Jun 6th, Listening To Your Life: Finding God in Adversity with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski
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Jun 6th, Listening To Your Life: Finding God in Adversity.
Frederick Beckner wrote, Listen to your life. See your life for the fathomless mystery that it is. Pay attention to the boredom and pain of your life. Pay attention to the excitement and gladness of your life. Such a feel smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of life. Because in the last analysis. All moments are key moments. And life itself. Is Grace. You know, we often look for God in those large, bright and unmistakably holy places like like a sanctuary.
Could it be that God is hidden in plain sight? Right there in the midst of our nitty gritty of our everyday lives. The focus of our worship during June and July will be listen. Listen to your life. Where are the unexpected places? Where we might encounter God. How might we listen and. And look for the sacred. In our every day. So we’re going to engage in what I like to call holy curiosity. Here he is.
Where we might encounter God. The least expected places. Today, we’re going to pay attention and listen to how we experience adversity in our lives. And where might God be in the midst of adversity? Reexperience. You know, pretty soon we may no longer need to wear masks and won’t that be a great day? We’ve experienced so much adversity in the past 16 months. But my fear is that once we take off our masks. We’ll continue to mask our pain, but continue to mask our grief or trauma, our fear are our unhealed wounds.
Our culture teaches us to avoid and and mask our painful emotion. Today, we’re going to listen. Be curious about what’s going on in our in our inner life, especially after this last year. And I am super excited today to welcome and and share a conversation with Molly Lacroix, who’s a member of our church, Molly is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice who received her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Bethel Seminary in San Diego, where she actually returned as an adjunct professor and in their marriage and family therapy program.
He recently published a book I Can’t Recommend Highly Enough. It’s called Restoring Relationships. Transforming fear into love. You connection. I’ve asked Molly to join me today. To explore how we might connect. Who are? To our inner wounded, this. In a way where we might experience. God’s healing presence. You know, as we anticipate a post pandemic, life healing, healing is not returning to the way things were. Eeling. Is moving forward together.
Stronger. Molly, it is so great to see you, I’m so grateful that you’ve agreed to join me this morning and and help us listen to our lives. And I know that you have a particular way of. In some ways, inviting us to be curious and understand not just our life, but our our inner life and wonder if you’d like to share a little bit more about that.
I’d love to. It’s my pleasure to to be able to chat with you and so the the model that I use in my work. Helps us see ourselves in a way that I find very congruent with Christian spirituality. So if we remember that God is multiple. And we know the analogy, Paul writes about Christ and the church as the body with many diverse parts. Then it makes sense that when we come to understand ourselves as multiple. Reflects the fact that we’re created in God’s image.
And so what we find is that what most of us are routinely think of as disembodied thoughts, emotions, sensations actually reflect different parts of ourselves. And the analogy we use is that we have an interfamily and leadership for the family is a harmonious blend of the spirit and these qualities we possess because we are created in God’s image. So we have endless qualities and that so that’s the leader of the family. And then there are different family members who ideally all work in harmony, harmony to be the unique creature God intended us to be.
It’s interesting, you mentioned Paul and that that phrase that I think we all can relate to where he says I do the things I don’t want to do and I don’t do the things that I really know I’d like to do. How does that fit in this model?
Well, that I think that really helps us normalize this idea of multiplicity, because that that’s a new way of understanding ourselves for most of us. But we reach we routinely refer to ourselves as a part of me wants to do this, but a part of me doesn’t. Whenever we’re making a decision or wrestling, as Paul was, with something we intend to do, and then we find ourselves doing the opposite. And as Paul says, something I despise and we have these inner conflicts and and what you know, this way of understanding ourselves really personifies that as different individuals within us who have different roles and responsibilities and intentions.
And I know our our culture tends to like to avoid pain, our culture tends to like to kind of mask, you know, the inner life and avoid it. And I know you talk about protector’s that that we have these protectors that are trying in some ways to to protect us from being vulnerable. That’s right. Can you say more about that?
Yeah. When we when we start paying attention to what’s going on inside ourselves, what we notice is that, yes, there’s a leader of the system and we can we can feel that energy when we’re, you know, feeling compassionate and connected to people and we’re confident about what we’re doing. But there are other members of this inner family who take on protective roles to keep us from feeling the vulnerable, painful things which can be intense emotions, shame, grief, even things like rage.
And those parts of us who have experienced adversity carry burdens from that. And so, again, the intense emotions that can be distorted beliefs. I’m unlovable, I’m unworthy. I’m not good enough. We most of us can recognize we carry some of this in us because as humans, we simply are vulnerable. Adversity happens to all of us.
The part of what I’m hearing, rather than necessarily know avoiding those painful emotions, part of what I’m hearing is you kind of invite us to be curious about them and even try to connect to that vulnerability in some way. Yeah.
That’s that is the path of healing, and what we find is that the first group of members of our family that we meet are these protectors. So if you think about it, that so if our intention is we want to connect with these vulnerable, wounded members of our inner family, we first have to befriend their protectors because these parts of us take on a job. Let’s say we have it’s a very common experience. Most people can identify some time in childhood when they felt shame, maybe from a parent, a teacher, a coach, some figure of authority.
And so a common protector takes on a job. I’m never going to let that happen again, and so you might have this perfectionistic, controlling member of your inner family. And if you want to be able to connect with this vulnerable young child, you know, this inner child, as many people are familiar with that term, we first have to befriend the dedicated protector because what we find is that we might intellectually know, well, it’s a good idea to connect with vulnerability.
But the fact is, we’ve got all these protectors who block it, so we have to start with them.
I often think I have a very critical inner voice and that probably at one time or ongoing serves a purpose. And I find that when I hear that that critical inner voice, when I try to fight it or judge it or tell it to get lost. Right. It just digs its heels in.
And I sometimes have to just simply say, all right, that’s that’s familiar. I know you. I’m just going to let you be for a while while I try to listen to wisdom. And I wonder what wisdom might say to me now. Mm hmm. Does that make sense in that model?
Absolutely. Because that is the typical way we’re told to wrestle these, you know, these inner critics or wrestle that lie that we believe about ourselves. And just like any other individual, if if we meet somebody with that kind of attitude. They might double down or, you know, yell louder and so this model, the reason I love it so much, it’s so congruent with our faith is this is how Jesus encountered people. He met them right where they were.
They didn’t have to change to be connected with him. He befriended all of them. And so when we can befriend an inner critic, have one of those two. I know there are a lot of Enneagram fans in this congregation. I’m an Enneagram one. So it’s so powerful to befriend this part of me because my understanding is it’s well-intentioned. It it’s taken on a job. A thankless job, really, when we begin to meet these parts of ourselves, when they do kind of nasty stuff, they actually don’t like the jobs they doing.
They don’t want to have to do this, but they think if they don’t, something terrible is going to happen. So that shame that I felt at some point in my life for not being good enough will come up and overwhelm me if this critic doesn’t control me and keep me from being vulnerable in that way. And so by befriending the inner critic and saying, I I know you have good intentions, tell me more about why you’re here. Tell me more about why you’re yelling so loudly today.
Ultimately, as we befriend those those those protectors and they relax, then we have access to the vulnerable ones, then we can meet with them and hear their story and help them unload what they’ve been carrying.
And in some ways, like moving from judgment to curiosity.
Oh, yes, yes, yes. And what’s beautiful about this is, again, going back to the fact that we’re created in God’s image, the resources we possess cannot be obliterated by what happens to us in this life. But they get blocked so they get blocked by the burdens of our wounding and they get blocked by these protective strategies, these qualities we possess, as you know, bearers of God’s image. Are there they’re constrained and when we release the constraints, then we can lead with compassion, with curiosity, you know, we when we’re confronted by what we begin to understand, when we see some behavior in someone else that we might be tempted to judge, now we know, wow, now that’s a fierce protector.
There’s some pain under there because the intensity of our protectors reflects the intensity of our wounding and so our compassion, then it does it mean that what this protector doing is fine, is doing is fine? I mean, there are some hurtful, dysfunctional behaviors, but those are like a uniform this part puts on and when we can meet with it lovingly. As Jesus meets with all of us, just as we are and help heal what it is afraid of, it can take the uniform off.
It’s all parts of this of our, you know, interfamily. All members of our inner family are meant to bring wonderful qualities to the system. And and that’s you know, it’s one analogy I use like an orchestra, whether it’s tuning, it’s everybody’s tuning up and working independently in its cacophonous. And as we heal, it’s more like the harmony of a well tuned orchestra playing together.
And what a different perspective of rather than viewing those things which cause us to stress as being distressed about them, they actually view them as like invitations and invitation a pay attention. There’s something important going on here. In some ways, those emotions could be gifts.
Is that fair to say? They are. They are. I mean, we could have a whole conversation about regaining what I call our emotional competence, because we live in a culture that privileges, cognition, thoughts, beliefs, words, and and yet God created us as very emotional creatures. And those emotions are information. And so when we feel them. You know, sometimes they they scare parts of us, and that’s why we have to start with the parts who are afraid and reassure them, you know, if I just turn my attention, it actually won’t have to overwhelm me.
It only overwhelms me when I ignore it. But when we turn our attention to it, you know, a lot of us are holding grief, you know, who hasn’t experienced some kind of loss in this? Last year, and, you know, some people can be very overwhelmed by their grief and stuck in that overwhelm and for others on the other end of the continuum, they’re over here denying it, minimizing it, cutting off from it. And I spent four years at a hospice.
And I can tell you grief doesn’t dissipate, right, unless it’s allowed to be witnessed. And so so cultivating that competence of turning toward and being with and again, if it’s really intense, maybe help is needed to create that safe space.
So help us. So what are what are some.
So how do we know what are what are some simple strategies or our spiritual practices that might just might help us ground us, particularly where we are right now. Yeah. And help us move forward. Yeah.
Well, it’s you know, I, I talk about a simple spiritual practice that starts with going inside, turning our attention inside. So inner awareness, anybody who meditates, you know, has has that part of the practice down where this goes deeper is is with this intention of developing relationships. And so we notice what’s there. And, you know, we begin to be aware of maybe, you know, take our attention to whatever’s most intense on a particular day and notice I’d be curious about this is my heart open?
It would be really simple if only one part of us at a time showed up. But often there’s another there’s some polarity. There’s a part that fears it or, you know, and we just kind of as if you were conducting a meeting, just say, well, everybody can’t talk at once. So we cultivate patience is another resource. We have to say, let’s take it one at a time. And see, if I just focus on this one part of me, am I open to it, is my heart open?
I’m curious, do I care to hear more and then let it speak? And it’s not magic. We do relationships all the time. So it’s again, using those same skills of I. What are you trying to do for me, what’s your job? How do you feel about your job? You know, noticing the response now, sometimes we’ll get words and sometimes we’ll just feel things in our bodies or we’ll get images. So it’s it’s a practice, you know, but but just doing that and connecting often will notice more calm.
We’ll notice again, these these qualities we possess just bubble up and we feel that compassion. We feel that. Confidence to try something new, whatever it might be.
I mean, what I what I hear in that and what I experience in you. His kindness when I hear. Is an invitation to be kind to yourself, I mean, love is patient, love is. Kind and maybe we are the ones perhaps who need that kindness as much as anyone else.
That’s right. Yeah, and parts of us might say, oh, no, that’s selfish. That’s self-absorbed. And so we start with that one. OK, you think that’s self-absorbed? Tell me more. What are you what would happen if I take a few minutes? You know, let’s let’s get let’s make friends, you know, so we just start with whatever’s there. And it is self compassions, very powerful. And sometimes people think, well, we have to work hard to develop it.
And this approach says, nope, it’s there. We just need to release the constraints. And so it still takes effort. It’s a practice, but it’s very powerful.
This reminds me of Thomas Merton, who said every day there are a thousand things that distract us and take us away from our true self. Rather than view those as distractions or annoyances or problems. What if they were invitation? Invitations to return to the love that is always there waiting for you, that you are not a problem to be solved. You are a person who deserves and just who needs to be loved. That’s right.
Yeah, yeah. That’s a beautiful summary of what’s what this is about.
And I understand you have a spiritual practice that that just a simple one sheet that you’re making available for us, which we super appreciate. And all you have to do is email Shary in the office and you’ll see it on the screen here, her email address. And we’ll send you this simple one page way to. Extend a little bit of kindness.
That’s right, that’s right.
Yeah, I love Henry David Thoreau said life is heartbreaking. Every day, life breaks our hearts and this past year. We have felt that it’s such a deep level. And he said the only remedy for heartbreak. Is the love still? And to love more. What’s one maybe one last thing you might offer us that will? As we move forward Towards Healing, that might help us to love more.
For me, it’s I just always go back to God is love and being created in God’s image, I have that love in me. And so this practice releases the constraints to that. And and it truly. It does help us love still and love more in the face of heartbreak and pain.
Thanks, Molly, what a gift. I can’t I can’t say how much gratitude I have for being able to spend this time with you.
Oh, my pleasure.