“Pain is the touchstone of spiritual growth.”
My family and friends are aware to one degree or another that two years ago, I made a decision to live my life fundamentally differently than I had for almost my entire life. Today, I have a life that is happy, peaceful and becoming free of the bondage of self. I have a life that I believe is second to none, far more fulfilling than I had even been aware was possible. Where two years ago, my marriage was essentially over, today I have a relationship with my Wife that is defined by trust, and respect, and a depth of love I had not even been aware was possible before. If I had heard of this two years ago, or someone had suggested it to me, I would have dismissed it as absurd; but today I have come to realize that virtually everything I knew and believed to be true about my interactions with others, about being a husband and a father, just a good man, was wrong. Everything that I thought I knew was wrong. I had lived my whole life self-propelled by my own limited resources of intellect, reason, logic, and emotions; and it worked reasonably well enough for long enough that I thought I could do it –do anything- all by myself.
I certainly didn’t need God. I wasn’t an atheist, I believed that I was agnostic, but I had no sense at all of spirituality or of any kind of Higher Power of either mine or anyone else’s understanding. Eventually I suffered the likely destiny of such a life lived by the propulsion of self will alone. The same result that today I recognize my own Father had arrived at many years before me. I ended up alone, immersed in an emotionally shut down, unfeeling numbness of pitiful, incomprehensible, demoralization. Finally, after I’d reached the bottom of my fall, and felt like I was starting to lose my mind, and couldn’t deny any longer that I was losing the love of my family, I asked God for help. I resisted doing that for a long time despite the fact that doing things my way had long since failed to work out well for me. From that very first time I dropped to my knees and asked God to help me, it worked. I don’t know how it worked, nor do I need to know how it worked. All I know is that it worked. Asking for Gods help began to produce results immediately that I least expected and most wanted. This is one definition of a miracle. That gave me a sense of hope that my life could get better, which opened up the door of willingness just a little bit. I became willing to embark upon a practice of spiritual growth through seeking to live my life by God’s Will for my life, instead of by my own will. This has made all the difference for me.
Today I get to do things that before I didn’t want to do. I spent almost 50 years of my life never contemplating or even considering these kinds of things. My whole existence had become about not feeling anything, most of all my own feelings. I never experienced the emotion of being self-loathing, and I had always thought that that was an attribute, a personal strength of mine that helped me in my career. Today I recognize that the truth was that I didn’t even have the depth of a human being required to experience feeling self-loathing, and that this was a weakness, not a strong character trait. Had I been able to look honestly at myself, I may have developed real humility, born of actually feeling the guilt when I did the wrong thing, or experienced the pain of empathy when my words or actions hurt someone I love. I believed that I was an honest man because I didn’t lie to you, when all along I had been lying to myself about who I was. Today, I don’t have to live like that any longer. I get to understand that being accountable for my actions and needing to apologize is not an embarrassing moment to be avoided, but rather a chance to practice humility.