07 December 2014

Pain, Expression, and Age Appropriate Behavior

I've been involved with Boot Camp Northwest now for close to a decade and I've seen a lot of men come through and experience some really profound emotional and spiritual healing.
One of the core tenets of what we do is that healthy and open "hearts" are central to living a life of freedom and strength. While that concept does not simply mean "emotions" our feelings are certainly part of the definition.
A key aspect to this is that we do ourselves harm when we stuff our emotions, especially surrounding a traumatic event, as westerners are so prone to do. Stuffed emotions only come out later, somewhere different and typically much nastier and toxic for their time spent in the bilge of our souls.
Morgan Snyder, a key member of the Ransomed Heart team and in many ways a mentor to me on this ministry, tells a story when he (usually) talks about God and living as His son. In it he remembers being a young boy, less than 10 I think, and somebody in the family has passed away. If memory serves it was his paternal grandfather. Young Morgan watches at the funeral as his father breaks down crying at the loss of (I think) his own father. As Morgan tells the story as an adult what he remembers from that day was this, "the strongest thing in my world, my dad, wasn't strong enough" and he continues to tell how that experience shaped his own sense of abandonment and fatherlessness.
It's a powerful story, really powerful, and I totally get it.
But it has deeply troubled me since the first time I heard it many years ago.
Here's why: our ministry, one that Morgan shares in, would teach that Morgan's dad was most likely "doing it right" in the sense that he was being honest, true to his heart, letting himself feel what was totally normal and natural and not stuffing it. But that moment of honesty turned out to be a moment of wounding for young Morgan. This has me troubled.
I realize that this is a snapshot - one moment among tens of thousands - of the experiences between young Morgan and his dad. If this emotional response was totally uncharacteristic of their normal then that alone would be at least confusing.
Still, it's been odd for me to hear this story come to me as ambiguous all this time. There's probably little point in expecting young Morgan to understand something that emotionally charged and complex at such a young age. But I doubt we would ever want to advise Morgan Sr. to stuff his pain.
So where does this leave us?
One thought is that we do well to be aware of who's watching. Kids in particular may not be equipped to understand our "honesty" even though it is generally good.
But I think the better answer lies in interpretation, specifically a parents role of actively interpreting events for our kiss so they can get a grip on the confusing world around them. I wonder if Morgan's father might have had the chance to come alongside his confused son shortly thereafter and explain what he saw, let him ask questions, let him process. A child is unlikely to seek that kind of interaction - they don't know what they don't know - meaning parents must pay attention to see those moments of confusion and what we can to bring context and interpretation, especially for the weird, scary, and threatening stuff.
I wonder if Morgan's dad had done that, would that wound have been healed, or at least reduced in depth.

...that's all I got...

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