Saturday, February 7, 2009


From time to time I read things or hear things that really stick with me. I know they do because, though I'm not aware of their presence deep within my mind, they pop out effortlessly when the appropriate circumstances arise. One of those things was spoken by or written by Sam Keen, author of Fire in the Belly, which along with Robert Bly’s Iron John, has been credited with kick-starting the "men's movement." I seems to recall that it was on an audio-cassette a friend gave me almost a decade ago, but which was lost in one of my moves. You'll forgive me if all the details aren't accurate; I have it on good authority (Sam Keen himself) that he has "certainly said something of the kind many times."

Keen was talking about people dealing with emotional issues in their lives through therapy and seminars and self-help books. He noted that he was aware of people who had engaged in such activities for years with no perceptible improvement, yet they persisted. In fact, these activities had become part of the people's identities. What stuck with me was Keen's observation (no pun intended) that though there is value in the therapy and the seminars and such, at some point those engaged in them "need to graduate." They need to move on in their lives to an identity that isn't defined by "healing" or "recovering" -- they need to be persons who have healed or have recovered. I'm not a mental health professional health professional, and I won't even pretend to know the specific circumstances of every person, but I think Kee's statement has a ring of truth to it.

What brought this to mind was a conversation with a friend about single people . . . specifically, people who married and subsequently divorced. Again, I don't know everyone's circumstances, but I am one of those people, so I do understand something about the matter. It seems to me that some of these people get stuck in the "divorced person" stage and never graduate. I don't mean they don't get un-divorced (though some do, reconciling with the spouse whom they divorced) or that they remarry (though some do). I mean they continue to wear that big "D" prominently on their chests, so that all will know. It is an integral part of their identities. This allows some to continue being victims, and to continue telling the world that they are. Someone divorced me or did something to me that made divorce an option . . . and here's who it was and what they did to me and how I feel about them (not usually warm and fuzzy). I don't think this is healthy. And I don't think it's the way God intends them (or me or you) to live.

I don't have "book, chapter, and verse" for this, but I think there's a better way, a way God took me (though I didn't detect the movement except in retrospect). God took me through "recovering" into "recovered," through "healing" into "healed." I graduated. I moved from being a divorced person to being a single person and finally to being just a person. I'm not un-divorced, nor have I remarried. But the divorce that broke my family apart (and, granted, still affects our lives) no longer defines me. I'm forgiven and I'm released from the burden. Child of God and follower of Jesus -- that's my identity.