I love a lot of different things – hats, books, leather, old trucks, snowboarding ….
…. and water. I love water. It’s on the river that my heart is most content.
17 years ago my wife Angie, our young son and I moved to Seattle, Washington for one reason. Mars Hill Graduate School. I had zero ambition of becoming a therapist. Zero. I went to school to immerse myself in the one thing that really mattered to me – the soul. We arrived excited, so full of hope and anticipation. A son bouncing with life. Angie pregnant with our soon-to-be-born daughter. Our growing family. Blossoming dreams. Life was good.
Shortly before her birth our baby girl’s heart stopped beating.
And that’s how graduate school began. Shock turned to grief. Night after night of waking in excruciating pain. Day’s of kneeling at our daughter’s grave full of rage and inconsolable pain. I entered a counseling program deeply committed to the very real reality that any therapist worth their salt must – absolutely must struggle intensely with their own story, heartache, and disappointment. I knew that going in. But this wasn’t what I had signed up for. I’d come for life but death came first and it knocked hard and fast.
So I entered school as raw as I’d ever been. The death of our daughter opened up pathways to my story and other death’s in my life that before I hadn’t the capacity to enter. For the next four years I absolutely threw myself into a process that felt more like it chose me – one that would ultimately lead me to walking a path through story with many others. I’d struggled with depression for most of my life. I was no longer depressed. I was in pain. I struggled. I fought. I mourned.
I often wondered if the pain would ever end. Would I sit in this for the rest of my life? I can honestly say that it didn’t end. But it did change and it really did transform. It changed me. Everything was different now. My perspective, my worldview, my view of who God is, my view of who I was and am. I began to question at my core as to what this life was all about. The pain didn’t leave. It actually grew deeper within me. My soul learned how to “hold” grief – for myself and on behalf of others’. The apostle Paul says that we all groan inwardly for the day when all will be redeemed. I groan. I learned and am learning how to be ok with pain. To be comfortable with discomfort. To surrender to the reality that I cannot control my life paradoxically offering to me the freedom to truly live it. To live the life that is mine and only mine to live. And in the process I became acquainted with something I didn’t expect … faith, hope, and joy. “Blessed are you when you mourn…for then you shall be comforted.”
School came to an end. And unpredictably so did our marriage. A long story but the proverbial shit had hit the fan. We were worlds apart. It happened so subtly we barely even noticed. So we left a business I had built, our home, my counseling practice and moved with our 3 sons to Colorado to sort thru the pieces and see what was left. I didn’t care if I ever saw another client again. I wanted my wife and my family. For the next 4 years I worked as a maintenance man. Maintenance and marriage counseling. That was it…
Oh, and water. The Colorado River. Alone, engulfed in pain and shame juxtaposed with unbelievable beauty. A fly-rod, waders, boots and lots of trout. “Two things pierce the human heart…beauty and affliction.” I’d been pierced…again.
8 years ago our 4th son was born. Born out of a marriage that had been wildly resurrected from death, countless tears and conversation. And through a series of events that I didn’t go looking for I began counseling again. Hesitantly would be an understatement. Highly resistant would be more accurate. I wasn’t looking for this the first time and even less so the second.
The Voice of Love spoke to me once again. And it started on the water. Beauty. Story. Art. The sound of the river flowing. The rhythm and beauty of it all. God relentlessly calling to the deep waters of my soul. To live from my whole heart…once again.
I hold both stories of death and of resurrection. I never know how a story will end and what I will see this side of eternity. But I continually learn how to surrender and let go of controlling the outcome knowing that one day The Story will resolve in Beauty. And for that day, my heart waits. The kingdom of heaven has come…
but not yet.