Wading In

5 year old self

Time to wade into the murky, Jungian / Freudian waters of self-analysis again.


The first sensation as my feet touched the water was shame; embarrassment that I don’t have all this worked out by now. I’m a 55-year-old man who has access to the Throne of God through the redeeming work of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit…but I’ve still got work to do with my 5 year old self.

This ego-business is the first hurdle to overcome. I’m put-off by the fact that I’m put-off by doing this work. I thought I had at least my “basic” shit together, and I thought that included not being proud of having my “basic” shit together. Not true. One of the things that has been holding me back from continued growth these last couple of years is my un-willingness to expose the basic brokenness I must still face. I want to be a Jedi Master, and when people around me begin to treat me like one, it’s an assault on my ego to be seen back in Light Saber 101 Class.

2 weeks ago when my Spiritual Director first opened up the idea of dialogue with 5 year old Dan, I resisted (internally) because I didn’t want to move in what felt like a backwards direction. I was able to admit this to him, which is good, but the struggle is not over. Even this moment, as I type the title I have chosen for him (Spiritual Director) I recognize that I am (and have been) avoiding calling him my counselor. Counselors are for the needy. That’s not supposed to be me.

But let’s not get too bogged down in the ankle-deep water. As I move in up to my knees and start considering childhood wounds and their impact on adult-Dan, I encounter the critical voice that points out that my childhood was actually pretty good; compared to a lot of people I know and love it was ideal. My wounds should not be counted among those wounds. The temptation to back up into the ankle-deep water is strong…

…because, while I never went hungry, was never beaten, abandoned or denied much of anything at Christmas or birthdays, there were “issues”. I was sexually abused at around age 5. While I was rarely a participant, there was nearly constant conflict in the home (sometimes physical) that occurred at an altitude right above my head. Alcoholism, drug abuse and a cyclical climate of chaos.

I have provisionally summarized the state of 5-year old Dan’s life this way: I was loved, but I was not seen. The grown-ups and older kids existed in this other plane of drama and complexity that I was not allowed into, either because they were protecting me from it or they just didn’t want me underfoot. After all – I was really just a late addition to a cast that had already been acting out this family tragedy for decades by the time I arrived. The end result was a gilded cage. I was isolated. To illuminate my provisional summary:

When I was seen, it was in the role of “baby” of the family. That’s what I was brought into the world to be. I don’t think I was viewed as an actual PERSON for the first 11 years or so. My identity was not self-contained. It was entirely referential, based on my role in someone else’s movie.

It’s not that I wasn’t valued. By no means. In fact, I may have been over-valued by my mother, at least. But I was not valued for who I was, only for my role.  I recall having to fight to breathe, to be allowed to move and stretch and BE. I think my mother was suffocating me.

When I did manage to get out from under that from time to time, I discovered a father, brothers and a grandfather who just didn’t really want, or know how to deal with a little boy, so a certain amount of neglect and occasional hostility was what awaited me.

I was a show dog. I was well fed, groomed and cared for. Legitimately valued and yes, loved. But my value lay in what I could provide for my owners, and if out of the kennel behaving like a regular dog, I was often an annoyance. I was prevented from doing things that would threaten my “showbility” so there was not a lot of chances to explore what being a real dog was like.

I’m not sure anyone really wanted a dog and everything that comes with one. They just wanted the IDEA of a dog…a caricature. A cartoon. A portrait of a dog.

The Wounds

St.Michael’s and All Angels. Felton, Northumberland, U.K.

Contemplating the wounds of Jesus throughout the month of June has produced a variety of responses. Here are just two.

Embarrassment. The image of the classic Roman-style crucifix pops to mind. The frail and bloodied body; ribs showing, anguished face, enormous nails and a crown of thorns unbelievably large and sharp. It’s not that these images themselves are some how unorthodox, it’s that they are so clearly emphasized by the artist that it is inescapable to conclude that he wants us to focus on the wounds – and people who want us to focus on their wounds are either pitiable or an embarrassment or both. The contemporary obsession with being a victim threatens to corrupt my view of the wounds of Jesus. We award and even laud those who claim victim hood regardless of whether they really are or the origins of the wounds.

That crucifix begins to fade and then merge into the background of hysterical cries about the loss of a family pet, “micro-aggressions”or an internet insult. It risks being lost altogether amidst the imagined and often self-inflicted wounds of those who seek only their own good. Lord, help me to see those wounds as the ONLY wounds that finally matter. Help me hold on to their profound reality, to their profound selflessness and their power.

Hope. Only a fool or a madman can deny that wounds are not only universal but are somehow woven deeply into the fabric of the human experience. It is this inevitable observation that has driven philosophers, poets and peasants to contemplate eternal questions in the first place. Without wounds, no one would bother to ask and answer the “big” questions. As I have probed my own wounds and the wounds I have caused, it has only ever been the existence of the nail-wounds, the punctured lung, and the countless lacerations of the Nazarene that provide a meaningful context.

All other wounds, whether my own personal wounds, wounds visited upon the Creation or wounds I have malevolently caused, are derivative of the wounds visited upon the Son of God. The hopeless, knotted web of wounds which defines humanity can only ever be brought into focus; can only ever receive precisely the healing they require when finally understood as extensions of those wounds delivered and received on Calvary.

I have felt that healing.

I hope in the continuing work of those wounds which continue to issue their power for those who would choose stand beneath them.