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My wife hates me ... writing

My wife hates to see me write. Actually, she knows I am supposed to be writing, but she hates to see what it’s like for me to write. Coming up with the ideas for writing projects is the fun part, but the actual writing is hard work, and when publisher deadlines approach, there are often weekends when I’m writing from early morning until late afternoon. That’s the way it was to complete a book I just sent off to one of my editors. It’s on spiritual competency in psychotherapy. However, the book is just one of several projects that I foolishly took on at the same time. I am also in revision mode, handling the edits of two other sets of editors, one for a chapter in a survey of approaches to counselling and psychotherapy to be published by Sage Publications and the other a chapter on gestalt therapy for the second edition of David Cain’s survey of humanistic psychotherapy and the research that supports it, to be published by the American Psychological Association. (I had already completed two entries in Wiley’s upcoming five-volume Encyclopedia of Clinical Psychology.) I am also responding to commentaries on an article I wrote for a reviewed journal about research, working with two different co-editors for two different books, and in February I will consult with colleagues the Czech Republic and Chile, because I am lead author on a grant application for an international research project.

My wife hates to see me write because it takes time away from her, but also because it takes a lot out of me. But this is what I am supposed to be doing.

When I was 10-years-old I read a biography of Ernest Hemingway, and I realised I wanted to become a writer. While his writing reflected his life of running with the bulls in Spain, hunting game below the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and fishing for marlin in the Caribbean, I am a writer of professional literature, and I am a writer about my spiritual identity. My writing opens up opportunities to teach, and so this year my wife and I will be working with others in Rome, Seoul, Hong Kong, Nanjing, Pasadena, Asilomar, and Belfast. I’ll be lecturing, training, and supervising other professionals on gestalt therapy, spirituality in psychotherapy, working with addictive and self-medicating behaviours, the philosophy of science, and research methodology.

All that is a long way from where I was before I came to Bermuda. In 2003 I was at a low. I was in the process of getting licensed in Oregon as a psychologist, managing a house for a disabled man, and wondering where my life was going. My children were grown and out on their own. I was single. I had just given my life anew to the Lord, saying literally, “God, if you can do anything with this life, even at this age, it’s all yours.” I was open, literally, for whatever might come next.

I am not one of those devotees of the prosperity gospel. I don’t think we measure spiritual success by material gain. In fact, there are giants of faith who never led a giant corporation, made millions, owned a large mansion, or drove a fancy car. I am also not one of those people who believe in the pomp and position that seems to accrue to spiritual leadership, the cult of the great person that seems to imply spiritual maturity.

While away over Christmas I visited a church in which the pastor strode in from the side with a headset microphone, stopping occasionally on his grand entry to glad-hand a member, while someone trailed along behind him carrying his Bible. I do not believe that one can count on riches and fame just because one has decided to follow Jesus. In fact, following Jesus probably will lead to suffering and sacrifice. That is what was involved in Jesus following His Father. I do not believe that one can count on being understood and appreciated, even liked, simply because one has put his or her trust in Jesus. Actually, a person should more likely get ready to be maligned, criticised, rejected, attacked, and abused.

I don’t think we naturally think with a brain conformed to the Kingdom of God. We don’t see with Kingdom eyes and we don’t hear with Kingdom ears. We tend to do things according to values and methods outside the Kingdom. Jesus spoke to this in His sermon on the mount when he said things like, “You’ve seen it written that it is a sin to commit murder, but I say to you that if a person gets angry and tells someone he or she is a fool, then that person is guilty enough to go to hell.” He said things like, “The Old Testament law says it’s a sin to sleep with someone outside of your marriage, but I say that if you look at another person and fantasise about taking their clothes off and having sex with them, then you’re as guilty as if you in fact did those things.” He was demonstrating that kingdom values are values of the heart and mind and not just the comparatively superficial matters of religious conformity.

So, simply because a person gives his or her life to Jesus does not mean that riches, adventures, health, a new relationship, or any other wonderful thing is going to be given to that person. What it does mean is that God will refine the faith of that person, usually through some kind of trial, and that God will use that person for Kingdom purposes. The person can count on having a significant life, but that might not mean having a big bank account. It might not mean being esteemed or even understood by others. Whether it is a long life or a short life, it will be a life important in the eyes of God. If that matters, then the person living that life can be assured that the greatest decision they ever made was the one to lay down their life, pick up their cross, and follow Jesus.