Part 1 of an Interview with Warren Traynor, Pastor of Family and Care Ministries, Christ Community Church, Leawood Campus, Leawood KS, reflecting on the painting entitled “Engaging”
“Healing through ‘Engaging’ our own Story”
Rosemary: To place this painting entitled “Engaging” in context as to why you and I are doing this interview, I’d like to explain that you headed up the children’s ministry years ago and now most recently you are leading The Journey** Classes, which offer a healing journey for adults to explore their stories, wounds and brokenness in a safe environment. And I have participated in both ministries, and have learned a lot from teaching fourth graders and recently attending both Journey groups.
Warren: I just appreciate that you’re trying to engage in the process (of The Journey Classes), because that’s what’s important. Yet, the thing I love about Journey is people have a choice: if they want to engage or if they don’t want to engage. The materials are designed to help people engage, but you and others have embraced that. It’s not always fun to share your story. The Journey asks people to be more transparent and to be honest with themselves. That’s not always easy. People don’t want to do that. We built up walls, mechanisms to protect us, because everyone’s been hurt. No one’s missed out on that. For every single person there’s a part of their story that has pain and hurt. It’s interesting because some people are more willing to work on their story and seek relief than other people are. Sometimes the pain and hurt is really, really destructive, and sometimes it’s not as destructive, but it’s still there. It’s been interesting particularly with guys, we have, a lot of guys will say ‘You know, really, I had a pretty good life, I did this and did that’. I always wonder…well first off I always doubt that it’s totally true. I always wonder if they’re saying that to reassure themselves or if they’re saying that to reinforce the walls that they put up.
Rosemary: And be ‘successful’ at it.
Warren: Yes, and one of the things I’ve always admired about The Journey is if people will embrace it, it really can make a big difference. But guys have a tendency to hold back, really a lot. So in our teaching, when I’ve taught in the large group stuff, I’ve tried to pull the wall down and share as part of trying to help people realize that it’s Ok to be transparent. A lot of people won’t embrace that. So I’m really thankful for those who are willing to do it, because it’s not easy. Rosemary you know, it’s hard work.
I think women are more relational, they’re more communicative, about feelings and thoughts. Guys…that’s not where they go. It’s OK; it’s part of our DNA, it’s part of who we are, it’s part of God’s mechanism, it’s part of how we’re created, and yet I think Satan uses that against us. What God created for good, Satan would love to have cause harm. I think in a lot of cases with men and their stories, Satan has been able to use that to cause harm. That’s why I think it’s so important for men to begin to think about, consider, ponder, and then risk sharing. They just won’t do that very easily. You almost have to go way overboard to create a safe environment for them, and then you may not even get them to really be truthful because if they’re carrying a pain, they think it’s weakness to share that.
Women have a tendency to kind of be OK with weakness, but men have a tendency to say, if people think I’m weak, then I’ll not be strong at work or whatever, and so I won’t be seen as the protector, I won’t be seen as what I need to do. So guys have a tendency to just really cover it up.
Rosemary: I agree, which is why we have so many women’s groups and are probably struggling to get those men to come into group.
Warren: We are, and I see it in relational issues. When relationships are struggling, rarely is the desire to do something about it initiated by a man. Almost always it is initiated by the female of the relationship. Men, even if there’s a relationship struggle, will seldom, seldom just step up to the plate.
Rosemary: I think if someone is in denial, not wanting to deal with brokenness in their own lives and therefore the brokenness in our relationships, there’s not much I can do about it.
Warren: You’re right. What I’ve discovered when somebody seeks me out for relational counseling, is if either party is not willing to engage in the process, then there’s really not much you can do. Often times I have to tell people the only person that you can work on is yourself, and that’s OK. Get yourself right, work on yourself, figure it out for yourself, then as you do that, it will be transforming for you, whether it’s not transformative for anyone else, but it’s transformative for you. If you do that you now view all of life through a different lens. The lens of your story doesn’t have the power over you that it used to have. It doesn’t have the same impact because you see it for what it is; you begin to see it as OK…yes this was bad, but I’m at a point now where I can choose to let this have power or not have power. I can move beyond it, I can process through it. I can confront, and I can interact. But if they don’t want to go there, then I’ve done what I need to do for me. Often times in a broken relationship, that’s all you get – the work you do. Sometimes that’s it. But every once in awhile, all the parties in the relationship will say “Alright, let’s do this, let’s work on this”. They’ll recognize the role they played and they’ll do something about it.
Rosemary: That’s a place of hope.
Warren: Again, you’re right. We aren’t created to live in the pain, to live in the brokenness. That was never God’s intent. Right from creation, He never intended for us to live in the pain and the brokenness. That’s why I think so often, just like Adam and Eve, when they made poor choices, their immediate reaction was to withdraw and hide. We’ve been withdrawing and hiding ever since. I’ve often wondered why didn’t they just go to God, why didn’t they just go to God and say, ‘this has happened’. Or why didn’t they go to God and say ‘hey, we’ve been told this and God what do you think?” But they didn’t do it. Instead they chose to, after they made that first sin, and objected to what God told them to do, and failed to listen and obey, they ran and hid. But I do that, we all do, and you see it in kids. That’s what I love about this picture, this painting. You see it in kids.
The Children’s Program here at church was great fun. But you know, you realize that as you work with kids…that’s where the beginning processes of brokenness happen. Often times they don’t know what to do about it, and so you see it in children, they run and hide pretty quickly, because they don’t have the life experiences. The older a person gets, when they’re confronted with something, they have more of an ability to fight. They have more of an ability to stand up. Their voice is bigger. They’re bigger. But when you’re just a child and something horrible or wrong happens to you, you don’t know what to do about it. You pull away, and you hide, and you cover up. You carry that and you layer the rest of your life on top of that. That’s why it’s so important that almost every time you get into therapy or counseling, they always want to unpack that, they always want to unpack the story, because you have to go back to the source, to the beginning and figure out…OK, what went wrong and why does it have power over you. That was true for Adam and Eve who walked with God in the garden, and talked to God and when they disobeyed, they immediately went and covered up. And it happens to us right now to this day. We did it as kids, we do it as adults, and in some cases as adults, we are still reacting like we were as kids.
Rosemary: Yes we are, and it does seem many do not become “adults”.
Warren: Right, we’ve been conditioned and we’ve learned that that’s the response to pain or being wronged. But that’s not the right response. Everything about us cries out for justice. Everything about us cries out for things to be fair. And so we want that but we rarely get that because our world isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair. So, what we have to do is come to an understanding of that. When we can do that, we can go forward with our lives. We can go forward and say, “ok that’s not fair, that shouldn’t have happened to me, but I’m not going to let that control me, I’m not going to let that have power”. Kids have a much harder time doing that because they don’t have power. Particularly in a family where family members get big, and get ugly and get mean, then kids have a tendency to pull back. In some cases the stronger members of the family pick on the weaker members of the family. It just makes it really, really hard. Being a grandparent with grandkids, you see the world in a different way. Well, let’s put it this way…you don’t have to see the world in a different way, but I realize how my grandkids are growing up in this broken world and how hard it is for them to navigate it. Bonnie and I both have tried very hard to help them have reality from the standpoint of knowing that they are unconditionally loved. That there’s nothing they could do that would cause us to ever not love them or not desire to protect them or not desire to care for them, so that they know no matter what, they are loved, they are cared for, they are protected. Parents can’t always do that because as parents they have this interesting role of not only being a parent, but they also have to discipline. They have to raise and grow up a child, and as grandparents, we don’t have to do that. We’re free! We can hug, we can encourage; in some cases, we can spoil, and yet, we also can help compensate in huge ways. But families where maybe they have generational brokenness, that doesn’t happen. They don’t have that modeled. They don’t have that, and so you have to figure out how do you make that happen. You have a choice, you can either make it happen or not happen, just like you can embrace your story, learn from it, grow from it, and move forward.
**The Journey is a 9-week class developed by Open Hearts Ministries, Kalamazoo Michigan.
Join us the week of February 20th for Part 2 of the interview: “Time to Consider, Reflect, Ponder, Process, Dig Deeper into our Story”
Pictured above: Framed Canvas Giclee reproduction available at www.BegleyArt.com