The Making of Redeeming Heartache
What goes into the creation of a book? In this special episode, we take a deep dive into the making of Dr. Dan Allender and Cathy Loerzel’s new release, Redeeming Heartache: How Past Suffering Reveals True Calling. Special guest host Dr. J. Derek McNeil, President & Provost of The Seattle School, Dan, and Cathy discuss how the idea for the book came to be, the process and challenges of writing a book together, particularly in the midst of COVID, and the prophetic nature of the content. As they close the conversation, Derek poses a poignant question to Dan and Cathy—and to us all: What does it mean to celebrate our own stories?
- Pre-order your own copy of Redeeming Heartache
- Register for a one-day, online event with Dan and Cathy on September 18 and learn how heartache of the past can become a springboard for a more hopeful future
Dan: Welcome folks to a bit of a different podcast. Rachael is not with us but the co-author of the new book that I am part of Redeeming Heartache: How Past Suffering Reveals our Calling. Cathy Loerzel It is so good to have you join me in an unusual setting and that is our boss Dr. James Derek McNeil, the President of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, a remarkable human being. I’m about to turn over the role that I normally have as being the privileged interviewer. I get to be interviewed by this illustrious presence, Dr. McNeil. So Derek welcome Cathy, welcome,
Cathy: Thank you,
Derek: Thank you. And I’m first of all so delighted to be with both of you and really pleased and excited about this book. It’s wonderful to think about the timing of this book. This is the 10th anniversary of The Allender Center and we look forward to a huge celebration this coming year around this work. The ideas and in some ways the maturing. I think of this book as the culmination of a set of years of work and a number of things. Dan, this is your 19th or 21st, we couldn’t decide if it was the 20th. So we said 19th or 21st and book and Cathy, this is your first and so congratulations to you both. I want to begin just by asking the question, which I think our timing begs the question: why now and not just to be around the anniversary, but why now, in this time of our social cultural history, why this book and why now?
Cathy: Gosh, I mean, we started writing this book or the idea of this book came about far before the pandemic. And you know, this material that we cover in the book. You know, really Dan, you’ve been writing on this stuff for a lot of your books over time. Right? And so this material is really the connection point to a lot of the different material that you’ve been working on over the last couple of years. And so I got to join you to kind of bring it all together. And and and that’s been a gift, I don’t know that we really understood the timing of it all before we started writing it. But you know, I think part of the gift of what you’ve brought into this world dan is that you’ve always been a little bit further out in your prophetic voice, in terms of sexual abuse in the church and in people’s lives, the idea that trauma is embedded in everything that we do, that, the idea that none of us can escape the fall. You know, you’ve been out on the front lines talking about this for a long time, and now those things are coming more into the center of the zeitgeist of the human experience, We understand all of that to be true, whether it’s just that based on how much we’re exposed to on a daily basis, or how much we started to tell more of the truth of what has happened with the human condition, but you know, this, this book, you know, Dan, and we knew that we wanted to get this material out there because it was at the core of so much. We taught at The Allender Center. But then as we started to write it, the pandemic hit and my goodness, you know, we started the project in your house and that that was really the first meeting that we had around the book was really our last meeting for Like a half a year.
Dan: Yeah, a little longer. In 2019 we had begun. And so when COVID and all the heartbreaking consequences, literally, we did almost all our work together through this both horrible and wonderful gift of zoom. So, you know, it’s been a traumatizing process to write on trauma and in that process, thank goodness that Cathy and I had been engaging in teaching a lot of this material well before and to concretize it into print in some ways was actually much harder than I thought it was gonna be. In part because of Covid, in part because of being traumatized Through all that was going on in the year 2020. And I found it really strangely helpful. I found the material helpful before. But writing on it opened the door to even more,
Derek: There’s a certain awareness that happens as you’re living in a degree of collective trauma, all of us in terms of pandemic. And then writing about personal experiences of trauma and healing and curious as you talk about your process together and it would be very different process. One person’s got 19 or 21 under their belt and the other person, this is their first and so curious about the process for the two of you as you talk about writing in the midst of the pandemic.
Cathy: Yeah, I mean looking back on Dan saying yes to writing this book with me, that was a huge risk for him when I look back, I mean I I have written a few blogs here and there, I’ve written a lot of proposals, a lot of business plans. And I’ve developed the content, the material of the Allender center over the last decade, but it is quite a different thing to write a book than it is to teach than it is to have a slide deck than it is to get up in front of folks. And frankly looking back, I don’t know that I knew what I was getting into and I don’t know that I really knew I could do it. And so so I think part of the miracle of the book is that a first time author was able to connect with someone who has so much experience and Dan’s generosity and being able to share his material, let me develop more of it go back and forth. Like it was such a gift to be able to write this book with him. I mean it is really when I look back over the last two years, it is the highlight of joy and delight and goodness and also challenge to take things that have been in our bodies and in our way we breathe in the way we see the world and then find the right story that goes with it to find the language to explain you know, these complicated areas of how we have trauma in our lives and what we do to resolve it. So I, I again, you know, also again thank you to Dan for taking a shot. And Dan is, you may not know this about Dan, but he is very disciplined in how he approaches his work. And that may not come across sometimes because it feels like he’s just kind of talk but he was on me from the very beginning of like okay girl, like where’s this chapter? And you are behind and I need to see your writing and what’s your plan and you know that’s pretty to have Dan Allender—
Derek: A new side of him that we have seen as often…
Dan: I appear slovenly. Is that the bottom line?
Cathy: [laughs] No, just more, you know you you you take moments and yeah, no, not slovenly however, this was a new side of you.
Dan: Let me go back to two things. The first is there was a risk on my part at all because I’ve watched how you engage hard material. But personally corporately and I’ve read your writing and I think even watching how an email gets crafted is away, so I appreciate you saying that. But it didn’t feel like a risk. And to underscore nobody writes a book, there is no such thing as writing a freaking book. You write sentences, you write paragraphs, you don’t write a book. But the closest thing you do is you have a developmental editor. And to say that we have been blessed by, I think a genius of geniuses and that is Tracy Mullins came alongside of us and every book I have written with her, I grow as a writer and I know that she was a deep sweet ally for you Cathy for you to hear you’re a good writer and also here are areas you need to grow in. So I think anyone who thinks of a book as anything other than a community, even an individual author Has at least one of not 2-3 editors. And that process, I have often felt like the editor ought to be on the masthead of the book, just as much as the so-called editors. Absolutely. We laud her in the Acknowledgments section but you know, and then having friends, I won’t go through every name but having people read and go or that sucks. That’s really helpful. I mean it may not be the sweetest words you’re going to hear in a particular day, but it is so important that though we are responsible for the inadequacies of the book. We don’t blame anybody including the editors, but nonetheless we could not have written, I would never be able to write a so-called book if I didn’t have help in writing sentences and paragraphs etcetera.
Derek: Mhm. Well, I appreciate the way that the two of you have kind of brought out in this sort of process of making that which we know known and, you know, the editor, I think, you know, having worked on a couple of pieces, the editor and family, friends, people who both challenged and sit with and we’ve also named the context a context of trauma. So I think all that goes into shaping and birthing a sort of unique piece of something. And so let’s turn a little bit and talk about the book itself and what the two of you had hoped in this project and the message that you want to pull out and draw out for people to what you know, is that known thing that, you know, what is it you want to be known of this piece?
Dan: Well, I love the subtitle because it does say, generally speaking, what I most want to say, how past suffering, how past trauma, how the incursion of our world and we use three archetypes, how the experience of being an orphan and a stranger and a widow or widower actually sets a trajectory. And I put it pretty bluntly either a trajectory of denial and an effort to escape the reality of living in a fallen world or that there is some engagement and again, with the word engagement applies is a lot, but owning a naming and embracing a transforming of that suffering into a sense of damn it, I want to do harm to that, which is in just unmerciful lacking humility. I want to stand against that and I want to grow something of justice, Something of mercy and humility on this earth. And obviously, I’m reflecting Micah 6 8. So that framework of being able to say our calling is where we say hell no, and we’re something in us says, I believe I am meant to create something kind sweet and good on this earth for myself and for others. That’s what we wanted to accomplish.
Cathy: You know, for me. I started in 2000 and four with Dan as a student showed up at the threshold of what was then Mars HIll Graduate School, which is now the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology had never heard of Dan, didn’t, I’m not really quite sure it was a miracle of what got me to the, to the front door in the first place, mostly because of Abby Wong Hefter, who you’ve heard before on this podcast. You know, but when I showed up, I was really on a journey searching for language that could explain what had happened to me and what I was seeing happening in other people’s lives. Mhm. And when I showed up in dance class, the class that he taught our first year was called Faith, Hope and Love. And I remember sitting in that class and again, I have never I hadn’t read any of his books, I didn’t know who he was, but the gift of being able to have someone offer you language and reorientation back to what you’ve known was true in your own body, in your story, in your suffering. But when you don’t have language or explanation, it leaves you so isolated and struggling to find meaning to find hope, to find purpose and Dan’s categories of orphan widow and stranger. And then they’re redemptive arc into Prophet Priest and King offered me something not just about naming what was true and giving me a way to to translate my experiences into something that felt more universal one. I didn’t feel alone. I felt like I could start to put my story back together, but it also gave me a capacity to bridge and actually move into the redemptive arc of the gospel that didn’t feel cheap. That didn’t feel like you were skipping over suffering, that you weren’t moving into something too quickly that didn’t feel resolved, like it held the tension of the heartache and the agony that is true in each of our lives, but it didn’t leave us there. It gave us a bridge. But and it’s not an easy bridge, it’s one of suffering and heartache and understanding, but man, is it a beautiful bridge? And I think that’s why we wrote the book was because the gift of language, the gift of stories that we can help us translate our own lives. It’s really what scripture does for us as well. And it’s not to say that the book is like scripture, but I think it’s borrowing off of something of the gospel story that says your life is knowable if you can find language, can find God in the midst of it and also can find a community that can help moving towards God, but that has to happen through remembering what was true about what you’ve suffered and what you continue to suffer. So that’s I think that’s why that’s the hope is that what you know for me, it’s very personal. My hope is that what I experienced at the school, what I’ve experienced, engaging with dan and the other people at the Allender Center. What I’ve experienced from you Derek that we can then take that and offer that out two other people to maybe help give them language for what’s true about their lives.
Derek: I deeply appreciate the sort of metaphor Cathy using a bridge, the bridge between. that’s often the tough part of getting from one side of something to the other, from moving from orphan widow stranger to priest, Prophet, Priest and King. And I’ll talk, I’ll ask you some questions about that. But I also here in this Dan, when you talk about heartache and what comes to me about heartache is despair, redeeming despair, redeeming a sort of grief that of hopelessness of hearts broken in such a way that there is no putting it back together. And in some ways you’re saying, hey, it’s important to identify, hey, what’s my story? The heartbreak story even to produce a possibility of a redemptive story and that’s that bridge. So I’d love to hear you both talk a bit about that bridge. And some might call it that theory of change or some might talk about it as that. How do we get from one side of this bridge to the other? What’s that help that holding?
Dan: Well for me, at least part of the answer to that is what’s the gap between the two sides and in that sense, That’s what we would put words to as the effects of trauma. Not all heartache is trauma, but all trauma brings some degree of heartache and in that sense. You know, you’ve got these three classic words fragmentation. Whenever we’re in a significant level of heartache our mind, our brain will not operate as it does. When we’re not, in other words we fragment, we have a divide a gap between in some ways are left and right hemisphere between our limbic system between our amygdala and our hippocampus or between our limbic system and our cortical system. Again, not to bore you. But the bottom line is there’s division, there’s a gap and that gap is pretty sizable when we’re fragmenting and when you add to that, that when we’re beginning to in some sense, internally externally dissolve. We disassociate, we numb down and yet the numbing often results in even greater rage. And in one sense blaming blame shifting. So we go between our own disappointment and our own blame shifting and we just cut off we isolate. So when we know what we’re trying to bridge the reality is when we are experiencing that sense of being an orphan or strange and weird, we don’t fit or that the love that we most want, we have lost or it is now replaced by some level of accusation. I mean we all have structures of survival that we have learned deeply, no matter how good our family of origin was, we learned how to somehow survive and not just in our families but in the larger culture, we’ve learned how to survive in systems like schools or peer groups, but those survival structures at one level are stunningly beautiful because they kept us alive but they’re also so deeply broken. So part of the reality is can we name what’s true? Can we just name, I am not doing well. I’m fragmenting. I am so without feeling here or I am just on the border of rage, if not in it. Can I name what is true? Can I name that? I’m really lonely and I’m really, really hurt that I’m alone. All those categories leave us back to so few times. Can we name the truth, let alone name the truth in the presence of another human being. So to name it for ourselves as egregiously difficult as it is seems almost herculean to be able to say that to somebody even that you know, loves you cares for you, let alone somebody who might join the fragmentation by some level of accusations. So I think the first step though, I don’t think we think in steps, we think in terms of trajectories and processes, we have to name the truth and that’s going to be a lifetime process, but I’ll never begin to build a bridge. I’ll never be able to get to the other side if I don’t come to name something is deeply wrong, not just with my world, not just with other people, but something is deeply not well in my own being. So I’ll let Cathy handle the rest
Cathy: Perfect. Thanks. You know, I think I love the idea of, of the scripture that says the truth will set you free. You know, but then the other one that Dan always brings up is also it’s the kindness of God that leads you to repentance and I think when we start to land into the truth of both the Brokenness and the beauty of the world we’re often not prepared to handle what we discover and and I think we were starting to realize just how important it is for us to be radically committed to healing if we want to see, like any of the part of the kingdom actually come alive today right? You know, I think God is, is capable of bringing the goodness of the kingdom to come no matter what, but I think our call is to participate and if we’re meant to participate, we need to be more healed and more connected to what’s true about our own face and also about what’s true about other people and what’s going on in the world so that we can actually join in the grief and then also the redemptive arc and so you know, I as I’ve been writing this book and then talking about it and you know, doing my own Instagram feeds and all the things that are required I talk about grief more often now than I ever have although if I go back to my old blogs turns out I was talking about it then as well, I just didn’t realize it. And I don’t know that there’s anything that will get us to redemption other than sorrow and grief and lament. But in order for sorrow and grief to come, we have to be willing to let the truth of our own stories, both in what’s been done to us and also what we’ve done to others actually come to reside in our consciousness. And then allow there to be something of the holy work of holding it long enough to allow your body to sink into what’s true. Not so that we just sink into despair, but actually so that we can move into a true, authentic hope and that’s you know, so I think I I have tried every version of trying to skirt grief. I mean I will overwork, I will over drink, I will overcome it, I will disassociate, I will isolate I will try to put on a happy face you know that and that’s and all of those ways of dealing with the world are ways that kept me safe in my family of origin. But now as an adult, we have the opportunity to actually grow in our health and our ways of relating to the world, but if we don’t want recognize what we’ve done to try to deny the horror of what it means to exist. If we deny that, then we will also then deny what actually happened to us in our origin, that that that shattered something of what we know to be true about what we deserve or what we actually need in our bodies to feel safe. And so the invitation that we’re working on in this book is will you go back and start to name more of the truth of what happened? And will you start to understand how that impacted how you see the world? And will you allow there to be grief and a drop that will then move you into a redemptive arc. That is more true and can actually you know, bring something of the healing god to bear more in the world.
Dan: I think it’s one of the reasons why the categories of orphan and stranger and widow are so important because you know, we’re not the first people on the earth to suffer. And the reality is, you know, the Hebrew Bible gives some profound archetypes for telling the truth, but unfortunately we get real concrete and go, well, you know, my parents are alive or were alive, I’m not an orphan, you know, I’m not from another country, I’m not a stranger, you know, I’m married or I’m not married, my spouse is alive, I’m not a widow widower. And it’s like, yes, those are very concrete categories, but they also describe the reality of living in a fallen world for everyone. And that I think is one of the significant powers of this book is that we invite people into a reflection of what it means to be an orphan. A stranger, a widow that I think from what I’ve heard from friends who have encountered the book has been distressing but illuminating and oddly, and they have put use that phrase oddly freeing to be able to see themselves in light of that kind of profound biblical archetypes.
Derek: I’m struck again by the potency of story, my story, my life story. And there is in some ways the ability to reorient around orphan widow and stranger that does provide some comfort, even it helps me to recognize my story. Both to have some sense that I’m not alone in that sense of loss or that sense of distress or that sense of grief and that others have grieved and the possibility that the story can be altered, which is what you’re saying. So that notion of naming what is true, it’s naming what is true of my story and the naming that story in the context of others that I need to in some ways to have in the presence. And then also I hear you saying acceptance and acceptance of God first and foremost, and then acceptance of self. The ability to begin to in some ways Cathy use were authentic, authentic in some full way means I can see me and hold what I see, I can tolerate even what other people see in me and hold those pieces to and that’s difficult, challenging for us. But I love the way this is couched in the sort of narrative arc. It is an arc if you will beginning middle and end a movement because it allows us to have some hope and maybe resist some of the challenges of grief. Deep pieces and what as you think about what you’re offering people in terms of their stories, looking at them reflectively, telling themselves and others the truth, putting themselves in front of God and what are the, I think I want to ask the sort of what are the parts that touch you that resonate with your stories in other words, you’re sharing a bit of your known what resonates with you as you share with other people around their stories.
Dan: Well, let me go back to a comment that Cathy made in and tie it to what you just asked eric like acceptance. I love that word, but I think a lot of people actually mistake what acceptance is to a kind of resignation like this is the way it is. Okay. I guess I better accept it. I know that’s not how you’re using the word, but if we can come back to that notion of kindness. I kindness is not something that I would say, I have experienced an immense amount in my family of origin. And I married, I think one of the kindest human beings I’ve ever known in my life. And so kindness has been a growing reality over 40 for 45 years of marriage. But when we talk about knowing your story, it’s knowing your story with the ferocity of Jesus’ kindness. So that kindness is, can I come to my story and again, using Cathy’s term? Can I come to my own story with grief? Not bitter grief, not bitter disappointment, but kind sorrow? And can I indeed engage my own failure of others, not with self-justification or contemptuous cruelty, but with kindness with a kind nous that allows me to grieve as I believe the father, the son, the spirit grieve on my behalf. And that I when I remember reading one or two of Cathy’s first chapters where I won’t tell her story or the story that she shared about her son, but I just wept. It was such a heartbreaking story and again, a story of significant struggle in a school setting, but it was the way she wrote that allowed my heart, not just to feel for her son, but for her and that process. So the reality of being able to be with a storyteller and writer like Cathy that knows she struggles with kindness and grief, but also wants desperately to offer that to her own son so often it is what we want to become that exposes what we’re not, and that seems like it’s only going to lead to pressure and demand, but it has the potential to lead to, I want to be so much better of a man and that desire actually puts words to the reality of what I need for my own heart to become that. And I think the stories and I won’t go to many more, but that particular story, our two major editors are agent. Almost everyone who’s read the book will come back to that as a life-changing story.
Cathy: Yeah. You know, yeah, this book, like, I’ve had to go back and re-read parts of it as, you know, we’re looking at quotes and kind of remembering and in the process of writing a book is so bizarre. It almost feels like it’s something other than you, I don’t remember writing this book. Like, I don’t remember putting that language to it. It felt like something that was in me that was almost beyond where I actually was, that was offering myself back to me and I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but I truly like, I’ll look back and be like, did Tracy, our editor write this because I don’t remember this is beautiful and profound and I don’t think I’m capable of using this sort of language, you know, and that’s not self-deprecating, I think it’s just it’s something about a book becomes something outside of you once the language is put down, which is why I think, I think books and writing are so powerful because it really goes beyond an author, it becomes something else in and of itself. And I think for me, these categories of orphan widow stranger and prophet priest in Queen and King are so, have been so helpful to me in my life and the privilege of then being able to put language around them to maybe offer something that they could help other people to. Like, I’ve been writing a lot about the orphan and the priest this week and I weep every time I go back to those chapters in the book and priest in particular, and I think I think the privilege of being able to write about something you long to become more of and to grow in feels very, very vulnerable and very sweet and the tenderness when you truly approach something that you long to become and long to grow into? And so you know, when Dan and I teach this material we’re always, you know, like, well, which one are you, are you a priest? Are you a prophet? Are you a king or a queen, you know, and you know, and and and and you know, I’m much more of a queen, you know, in terms of the archetype than I have been a priest, but my heart is most tender towards the priest because it is where Jesus is calling me to grow and to move. And I think in some ways the book continues to minister to me because it’s like almost a reflection back of the promise of God of saying, you know, you’re not done yet. And there’s no demand or no judgment, but there’s also a sense of deep longing and desire and invitation to become more and, and I think, you know, those orphan stories that we all have are so poignant, right? The orphan is really is the part of us that was told, your needs are not going to be met and there’s no one coming. So you have to figure out how to care for yourself and if you need more than what you’re able to offer yourself, then shut those needs down and don’t let them see the light of day. You need to control, you need to manage and you need to be able to only need what you can give yourself. That is such a setup. One that kept everyone alive and able to function in worlds that were not caring for their heart well. But as you grow up there, there is a part of our hearts that needs and longs and can actually receive goodness from others in a relationship, but we are bound to those orphan parts of our heart. If we don’t recognize this is what was required of me. I’m terrified now of good care. I’m terrified now of what it’s going to cost me to receive goodness from other people because I’m afraid that the other shoe is gonna drop in the next second. Or there’s gonna be violence or now I’m exposed to harm because I actually am accepting my own need. Right? So, you know, I am sinking a little bit further into orphan. You could, we could have the same conversation on stranger or widow. But what it helps us do is is lean further into the stories that have marked us and trained us on how to be in the world. And now there’s something different. So as I’ve looked at orphan, part of my role is to become more of the priest. The priest is the one that’s meant to hold the whole story. So often for an orphan, they can’t, they can’t know the whole story because it would, it would destroy them. They can’t recognize as a child that their parents can’t actually love them the way that they deserve to be loved or else it would destroy the very fabric that they need to survive. But the priest is meant to come in and care for that orphan and allow there to be more truth told holding of the grief holding the space open enough to be able to sink into those feelings and be safe and tell the story, tell the full story of what it meant. And so for me, that’s been very personal for me in this season is my own capacity to hold the whole story without flinching and without becoming defensive. And you know, for each of you as you, as you potentially read this book, my guess is that you’ll have a different part that will, that will hit home for you. But for me, those are the categories that have been deeply moving and have continued to shift how I, how I heal.
Derek: I think it’s beautiful that sort of transition again as you talk about the orphan and priests and that movement and I’ll kind of lead us in that direction. But some of the things I hear that really stand out is not just only can we aspire, hope, pray, trust God to help us become orphan to priest, but we actually need priest with the orphans that the communal quality of that comes out as well is the sense of I need as an orphan priest to hold me to bear some of this to accept parts of me that maybe I have a hard time accepting and of myself and Dan, I love the distinction is not resignation. It is much more full bodied, full spirited, full fullness of seeing being seen and known in a certain type of way. And I think that then, because I do think grief is a part of living, but we’re talking about not moving into despair. If I can make that distinction is grief. there is things to grieve in this life, the fallen world, but how do we avoid hopelessness And this movement to see myself as an orphan being held by other priests is also a piece of that, that not being alone piece that we talked about earlier. I want to see if we can talk a little bit more about prophet priest, king and queen as we making that transition. This is the other side of the bridge if you will. What stands out, what sort of things emerge for you personally again, in terms of those identities as desired cells if you will. And that appointment for you.
Dan: Well, when we began, The Allender Center, we Cathy and I pretty quickly came to name the fact that she’s a queen and has significant gifts as a profit. And maybe not so strong as a priest. I’m a prophet, and but I’ve got some priestly gifts and I have no interest and desire to exercise any kingly leadership. So you know what a perfect setup. Cathy is a great queen. I’ve got strong words and message, I’m a prophet and organizationally you, you run things and tell me where to go and I’m glad to do it. Well, that worked up to a point. And because I remember the day where Cathy looked at me and basically said, you’re a king, you need to show up. And it was not, it was not a wonderful moment, but it was also clear, we are all meant to be like Jesus, that is, we’re all meant to be prophets, priests, and kings and queens. You don’t get to choose one and rescue the other tour or a portion of either maturity is to be priestly at remembering prophetically in arousing desire and exposing injustice and kingly and queenly, a gifting presence that allows others to flourish because you’ve created an infrastructure to allow goodness to grow okay. But if you knew my story, I ended up having to be in charge at least by age 6 to two some degree mentally ill parents, I don’t like having to make decisions or I don’t like what comes as a result of being a leader and that is you’re going to be ripped apart and you’re going to be accused, doubted or seemed to be the most wonderful human being in the universe. In other words, the split between accusation and idealization, that’s what I lived with in my family between always being wrong and being the greatest thing that ever walked on the earth. That was madness and I knew both sides of that insanity were not true. So who in God’s name wants to be a leader, if so you can see in some ways this whole process has been and is meant to be deeply redemptive for Cathy deeply redemptive for me, but that’s going to require exposure, failure. I’s going to require in many ways disruption. So that process of being disrupted in what we’re good at and the exposure of where we’ve got our own stories that are hindering us from becoming who were meant to be and what we’re meant to create. You know, that has been and is always you know, sometimes we use words that offend our readers but our listeners, but it has been a shit show. And if that’s too troubling, it’s been a lot of poo poo. So the process of writing the process of living creating the Allender center, it’s had that, oh my gosh, I’ve got to become more of a king. I’ve got to lean more into being a priest and I need prophets who are telling me more of the truth.
Cathy: Yeah. Yeah, I think the communal aspect of all three, you know, in some ways we need to be working towards like Dan said developing all three in our lives and understanding what has happened that have that have kept those other parts at bay or further away from integrating. And yet we will naturally have inclinations towards one or two that are good and but we, we then need to make sure we’re building teams and collective and leadership structures that allow for all three voices to be at the table. And so, you know, we write about this in the book where there have been many times where as the queen, I have had the prophets and the priests within organization, deeply troubled by my leadership and what was happening and being brave enough to sit and say, hey, you know this, you’re going to, you’re going to take us over a cliff. You know, and, and recognizing that they’re right and needing to listen. You know, and that’s a part of, of being the king or the queen is the capacity to listen. And so often those roles become so separate, like elevated away from the ground and away from the voices that actually can penetrate, you know, the tower that you’re in, that I think that’s part of the fall of leaders is that you become so removed from the ground that you don’t even know how to listen anymore and how to take in. And you know, and so I think that part of our hope in this book is that we start, we continue the imagination around collective leadership around the sense of, of who is at your table and losing the idea that one person should be the perfect ideation of all three. You know, that’s I was talking to a leadership team and they’re like how much we expect our leaders to be all three? And I was like, well it depends on how much of a narcissistic structure you want embedded in your leadership because they are nobody who’s all three perfectly accept Jesus. So you know, but I think there is this sense of, because oftentimes the priests in your world aren’t always at the leadership table, not in the way we’ve designed leadership. You know, they’re, they’re doing different jobs within your organization and so can you learn how to develop a space for those voices to come to bear? And those are mistakes I’ve made as a leader, you know, we’re trained to listen to very specific sorts of voices and leaders, you know, in our culture and that’s shifting, thank God, but that’s painful. And you know, that’s been painful for our organization and it’s not to say we’ve arrived, we haven’t, but the invitation again, this book in some ways is aspirational, I mean this last year Dan and I, there are many moments where he was like, girl go back and read the queen chapter, you’re kidding me, you know, and I wrote the Queen chapter, so I’m like, oh no, okay, you know what, I have to go back and learn again and go, oh my gosh, this is happening like what I wrote, I’m now living out and I’m not doing it very well you know and that again that’s that’s just true about the human experience you know, but there’s so much hope if we can actually both tend to the parts of ourselves that in order to access more of the priest, access more of the prophet, access more of the queen but then also be able to really honor and venerate those voices that need to be more central to the table than they are.
Derek: Mhm. I appreciate that that sort of debunking of in some ways cultural myths you gotta do it by yourself, you got to do it alone, you’ve got to stand out in a certain type of way if you’re not you will be seen which has more to do maybe with the orphan than priest or profit or king Queen and some of what you’re saying is not just simply the work that I have to do within and but the work I have to between and I’ve got to bring myself to communities that can hold and challenge the sort of single soul assumptions that we are inherently in a process with Christ that is altering both our story and our cellular nature if you will and that is the redemptive sort of arc coming to fruition that we are in some ways relating in such a way, both with ourselves but also with others in a way that brings us into these identities and helps us learn a new story. Celebration. I’m gonna, as we kind of come to the often we don’t celebrate, well, we don’t celebrate the redemptive act. This sort of bridging the gap redemptive arc. But what does it mean as we celebrate this book, we celebrate the 10 year anniversary of The Allender Center. We celebrate the work that God has been doing in your lives. What does celebration mean as we think about the anniversary and your own stories?
Dan: Oh, that’s a big one. And I’ll start by saying, I have the privilege and have had the privilege of working with a number of men and women who have been in the conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq. And one of the men that I’ve worked with said to me, you know, celebrating always has to have a place for grief because when we return from a significant incursion where there were losses. We have to tend to the reality that there’s been harm. We have lost, we’ve lost good people in the process of these 10 years. And those losses are heartbreaking and some, I’ll just say due to my own failure, no organization can come to exist without having to deal with debris and there’s debris. And on the other hand, we have done good work and good work has been done on our behalf. And there has been a deep sense of, we are engaging things that need to be engaged personally, from families and in the larger collective. So I have this intersection of, of heartache and incredible hope. And they’re both there as I celebrate like we have done well and we have not done well and we are growing to do better, but the better doesn’t take away heartache and harm. It doesn’t take away hope and movement. So in one sense, what I can say is celebration, it’s not a birthday party. You know, we just celebrated my grandson’s Gus’s fourth birthday there, so grief, it’s just good. And having him blow the candles out and laugh and then sort of stuck his face, we didn’t expect this, but sort of stuck his face into the cake. It’s just good, just good. So the nature of the Allendercenters, we want to tell the truth and we don’t do that good of a job at it and we want to hold the hope of the resurrection and we don’t do that good a job of it. But we do a good enough job to be able to say we’re offering something that really can change us and collectively can be part of, of, of larger changes, but personally and familiarly and, and culturally so in that sense, I,stumble into this celebration weary, oh my God weary from the battle. And yet on the other hand in awe of what we have been privileged to engage and, and in one another’s lives.
Cathy: Yeah, I mean, again, going back to two for me personally, the journey of moving into priest. You know, categorically that has been a harder space for me because there are large pieces of my own story even though I’ve been doing this work for 17 years. That that have been unaddressed and, and the invitation of both writing this book, but then also having to become the person, you know, in some ways worthy of it, has meant for me to go back and do the work that I, I could, I didn’t want to do or couldn’t do because I was busy building an organization and it was a great cover for not having to go back, but there is no way that this work for me can move forward or even the idea of celebrating this marker can happen if, if I can’t tell the whole story both in my own life and, and again, this is the good news is that everything we teach, I’ve found to be true. You know, I can’t take anyone further than I’ve gone myself. And so I in some ways I’ve had to pause and go back and tell the truth of my own story and then allow God and others to help me tell the truth of the story of The Allender Center in a way that is exceedingly more painful, also exceedingly more beautiful. Then then then I could have ever told it in a place of disorientation and so so I wait for for the banquet. Not knowing when or how that banquet will occur, but also knowing that there is work to be done to be able to mark and to celebrate and that can look different you know, for different seasons. And so so for me this celebration gets to be very personal, not public, not not grandstanding, it’s going to be in my backyard telling stories and seeing just something of the goodness of God and the mercy that we are all a part of a story that’s bigger than ourselves and that the call is to healing at whatever cost the call is not to ignore or to make ourselves look better than we are, but it’s the freedom of God that is found as our hearts are tender and able to be impacted by both the stunning beauty that’s around us and the and the reality of what it means to be fallen in a fallen world.
Dan: Before we end, Derek we Cathy and I dedicated this book to Keith Anderson, the President prior to you sir. And let me just read what we wrote: To Dr. Keith Anderson, our dear friend who lovingly beguiled us to form The Allender Center and sent us on a perilous journey that has given us more of Jesus. So in that sense the celebration is of an entity indeed it is and we have worked very hard to create organizationally material curriculum, growing personnel etcetera, but in some ways, it is more a celebration of people so in that sense to say you know to Dr. Anderson damn it, but thank you and again we wouldn’t exist as an organization without you Dr. James Derek McNeil, you have shepherded us, you have come alongside of us and born some of the complexities of this organization in your body and so in one sense we celebrate you and the organization that you lead because the Allender center is not a separate organization from the Seattle school we live within and for sometimes wittingly and unwittingly against, but nonetheless with a sense that we’re part of a larger story as Cathy has set and to that larger story, we celebrate the goodness of God in the land of the living.
Derek: Thank you. One thing as we close and deeply appreciate you’re bringing yourself to this conversation and I hear in your stories both the question of what we have been and what we will be and the gratitude that is also immersed in the grief and so deeply appreciative of what of yourselves, you have brought to the venture, not just simply telling stories, but telling your stories, bringing yourself to this in a way that would transform and create hope and possibility. And so thank you for redeeming heartache and the work of both your hearts, mind, spirits, and community. We receive it and celebrate with you.