When thinking about launching a counseling practice in Saint Augustine, I tinkered with forming a "brand new thing." That's when a timely conversation with a friend grabbed my attention.
For the last six years, I've been embedded with a counseling practice in Chattanooga that I have watched grow from the ground up from a single therapist to sixteen.
Over ten years later, I am now launching a new initiative with Elbow Tree Florida. As I was toying with whether or not to carry the Elbow Tree torch to Florida from East Tennessee, Greg gave me an image that has really stuck with me.
"You won't be rolling into town alone. You will be traveling into town with the strength of an armada behind you."
This image of connection, communion and commonality resonates deeply.
The human heart is hard wired for connection. In human development, we describe this as the formation of healthy emotional attachments. When there is a wound to attachment in the growing up years, it can greatly impair a person's ability to trust others and limit our assurance of being fully loved.
At some time or another, we will all experience the pain of feeling less loved or desired. Husbands, wives, sons and daughters are all vulnerable to this kind of pain.
"The only thing more painful than pain is being alone in the pain." Over a decade ago, a friend of mine shared these words as an invitation to me into a new kind of friendship with him.
Two years ago, I launched a therapy group for men called TRIBE. My heartbeat is help men find a new way to navigate their anger, fear and pain while exploring in in a context of healthy community how to live more fully from their whole heart.
Men are notorious for isolating themselves when they are feeling emotionally overwhelmed. I wrote a blog last year called "Every Man Needs a Tribe." I'd highly recommend reading it.
There is this lie that permeates male culture that men must endure emotional pain alone when nearly every other dimension of our lives is marked by traveling in some form of tribe.
Genesis 2:18 and Ecclesiastes 4 unveil God's heart for us.
"It is not good for man to be alone." (Gen. 2:18)
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecc. 4)
The invitation into counseling is not to drill on what's wrong with a person, rather it is to explore what is very, very right about you. It is an invitation to experiment with the possibility of being known in ways that will cross-pollinate all of your relationships - with others, with yourself and with God.
Men and women both have an unquestionable need to be known. We were not meant to travel alone in that desire. That longing, often experienced as loneliness, was placed within us by a God who shares a similar longing.
Even God does not live in isolation. No. God's very nature is communal; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. An enduring fellowship whose image we bear as communal creatures.
It can be easy to forget that God is not a singular being. God's invitation to each of us is NOT to become so strong that we do not need others. Instead, we are invited to live, breathe, learn and grow in the context of both human and divine connection.
There is no special guarantee that traveling in community will rescue you from pain. But once again, the only thing more painful than pain is being in pain alone.
May you travel with the strength and power of an armada.