I started listening to Oprah’s Supersoul Sunday podcasts last week. Monday morning I got up and thought it might be better to watch them instead. How cool would that be?
I was scrolling through the episodes and I saw that Oprah had an interview with William Paul Young, the author of The Shack. I had reluctantly read The Shack in 2008. This opened the door to me exposing my shack (my secrets) to an emotional affair partner, who later labeled me as a sex addict. She insisted that I come clean with my spouse and start the long road to recovery.
I resisted her pleas.
It wasn’t until my wife caught me in a lie and demanded that I “man up” that I ended up disclosing the secrets I held so tightly. It was not the first time I opened my shack to my wife, nor would it be the last time. This disclosure was one of many firestorms that ripped through our marriage.
On Monday, I felt drawn to hear Paul’s story. What was in his shack? What was his “great sadness”? What prompted him to write the book that later became a movie?
I searched all over the internet to find the entire interview with Oprah. I could only find tidbits here and there. I resigned and said, “OK, I’ll just watch this minute and a half clip.” In that one minute I became a puddle of mush letting the guilt, shame, and pain of my past flow down my cheeks and splash onto the hotel carpet floor.
I too was 38 when I got caught and I needed that kick in the ass by my former spouse to spur me toward recovery.
I love Paul’s line “A lot of us were so broken that exposure is the only gift that opens up a pathway to healing.”
I sat in silence for a bit thinking how ironic it was that the author of a book that forced me to look into my own shack had gone through a similar experience as myself. Not only had he written a book as a parable to explain his healing journey, I too had followed that path through this blog. It has been my writing that has helped me heal.
I wanted to hear more. So, I threw on my work out gear, grabbed my phone, plugged in my earbuds, and listened to the first of two, hour plus interviews.
I continued to hear my story in his. The details are slightly different, but the struggles were the same. The painting a facade for the world to see, the compartmentalization of different personalities depending on where I was or who I was with, the juggling to maintain all the lies, and the constant need for perfection in everything I did. I could have no worth unless I was perfect.
Paul talked about shame: “Shame destroys your ability to distinguish between a value statement and an observation.”
He further explained that when his wife would make an observation, something as simple as sorting the white’s from the colors when doing laundry, he internalized it as a failure. Any observation was seen as, “Paul, I don’t know why I married such a loser like you,” instead of just an observation. I cannot tell you the hundreds of times I had told myself those exact same lies.
Paul talks about how close he was to committing suicide. I had two rocks that kept those thoughts away. I would never do to my two girls what my father did to me. Running was not an option. I would not desert them. However, I shudder to think what my state of mind could have been had I not been a parent.
Paul’s story is a powerful reminder about what happens when we hide a part of us in our shack. Unless we deal with what’s in our shack, our shame will destroy us and the ones we love.
I had just finished the first video when I called a friend in program. He was struggling and I could feel his pain deep within myself. I had been there. I had just experienced it reliving Paul’s story. I forwarded the Managing Trauma Triggers blog I had written last October hoping it could help bring him some experience, strength, and hope.
After reading the first paragraph and my reference to weeds, he sent me the video below explaining that this song was speaking to him.
Oh, my brother and fellow Fledgling, I can feel your depth of despair. So much pain. And as I listened to the song, I couldn’t help but think of The Shack and Mackenzie’s weeds.
Papa then arrives. Mack says how, though the garden is a mess, he somehow feels strangely comfortable in it. Papa and Sarayu smile at each other. Sarayu says, “And well you should, Mackenzie, because this garden is your soul—this mess is you! Together, you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And its wild and beautiful and perfectly in process. To you it seems messy, but to me, I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive—a living fractal.” Mack crumbled. He looked at his garden and it really was a mess, but incredible and wonderful at the same time.
Paul states in his interview that he felt he was at the edge of a cliff, “a dried up piece of crap and the wind’s blowing it away and I’m terrified that when it’s done there’s not going to be anything left.” His friend told him that there’s a seed and if there’s a seed something could grow.
My Fledglings, our life is but a tangle of weeds. We must tend to our garden, to our soul. Open the door to our shack so we can pull the weeds that’s choking the life out of us. We must plant our seeds of self-love. We must water and nurture them with compassion and empathy.
This is the most difficult journey of all. And yet, it is also the most courageous.
“You have a faith that is being tested by fire, a faith that is worth more than gold, and now you are receiving the object of your faith, which is the healing of your soul. That is what God is after, to heal us. To crawl into the middle of our shacks and participate with us in this process. And Papa, you know the brothers and sisters and the friends. You know what’s in all of our hearts and we bring our souls, the mess we are and we say we can’t do this. We are not designed to do this by ourselves. And we invite you to continue this work, whatever this is. And some of our great sadness are things we just did not want to let go of. And the memories associated with them and everything else. Some of it is the forgiveness stuff. I don’t know, Holy spirit you know. And so I ask that you climb inside our hearts, our souls, and we turn to you and say as best as we know how, we tell you, can you help us?”
– Paul Young
You aren’t alone. We are all in this together.
Together We Can Heal.
May you rise from the ashes and soar with the eagles.