Even before I had words for it, I knew that relationship is THE organizing principle of life. We are made for connection to God, connection to others and even connection to our own selves. Even when these connections are difficult or painful, we are meant to stay in relationship. My life experience did not always bear out this principle, but I never gave up on the possibility of healthy relationships.
Belonging, loving, and being a part of a “we” (group identity) has been an important part of my overall history. In addition to family and friends there have been recovery groups, spiritual groups, community groups, women’s groups, home groups and even couples groups I was part of that met regularly – some for more than a decade and a half. And those connections shared over many seasons (the good, the bad, and everything in between) shaped my world significantly. I never did believe that the smallest unit of society is an individual, because we are inseparable from the family and relationships that we have experienced the world through and been joined to.
While living in California, David and I were part of an intentional day to day community with forty plus people for over six years. My experiences of community living confirmed that loving has always been the main characteristic of my heart and I experience so much joy when I am bonded. And when those bonds get broken or are reduced to a transaction or an arrangement, there’s a great deal of pain. This heartbreak would be called the main pain of my heart, because the wounds hurt the main characteristic of my heart- relationship.
Along with times of connection and joy, there were times of wounding, disillusionment, and distress throughout my history. Thus much of my life’s energy has been spent in learning how to nurture healthy relationships and looking for healing of relational wounds (mine and others). In middle school, I had dreamed of being a social worker and working in an area that was about relationship and healing. But as my life progressed most of my dreams were lost and there were so many obstacles that I did not even dare to hope that my dreams would ever see the light of day. It was not until my thirties that God reminded me I could dream and that it was not too late. I left my job to go back to school and ended up getting my Master’s degree in Social Work. My plan was being a career social worker when God had other ideas. I felt His tug towards prayer ministry. I did not yet know that His calling would lead me on the road to pastoral counseling and more.
Many approaches I had been exposed to treated relationship as more of a secondary concern with the therapeutic technique or some specific intervention as primary in the recovery process. I was first introduced to the Life Model where community and family are central to our development in 1999. From there God has had me on the fast track, and I have found myself exploring various ministries of healing and recovery that reflected God’s relational ways. Upon discovering that God would work with me in my own healing process, that His ways are indeed higher than mine, and that He would join me to bring that same kind of healing to others, I knew that I had finally found what I had been searching for all along.
When David and I moved to Pasadena in 2001, God led me to continue and go deeper in the healing journey and opened the door for me to work in pastoral counseling at Shepherd’s House. And my calling led me to become an ordained minister, not a licensed social worker. My experiences have grown my confidence in God as the Only Hope. As God has deepened His call on my life as we moved to the Piedmont Triad in North Carolina in 2012, I have continued to pray with wounded people of all ages for healing, joy, His Shalom of the soul as a way of life, and the restoration of their true identity of promise.
Through my ministry experiences, I have learned about how extensive the damage of deception and lies has been to our spiritual formation. Our past experiences often cloud our identity of promise (the one that God gives us, who He says that we really are) and hinders a clear understanding of our Creator. I have learned much about the journey to wholeness. I have learned about healing in relation to wounds from the time of conception to the present moment. I have learned about how the body and the brain can be impacted during both the wounding and the healing process. And I have learned about maturity and the value of community in learning to live as we were meant to live this side of heaven.
For a more poetic vision of Jan's history,
Read The Coming True Story of Jan's Life