this practice and the rhythmic motions of the church calendar has developed a depth to my experience I had not before encountered. It has taught me that this season’s origins promote a time to sit in the anticipation of our salvation, which is culminated in the birth pains of the incarnation. And yes, we sometimes get too caught up in the commercialization, sure; but the bigger concern is without it, what do we anticipate? Not Calvary, not yet, anyway. Easter will have its day, but now, it is time to celebrate Advent.

I really enjoy the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emanuel” because in its verses it proclaims the answer to this question and truly articulates the spirit of the season. It’s somber tone does not mix well with likes of “Baby, Its Cold Outside,” but instead, it intermingles the feelings of both sadness and hope. In its verses, one can discern Advent’s true purpose—yearning. The song proclaims “Israel that mourns in lonely exile here,” which speaks to our precarious posture of knowing and practicing the new kingdom’s tenets in a world that does not except it wholly. The church are a people that proclaim hope in the midst of suffering. We declare that which has not come to its full fruition—the eschaton. And so we wait. We wait yearning and looking to the day when Christ returns and the culmination of our faith is fulfilled.

Meanwhile, this Advent season, let me encourage you to slow down and reflect. Let us anticipate and look forward to promises not yet fulfilled as Israel and all of creation once did. Let the excitement grow. Anticipate. Hope. Yearn.