John Backman is a guest writer whose voice we’re honored to share. You can read more about John in his bio at the end of the piece.
I keep making this one mistake in providing spiritual direction. Weirdly, it’s the same mistake a lot of us make when dealing with people on the other side of a hot-button issue, like faith and sexuality.
In my first meeting with a new client, I inevitably ask, “What brings you to spiritual direction?” This question has as many answers as there are people. One person may need more shape or direction to her prayer life. Another may be struggling to hear God’s will. Whatever the case, most people have a “presenting issue” to bring to spiritual direction, and it comes out here.
At this point, I assume we’ll work through the issue for a few months, maybe even a year, get it squared away, and then go deeper into this person’s walk with the Lord.
You’ve spotted the mistake, right?
I first told someone about my sexuality while sitting in a dorm room at a Christian college in Middle America. The couch on which we sat had seen better days—frayed along the edges of its arms and missing its feet so we had to sink quite low, almost to the ground, to finally meet the seat cushions.
I can’t remember why I chose that night to tell someone after 19 years of silence. Perhaps I felt particularly lonely or maybe my spirit was as low as that couch. I also can’t recall the words I used to share this secret part of me. I imagine they were halting and slightly evasive—just enough to set the scene, but not give away too much of the back story.
My body has a capillary condition which results in my having constantly cold hands. In the winter, I have a particularly difficult time keeping them warm—especially if I’m outside for any period of time. In talking with my doctor about the condition, he suggested wearing mittens instead of gloves so that the collective warmth of my fingers would help them fight off the cold. But I challenge you to find an attractive pair of mittens for a man. Or, perhaps I mean to say, I feel unman-like while wearing mittens.
Whatever the case, I don’t wear them. So here’s what happens when I’m outside during winter: my hands get numb. It starts in my pinky fingers and then slowly moves across them from the outside in. If you’ve ever had numb hands, you know it’s a strange sensation. There is a certain level of pain to it, but you get used to it because you stop feeling your fingers after a time.
The real pain begins when you come indoors. As your fingers start to warm up, it’s like a thousand little needles being jammed in every nerve ending. The more numb your fingers, the more excruciating the pain when they begin to thaw.
In my last post, I described my experience of trying to let feelings enter my life again. I hinted at the challenge of this process, but didn’t dwell on the pain involved in it. I’d like to try to describe that further here.