When I was a therapist some of my clients were people who had suffered unspeakable horrors at some stage as they were growing up. They had been locked in closets or cages, deprived of warmth, food, or light, and had been physically or sexually abused. Of course there were deep psychological wounds left by these experiences, and these valiant survivors needed to learn to love the coping mechanisms they had developed to handle what had happened to them. The process of healing itself took a great deal of courage.
I learned early on that the greatest agency of healing in many of these cases was the survivor’s relationship with a trans-personal force or being that they knew personally and intimately. Sometimes I’d learn about how a comforting and strengthening presence had come to my client when they were a terrified child. At other times it was in my work with a person, in interpreting their dreams and inviting them into active imagination, that such a relationship unfolded.
Because I was the therapist, it was not my place to name this presence “God”, at least not before my client did so. All I could do was ask if there were some way that they could explore the relationship further, learn more, learn if other people had similar experiences. They needed companions in this discovery, people who also had personal relationships with the Holy.
How I yearned for wise men and women who were willing to talk about their faith with friends and neighbors. Where were the folks who were mature in their relationship with God and willing to own that their daily prayer life was the deep nourishment of their lives? My clients needed them. People like my clients still do.
In today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is talking about the end of the age. He mentions war and rumors of war, nation rising up against nation, famine, earthquakes and persecution. He mentions false Messiahs, people who come along proclaiming an easy answer to life’s difficulties. But what he says about all of this is that we need to remain steadfast in love of God and love of one another throughout all the changes, promises and catastrophes.
We can only address the looming problems of the world through working on the bits to which we are called by God. But speaking about our love of God, what nourishes us, what gives us meaning, is also very, very important. You never know when the person who is listening might really need to hear what you know. Even if you don’t think you know much, your companionship on the journey can be life saving.