by Margaret McCray, LMFT
612.332.7743 ext. 222
Perhaps my favorite activity as a pastoral counselor is the privilege of leading group therapy. For fifteen years I have led a 14-week women's group for 6-9 women. Some of the women return from the previous 14 weeks, some are new members. Most of them have already been seeing a counselor at Westminster.
Group therapy is a different experience than individual therapy for both the client and the therapist. After four or five weeks, the growing awareness of the safety of the group as a space of confidentiality, acceptance and respect allows and encourages the women to share their pain and joy, their fears and hopes. In that sharing they experience the community of being human together. They participate in healing one another.
Tim Hart-Andersen, in his first sermon in the new series on "living faithfully" focused on Adam and Eve. They learned in their dramatic exit from an idyllic garden what we all must learn at some point: that we are separate individuals and that we need each other. Our potential as human beings to be what we are created to be depends on that duality. We are meant to live out our individual uniqueness at the same time we live out our need for bonds of connection with the community around us, in partnership and friendship, in family, in community, and in the wider world.
Group therapy is a microcosm of that created order: the diversity of individual separation and the commonality of human experience. Week by week, I witness women who are coming to an awareness and acceptance of their unique self as they begin to connect with and respect the uniqueness of each other. In that connection they discover their need for healthy communal relationships.
I marvel and thrill to the living spirit of group interaction. Each week someone discovers that her pain is shared and known by others. Each week someone finds comfort in being heard and accepted in her individuality. Each week someone finds strength to be who she is and who she can become.
Like Adam and Eve, to be fully human we too must discover, as that proverbial apple symbolizes, that we are this person in this body with this life. At the same time, to be fully human, we must discover as did Adam and Eve as they left the innocence of that first garden, that we share our humanity with all other humans who walk on our Earth, each with their unique identity.
In being fully human we find meaning and purpose, we love and are loved, we are no longer in the walled garden of innocence and ignorance, we are in the garden of Earth where we have the human privilege of sharing responsibility for its peace and flourishing.
From group therapy to world peace may seem a long stretch, but it is only as long as our distance from the next person we encounter, week by week, day by day, moment by moment. This is our Garden.