Learning Love from My Cross: Men, Emotions, and Healing

Every man is wounded or experiences suffering.  Because we are created for a communion of persons, suffering and mental illness seem like they are always a failure of being loved, or giving love, or both.  Most suffering is from disruptions in this communion of persons either with God or on the human plane.  The separation might be physical like death, spiritual as in mortal sin, or psychological due to abuse or neglect.

Translating the Devil’s or Diablo’s name and Satan’s name will be very psychologically insightful in understanding the disruptions in the communion of persons!  Diablo can be translated as “the separator,” and Satan can be translated as “the accuser.”  The Devil has been a separator from the beginning, driving a wedge between the man and the woman, and between them and God.  Separation is suffering and death!  It goes against how we are designed.

Satan accuses God of not being a good Father.  He convinces Eve that God is withholding something—the knowledge of good and evil.  Of course they eat and are ashamed and try to cover themselves.  When God shows up, they take their hiding to the bushes.  Interestingly, God does not ask the typical parental question, “What did you do?”  He first asks a relational (communion of persons) question, “Where are you?”  But Adam and Eve never really get around to answering that question (so I guess the politicians come by it honestly!).  Instead, they “accuse” each other and God of being the problem.

Back to shame: shame is always created in relationship.  A silly example is that we feel more stupid if we trip on the sidewalk and someone sees us, than when no one sees us.  With shame the accusations are not simply external; they can spread like wildfire internally as well:  “I’m worthless,”  “I can’t be forgiven,”  “I’m a mistake,”  “I don’t deserve love,” etc.  They are Satan’s and Diablo’s shame.  Following his lead, we accuse ourselves or others and separate ourselves from God and others.

Many of us are trained out of knowing our emotions due to our experiences.  This training is also in Diablo’s playbook for dysfunctional families.  “Don’t talk about real problems,” “Don’t trust anyone,” and “Don’t have feelings” are rules resulting from the wounds we received from what our parents did or didn’t do, or from our siblings, bullies, or abusers.  Not dealing with our broken hearts or our emotions can wreak havoc on our lives for decades.  Our emotions let us know what our likes and dislikes are, when something is wrong, what our passion is, and who we are.

If the Garden of Eden shows us anything, it shows us we are designed to be challenged.  So we must meet the challenge and learn to face our suffering and integrate our emotions so that we can live out our masculinity as spiritual sons who receive love and as spiritual fathers who love others.  We have to do better than Adam with the New Adam’s help! We need to tell Satan and the Devil to go to hell!  We need to turn down the accusations in our head and increase the connections among us.  We need a way to deal with the emotions that sin, suffering, or abuse creates and experience God’s loving presence in those deepest and darkest places in our hearts. Healing comes only through the communion of persons, vertically with God and horizontally with others.  As a pastoral counselor I work both dimensions simultaneously.  Facing our wounds and suffering takes tremendous courage so that we can live from our integrated hearts, heads, and hands.

The communion of persons demands that we find ourselves only in the reflection of the other.  Actually, in reality we are mirrors for each other and for our experiences, joyful as well as painful.  Jesus is a perfect mirror for us:  “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15).  The Gospels make clear he is a very experienced guide, a man acquainted with suffering; he can take us through this valley of the shadow of death of our hearts.  This is the “Good News” and is part of the healing of the Incarnation.  When we do experience this communion of persons in our deepest pain and suffering, we are comforted, and only then can our shame be healed.  The crooked ways are made straight.  We shut up Satan, the accuser, in our heads and run Diablo, the separator, out of our lives.  Receiving this love, we become who we are, the men we were created to be:  spiritual fathers.

I offer you this litany or psalm that catalogues our toughest wounds and emotions along with a refrain of Christ’s presence through his suffering.  When our hearts are broken and we see ourselves in the divine mirror on the cross, he reveals our true identity to us.  St. Paul says this love of Christ is so mind blowing that it is beyond our imagination and surpasses our knowledge.  For us to receive it, Paul has to ask the Father to strengthen us by his Spirit in our inner spirit, and ask Christ to dwell in our hearts.  All of this just to give us the strength to comprehend the breadth, the length, the height, and the depth of his love so that we can be filled with all the fullness of God (see Eph. 4:14-19).  Encountering Christ’s incomprehensible love equips us to take up his challenge of “picking up our cross daily” and loving others as he did, even our enemies!  Jesus might first say, “You must learn my love for you…

From My Cross…”

When you fall into temptation,
know that from my cross, that brutal instrument of death, I am with you.

When you are discouraged,
know that from my cross, I am with you.

When you are hurt by someone close to you,
know that from my cross, I am with you.

When you are betrayed,
know that from the Garden of Gethsemane, I am with you.

When you are persecuted unjustly,
know that from my cross, I am with you.

When you are beaten by those who love you or hate you,
know that from the way of my cross, I am with you.

When you are whipped,
know that from the pillar in the Praetorium, I am with you.

When you are humiliated and scorned,
know that from my cross, I am with you.

When you are bullied or scapegoated,
know that from my cross I am the scapegoat, and I am with you.

When you are justly angered,
know that you can join me in using your anger for my work, as I did when I healed a man’s withered hand after the teachers of the law angered and grieved me because of the hardness of their hearts.

When you are filled with rage, even murderous rage against me,
know that from my cross, I am with you and am there to completely absorb that rage.

When you are grieved at the death of someone dear to you,
know that from the tomb of Lazarus, I am with you.

When you are grieved to the point of death,
know that from the garden of Gethsemane, I am with you.

When a child dies,
know that my Father and Mother have gone there before you, and they are with you.

When you are stripped naked,
know that from Golgotha, the place of the skull, I am with you.

When you are tortured,
know that from my cross, I am with you.

When you are sexually abused,
know that from my cross I am with you, and it was why I was grieved unto death in the garden.

When you are in your shame and feel worthless,
know that from my cross, I am with you and absorb your shame.

When you are abandoned emotionally or physically by those you love,
know that from my cross, I am with you.

When you feel abandoned by God,
know that from my cross, I have gone there before you, and I am with you.

When you feel that I am asleep,
know that you may hide in my heart and rest with me in the back of the boat.

When you are exhausted,
know that from my cross, I am with you.

When you are afraid or anxious,
know that I cast out fear from my cross, and I am with you.

When you are terrified,
know that from my cross, I am with you.

When you have witnessed horrifying events beyond words,
know that from my cross, I have seen them as well, and I am with you.

When they come to kill you because of me,
know that they killed me first, and from my cross, I am with you.

My Cross, My Glory

From my cross, which the Accuser and the Separator meant for evil and death, I am the resurrection, and I make all things new.

From this most brutal form of capital punishment, I display and distribute my Father’s full love and forgiveness.

From the violence of the cross meant to instill terror and slavery, I overcome fear to bring great joy, peace which passes understanding, and freedom.

Men of God, follow me:

As Priest, I offer myself as sacrifice on the Cross which is my altar.
As Prophet, I preach from the Cross which is my pulpit.
And As King, I reign from the Cross which is my throne.
From my Cross, I do what Adam did not do—I lay down my life for my bride.
On the Cross, I am happiest—all things are rightly ordered: I serve my Father’s will, not wealth, power, pleasure, or honor.

Always remember, it is by my wounds you are healed.

O how happy (blessed) are you who find comfort in and live from my cross; you will inherit the fruit of my resurrection.

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Dave McClow, M.Div., LSCW, LMFT, is a pastoral counselor, writer, and speaker. He works with Dr. Greg Popcak at the Pastoral Solutions Institute as a Clinical Pastoral Counseling Associate and provides tele-counseling services to Catholics internationally (check us out at www.catholiccounselors.com/, or call to schedule an appointment:  740-266-6461).  For over 30 years he has served in many capacities in the mental health and addictions fields.  He is the founder of four text ministries for men: “Faith on The Phone,” “Fasting on the Phone,” “Pure Hearts” and The Abba Challenge  for Rekindle the Fire’s men’s group and is active on its central core team. He and his wife converted to the Catholic Church in 1996.  He was a catechist for 15 years in his diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.  He is currently developing a comprehensive Catholic vision of masculinity that he believes is an integral and leveraged component of the New Evangelization.  It is summarized in The Abba Prayer for Men found at AbbaChallenge.com with more at The Ultimate Challenge: Men & Faith.

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