Listener Questions, Part One

“Tragically, there are many who either refuse to take the risk and bond themselves to nothing but anxiety, or others who wish to escape the complexity and therefore function with just the naive benefits of dopamine and endorphins.”

Last year, we invited listeners of The Allender Center Podcast to send in questions that they would like to hear Dan Allender address. The response has been significant. “Oh my goodness, what a gift,” says Dan, “to have seen both the number but also the quality of the questions that have come in.”

Many of the questions were in regards to trauma and abuse, which Dan will address extensively in the coming months as he prepares for the release of his new book, Healing the Wounded Heart. Other listeners asked Dan to discuss topics of spiritual warfare in more depth, which he hopes to do in future podcasts with his wife, Becky. Some of the weightiest questions were about the challenges of parenting, and Dan says he plans to invite his daughter-in-law, a Montessori educator and recent guest on the podcast, to help him engage those topics in the future.

The remaining questions fall into the general category of relationships, including this week’s two-part question: How do you negotiate leaving and cleaving in dating, or can that only occur in marriage? And how do you transition from singleness to engagement while still honoring your parents? Dan has primarily discussed the categories of leaving, cleaving, and weaving in relation to marriage, but there is something about those acts that is overarching and applies to all relationships.

“You are leaving a culture, a world, a family, every time you make major decisions where there is any form of departure. You are literally entering the realm of loss, therefore you’ve got to account for death. It isn’t the same change of loyalty, but in departure, in loss, in engagement of death, you’re opening the door to a reconfiguration of the loyalties of your life.”

The act of exploring the possibilities of long-term commitment to another person inevitably brings up the issue of attachment, which involves the categories of attunement, containment, and repair. How do we attune ourselves to the needs and story of another person? How do we offer honor, boundaries, and loyalty that foster a sense of containment? How do we pursue repair after rupture? Addressing these questions forces us to look at our families of origin and the ways that those dynamics impact our current relationships.

“What do we need to do to leave our families? How will we die individually and together? What does it mean for us to be attached, to know that we’ve both got to grow in attunement, we’ve both got to grow in containment, and we’ve both got to learn how to repair ruptures?”

In all of this, we return again and again to the need for humility, openness, and the ability to listen to others as we step more fully into the unique person we were created to be.

“This is the movement of hearts. Certainly, you want to be open to your family’s feedback, concern, blessing, but I don’t believe—particularly in a Western culture—a family has the ultimate right to exclude a kind of person or this particular person. Even from Balaam’s ass, there should be an openness to hearing the braying that’s set before you, so that it does not displace the movement but becomes part of the engagement with the complexity of what it means to link two parts, two bodies, two families together.”