Letters on Spiritual Formation #2
Introduction to the Letters on Spiritual Formation - Part 2
This is Part 2 of 4 in a series of letters on spiritual growth and maturity. To read the first letter in the series, click here.
Lessons from Pain
When I was 18 I went through particularly painful family situation. I was hurt by both of my parents, but the outlet of my anger was directed mostly towards my father. I spent 7 years languishing, and never even coming close to realizing any potential I had in my life. I had no deep connection, no fulfillment. I spend most of my time depressed. I was a relational mess.
And then I had two dreams.
In the first dream my father was preaching at me. It was a pretty simple dream, not much else happened. Yet, in the dream I was very angry. The anger in the dream lingered as I awoke.
The next night I had a dream that a demon was chasing me. I had been able to stay one step ahead of it, but it was out for my life and any wrong move would doom me. I had nowhere to go or no one to turn to. I could only keep running. I was terrified, and as I awoke, like the night before, the fear took a while to recede while lying in my bed.
For weeks I couldn’t stop thinking about these dreams. I shared them with friends, I mulled over them, and I prayed about them. My spirit was troubled.
It took me a little while, but eventually a truth dawned on me, as if light had enlightened my thinking. I realized that I had no one to turn to in the demon dream because I would not hear the help my father could give. I realized, in that moment, just how much my anger towards my father hindered and influenced my ability to turn towards God. I had no one to turn to for spiritual help because of the great anger I harboured towards my father. The pain of my parent’s divorce impacted how I would view any father in my life, and ultimately God as father.
Just like the little boy, we never quite feel safe around the things that have hurt us. In some ways, we never grow past the little boy stage because of these reactions. Pain can be a great teacher when we treat it appropriately. While the fire caused the pain, it was his lack of understanding and his subsequent assumptions that impacted his life. If we embrace the painful moments in our lives, we can embrace the deep lessons that these moments bring. Pain can cause us to ask probing questions about ourselves and others, our world view and our assumptions.
Why did I do this?
Why do I always seem to do this?
Why do I keep my distance?
Why, when I want to feel loved and accepted do I do things that seemingly sabotage that very desire?
Most of us have asked these questions at some point in our lives. We get stuck in reaction/avoidance mentality. We react to the pain, then form habits that will keep us safe from any further pain. Like the little boy, we never reevaluate our approach to curiosity. The little boy would have best served his inquisitiveness by asking his mother about the little flickering light. But he didn't and he got hurt. He will become curious again, and he will be hurt again. The questions we must ask ourselves when faced with painful situations are “What drove us here?” and “What do we need to face within ourselves to be free from what drove us?”