A Spiritual Reset
Needless to say, my pilgrimage with God was not on hiatus the last two years, even though my blog posts were. Two years ago my personal life took an unexpected turn as the relationship with my father completely disintegrated. I reached a crisis point with him as the truth about who he is became completely revealed. I made the difficult but necessary decision that I could not tolerate his toxicity in my life and my family’s life. I am reconciled to the fact that I may never see or speak with him again. There is still grief and sadness in this decision even though I am at peace with it. Through this grieving I realized that the only father I could count on was God. As I reflected on the scope of my life, I could see God at work in a whole host of ways to sustain my life and faith. There were many people in my life that served as a means of grace that prevented me from becoming the man who raised me.
Of all the parts of this saga, I had the most difficulty dealing with the truth of how much like my father I had become. I was raised by a man with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. What this means is that my value to him was based solely on what I could do for him. I grew up in an environment where my self worth was always conditional. It was always his world and the rest of us simply lived in it. In fact, a book that was referred to me by a friend speaks volumes about my upbringing...Why Is It Always About You? This is a book written to help the families of narcissists make sense of how to live with somebody who has NPD. By the grace of God I didn’t follow that path. However, the effects of being raised in that environment couldn’t be avoided altogether. The Narcissistic Shadow was cast across my life mostly in my relationship to my family. I was far more like my father than I would have ever admitted when it came to my marriage and my parenting. The Shadow was also cast across my ministry in times of conflict. I would look to insulate myself in anyway I could rather than to face the prospect of making a decision that proved unpopular or would have put my standing within the community at risk.
It’s been a long two years. There have been a good many peaks and valleys along this path. I have had moments of clarity when I was able to choose differently, make amends and move forward. I have also had moments when I felt as though I was beating my head against the wall. I have known God’s grace in extraordinary and life giving ways. By the healing that God has poured out in my life and relationships I have been able to reclaim my life. I am continuing to peal away the layers of crap that have accumulated over the years. I have a new image of what my life and ministry will look like in the years to come.
One of the most enduring gifts that God has given me through this transition is the grace to know that my ministry has mattered, in spite of what I had come to discover about myself. As grief stricken and angry as I was with myself because of the choices I had made, I could have easily looked at the last twenty-five years as a waste, forever tainted by the stain of narcissism. I have reflected carefully over the ways that narcissism impacted my ministry in negative ways so that I might learn. I have also been able to celebrate the ways that God’s grace was at work in me and through me to make a change in people’s lives as I have led them to deeper experiences and expressions of faith. This balance has kept me on track through these last two years.
The whole story is of course more complex than a single post can afford, so I’ll need to unpack it more as time goes on, mostly because I’m still trying to get a handle on some of it. In the meantime there have been other changes along the way; the most significant one will be in my next post. Here’s a hint: