Part 2 of 5 :: The Lay of the Land
During high school I worked for a construction company that specialized in remodeling multi-million dollar homes. I remember one particular home on a lake in affluent Lake Oswego. The home was a complete interior remodel with the addition of an expansive deck in the back and small deck in the front. The front deck was built with solid mahogany. The project took precision, careful cuts, and great care to install each piece correctly without damaging the wood. I quickly learned that mahogany didn’t care to have screws drilled without proper preparation. I would start to drill a screw to secure the top board to the support and the board would split every time. The antidote was to slowly pre-drill with a sharp bit and then attach the board with a screw. I needed to understand what I was working with and the properties of the material to make an adjustment…or the carpenter could have stopped laughing at me and told me what to do.
On a dark stormy Seattle winter night I met with Pat at a SODO Starbucks. Butterflies in my stomach and anxiety growing, wondering what to expect and curious who this person is that I will be sharing my soul with. Doubts increased as my unrealistic impression of “counselor” stereotype bubbled. I took a seat next to the coffee bar and we dived in. God’s power was immediately present. I liked this guy. He was calm and soothing. He presence was such that I could feel that he actually cared. Pat asked a number of probing questions and allowed me to share deeply and honestly. Pat listened well. I was able to share much of my historical family background and my spiritual heritage. I talked about my struggled and many of the larger spiritual questions about prayer and a relationship with God that I shared with my friend Katie weeks before.
These two snapshots from my life are related. They both reveal the need to know the lay of the land. Working with mahogany was a new experience. I needed to understand the properties of the wood and use the best tools to create he deck. Similarly, Pat needed to understand where I came from and hear my story. The intricate details and foundation my spiritual life is built upon. I remember leaving the first meeting feeling frustrated. I definitely liked Pat and was looking forward to our potential soul-friendship, but I didn’t understand what he was doing. Why did he just ask a bunch of questions and not really give me things to do? What kind of spiritual director is he? A scammer, I bet. No. Over the next week it started to settle in as I thought about the questions he asked and the direction of the conversation. Pat was learning about me. He was listening, watching my nonverbals, understanding my story. He was interested in getting to know the lay of the land much like a contractor and architect will do when doing a walk through of a house when a homeowner is telling them what he wants to remodel. This is the key that clicked for me. I can tell Pat what I want, but it might not be what is best. For example, you might tell a builder that you want to open a wall so that your kitchen looks out in to the family room. As the contractor and architect survey the foundation, beams, and other support systems they uncover that it isn’t as easy as you think because the wall is loud bearing. Without Pat understanding me first disaster could be around the corner.
Pat needed to learn who I am. He needed to survey me and listen to my stories. Pat learned the lay of the land.