Living with my dysfunctional companion…

i mentioned last week that i have been cycling through depression.   not to worry.   those of you that know me well are acquainted with my cycling.   it will pass.   it always does.

this story is layered.   i’ll unpack a little bit of it tonight.

the year was 1985.   i was 31 years old and had just begun my fifth year of youth ministry in huntington beach.   i was well-trained.   i had been doing youth ministry since 1972.   what i hadn’t learned in school and through intentional mentoring,  i learned through my personal school of youth ministry hard knocks…

but i wasn’t prepared for what i was dealing with in the mid-80’s.   i was encountering kids with problems that were deeper and more complicated than i knew what to do with.   sexual abuse…rape…abandonment…physical abuse…fallout from divorce…teenage pregnancies…massive eating disorders…rampant sexual promiscuity…alcohol and drug abuse…suicide…you name it,  i was facing it.

i was learning all about family dysfunction before it was common terminology.

these tragedies were leaving kids spiritually…physically…emotionally…socially…and relationally scarred.   fear…guilt… inferiority…doubt…anger…emptiness…sadness…rejection…all of them,  common.   and depression.

to deal with what i was facing,  i decided to go back to school.   i had already completed my master’s degree (in preaching and church growth) a few years earlier.   but i needed more.  way more.   so i enrolled in another master’s program…in marriage, family and child counseling.   and back to school i went.

as part of the degree and licensing program,  i had to put in 1500 hours of supervised counseling.   during that two-year program,  i learned a lot about counseling.   i heard it all.   i studied.   i practiced.   i learned to listen.   i faced the reality that none of us are exempt from personal life difficulty…and forced me deeper in my preparation to help people the best i could.

so much of what i heard in the professional counseling setting broke my heart.      one of the things i encountered every week was depression.   i studied it.      i listened to people’s stories and helped them wrestle through their feelings and attempts to describe their journey.   i learned to identify it.   i even became pretty competent at helping people through it.

but i had never experienced it personally.   until the summer of 1987.



4 thoughts on “Living with my dysfunctional companion…

  1. I don’t envy you and the stuff you have to deal with. You have your problems, your family’s problems, your friend’s problems, your congregation’s problems and anybody else that finds out you’re a preacher so you must have a more direct line to God than them. So you get to first hand watch as your friends destroy and turn their lives into messes only to get to a point where they come begging to you for answers that they normally don’t want to hear or live out.

    Its ironic I suppose that one of the best parts of your job is that you get to spread the message of God and bring people to Him. Yet it’s a double edged sword because you get to stand by and watch as they absolutely destroy that word trying to make their lives “theirs” and not His.

  2. I know you’re going to tell the rest of the story..or at least more of it…but do you think your own depression is a result of watching/hearing about all these things?

  3. We have to always ask ourselves, “Is our citizenship in heaven or on earth? Are we living in the temporary or the eternal? How much are we entangled in the cares of this world? “This world is not our home. We’re just a passing through.” We try to help, even rescue each other on our journeys. Then we are faced with other questions: Which way is the influence going? Are we like Jesus crying for Jerusalem when we see our friends plights? Or as we try to help are we slipping back to depending on earthly temporary solutions which seem wise at the time but by themselves don’t bring eternity back into the picture. Sometimes there is relief but no real satisfaction. The glimmer of heaven fades. I’m talking about the helper not the one being helped. It is so easy to slip. That which is the most important is the most dangerous.

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