Sunday, December 31, 2006


For whatever reason, there seem to be some scenes in movies that just get to me. Like the scene in "V for Vendetta" when they show Valerie's story. Or the closing scene in "A Perfect World."

Tonight, that scene was in the movie "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" -- when Cedric's father finds his son's dead body on the field and weeps "My son! My son!" I remarked to my wife as I choked up with emotion just how different it seems to watch that scene as a parent. How much easier it was to keep a certain emotional distance from such a display before I had children.

One of the reasons that I love watching movies is that they have this tendency to get me thinking. In this case, about how the death of this fictional character moved me...and yet there are all of these brutal deaths occurring all over the world. Not fictional ones we can rationalize and forget about. Real deaths. Fathers, Mothers, Sons, Daughters. People with names. People with just as much a right to live as any of us. Killed by the brutal realities of Darfur, of Iraq, of poverty and injustice worldwide.

Where are their movies, I wonder? What stories are being told of them beyond a recitation of cold statistics on the evening news?

2006 certainly had much that was good in it. Yet looking back at it, it is hard not to weep, to shake your head and pray to God that 2007 finds an end to all this bloodshed, all of this unnecessary violence. I pray that 2007 will find peace spreading, heart to heart, family to family, community to community, nation to nation.

Friday, December 29, 2006

a story heard before

It was a story I'd heard many times before.

This person I met with grew up in a home with a father who was an alcoholic, a man who was physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive to all the children in the home. And the mother who had to have known something, but who has consistently denied ever seeing anything inappropriate happen in the home.

Awful, brutal stuff. But like I said, I'd heard it many times before.

So what struck me today was not so much the story, but the fact that I had heard the story so many times. Different variations of it, of course. Different perpetrators, different outcomes, different victims. Different ways of coping with the trauma. But always the common denominator of pain, of anger. Of a sense of having been damaged or flawed by what they went through.

I've heard the story so many times.

I also see some commonalities in how it affects people now. Their difficulties with being vulnerable, for instance. How they will withdraw or lash out rather than having to feel powerless, rejected, or defective. And often their experiences cause them to choose people who now treat them poorly. But sometimes they have otherwise loving people in their lives who are puzzled at how a relatively benign protest caused such a reaction.

I've heard it so many times that I sometimes wonder if I sometimes become a little deaf to the pain I'm hearing, if I want to jump forward and discuss things like improving their insight into what's happening inside of themselves, distinguishing reactions based on past experiences from what's going on in their lives now, diminishing the power of the self-criticism inside of themselves.

All good things to discuss, I'm know. But sometimes I wonder if my rush to discuss them has to do with where I want to go more (wheren I'm comfortable staying, emotionally) than what they're wanting at that moment.

As human beings, we are designed to experience empathy. When we hear others in pain, our "mirror neurons" (yes, they're actually called that) start firing and we experience something similar. It is, perhaps, the basis of compassion. But for those of us in the healing professions (therapists, pastors, etc.), this means a certain emotional bombardment -- story after story of pain, abuse, anger, betrayal, loss. I think we develop a kind of emotional distance that we need to be able to do our job, a kind of buffer zone perhaps.

I also think it may be why it is so important for us to actively nurture peace within ourselves, through meditation, prayer, and exercise. It has to be a priority or our jobs will overwhelm us.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

surgery and childhood

My six year old, Patrick, had minor surgery today. Actually, I don't know if it technically qualified as "surgery" in that there was really no invasive procedure. He had a few cavities, and needed a cleaning -- but, what with his autism, freaked out when we took him to the dentist's office a month ago. So she recommended taking him in to the local surgery center and putting him out so we could do everything in one fell swoop.

Which happened today.

There's just something about being a parent, watching as your kid gets carted off into the surgery room. Seeing him look at you, wondering, pleading, unsure of what is happening. Every moment with this vague sense of worry. What if something goes wrong?

And then when they bring him back, his throat sore because of the breathing tube they inserted and removed. Just lying there, groggy from the anaesthesia. So strikingly beautiful. There's this profound joy when he opens his eyes, mixed with a kind of empathy for his discomfort.

So he sits up, looks around, takes a sip of water. We ask him how he's doing and he says "I need to take a nap." And we laugh. The comment seems funny because he's been unconscious for most of the past two hours, but also because laughter gives voice to our profound relief. He is here, he is OK.

Someone once wrote that to be a parent is an act of profound courage -- for it is to have your heart removed and go walking around in the body of another. For me, it was to experience and understand what it means to love in ways that I hadn't previously understood or imagined.

To feel such love for a child changes you. For one thing, you look back at whatever dysfunction was there in your family when you were growing up, and you wonder why it was you never felt this way when you were a kid. Then you realize how much more love is possible for your other relationships.

And then you begin to think about what it would really mean for God to love you in this way, or what it would mean for God to love you in ways infinitely more meaningful and profound. Which is at once a lovely thought and somehow rather scary. For it calls out to make a relationship with God more than just about an idea of God. It calls for a relationship in its deepest and most profound sense, one that challenges, nurtures, encourages. My first reaction is to feel somehow not ready, not up to whatever might be asked.

But then, I can only think that our children might sometimes feel the same way.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


I downloaded an album off of iTunes not long ago, "Eyes Open" by the group Snow Patrol. They have a song that's been getting some airplay called "Chasing Cars." Some of the lyrics include:

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

I don't quite know
How to say
How I feel

Those three words
Are said too much
They're not enough

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Forget what we're told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that's bursting into life

Let's waste time
Chasing cars
Around our heads

I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Part of what struck me in listening to the song was an unexpectedly strong emotional reaction to the lyrics, particularly to the words "If I lay here, If I just lay here, Would you lie with me and just forget the world?" My reaction piqued my curiosity. But sitting back and reflecting on it, I think it speaks to the sense of hurriedness I've had in my life recently. Especially after taking on the expenses from my professional trainings (see previous posts), I think I went into a bit of a financial panic mode -- perhaps taking on more than I should have at work. I think I resonate with those lyrics because I yearn to simply rest, to have time for quiet and reflection, and to just be.

I actually enjoy the lyrics most when I think of them as a sort of prayer to God, almost a modern Psalm, yearning for that kind of connection, where all striving and manner of "doing" can rest, and the soul is refreshed by Divine embrace.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas eve

It has always struck me as strange that despite the fairly clear definition of the word "eve" (as in, short for "evening"), the entire day before Christmas is collectively referred to as Christmas eve. But this is perhaps a small matter.

I found myself thinking more today about an awareness of the Divine in our lives. It is easy to find this in rituals and prayers, if we are putting enough of ourselves into the process. Yet somehow I feel that God whispers to us throughout the day, calling on me to acknowledge the truth in some feedback or criticism I may not want to hear, calling on me to be open to change -- in how I think, feel or behave. Calling on me to be continually growing in compassion, acceptance, love.

In my experience, it is not the grand gestures of the Divine that are most difficult to accept or respond to -- it is the subtle whispers, those signs or messages we can conveniently ignore or discount. It can be easier to stay in old patterns, rather than having to face the anxiety and work of change.

It can also be a trap to assume that God's desires for us all involve having to change or correct something bad in ourselves. Sometimes the most difficult change to do is a profound acceptance of our essential goodness and worthiness. Some of the most profound and important changes are the most difficult for us precisely because they contradict our central ways of perceiving ourselves and our world.

The capacity to be mindful of our own thoughts, beliefs, and feelings -- to rise above them, to respond to them, to listen for messages and signals at odds with our most fundamental ways of seeing things -- this capacity provides us with opportunities to experience grace daily.

I am profoundly grateful this Christmas season for all of my good friends, and particularly those who have been so kind as to share their thoughts and wisdom with me on this humble blog. Peace and blessings, my friends. May this Christmas season fill you with joy and light.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

quirky things about my job...

I fairly often have people referred to me for evaluations. And from time to time the request is accompanied by something vaguely resembling an apology. Which usually means they're frustrated as heck at dealing with whomever they're sending my way -- and possibly concerned about whether I will stop taking their referrals after I see whomever they're sending.

Most typically, this happens when they're sending people to me who are angry. And this is particularly acute when the evaluation isn't so much voluntary as "hey, this is what you have to do if you ever want to get 'the system' off of your back."

In other words, many of these individuals resent being sent to me, see no particular reason to discuss what's going on in their lives with me, and basically feel like anything they might reveal has a good chance of somehow being used against them.

And then there's the ones who choose to try and pick a fight with me. Honestly, that particular approach used to puzzle me, even make me a little anxious. Now I just feel bad for them. I think that's because I've become pretty good at not getting sucked into an argument. For example:

Client: This whole thing is stupid
Me: I'm pretty sure I'd feel exactly the same way if I was you.
Client: Then why do you keep asking me such stupid questions?
Me: I certainly haven't meant to offend you with any of the questions I've asked. Could you let me know which questions really bother you?
Client: No, it's just this whole *@!& thing! This is pointless!
Me: I understand. You're feeling like there's absolutely no reason why 'the system' is in your life right now -- and you sure as heck don't see a reason to come see me, right?
Client: (clearly reluctant to agree with me) right...
Me: Gosh, so what's that like for you, having to come in here even if you don't want to?
Client: (typically falls silent, puts their head down)

Usually these are folks who really feel most comfortable if they can start a fight. They know how a fight works. They feel a sense of control. I'm taking that away from them, and honestly, most of them are close to the point of tears when their efforts to pick a fight with me aren't working.

It would almost feel cruel to take that from them, but I have come to believe that doing so is actually very helpful to them. It forces them to confront whatever fear, pain, or other emotion is really underneath all of their anger. If I'm lucky, I can get them talking about it. And that is where healing becomes possible for them.

drugs and research

OK, did anyone else see the article yesterday proclaiming how hallucinogenic mushrooms briefly alleviate severe OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) symptoms? If not, you can find the BBC link here.

Now, on the one hand, this is kind of interesting. And may God bless and heal the poor people who suffer from this condition.

But there's another part of me that says, is this really news?! I mean, the idea that folks who struggle with incredibly rigid patterns of thinking and acting find short term relief when given hallucinogens? And how much money is being spent on this kind of research?

But in the spirit of this study, I am proposing to study the following:

1. Whether alcohol can provide short term relief to individuals struggling with mild to moderate social anxiety?

2. Whether cannabis (marijuana) can provide short term relief to individuals feeling "stressed out" or upset.

3. Whether stimulants can provide short term relief to individuals struggling with depression related fatigue.


I guess I just hope that there's research that hopes to find more of a long-term solution for people suffering from this condition (at, those who are unable to benefit from current interventions -- cognitive-behavioral treatments actually are remarkably effective for most).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

finding faith alive now

more cows was good enough to challenge me recently to think about what brings faith alive for me now.

I was surprised at how much of a struggle it has been to try and answer that question. I think in part that might be because of my struggles with my religious tradition -- and consequent tendency to push away old ideas of God, of what a relationship with the Divine might be. It struck me that I've been doing a lot of thinking about God lately, but haven't had that many experiences that I explicitly identified as being in contact of communion. I haven't had many experiences lately that really made faith feel alive for me (with the important caveat of having the privilege of reading blogs by such good people as more cows and mags).

Which, naturally, saddened me a bit. Have I (through my efforts to resist elements of a religious tradition I am struggling with) ended up pushing God away as well?

Part of where that gets confusing is the difference between having an experience of the Divine, and explicitly recognizing it, labelling it or acknowledging it as such. I would guess that I have continued to have the former, but perhaps fewer than I should of the latter.

Which got me thinking about the kinds of experiences that do provide an opportunity for faith to come alive. Here's what I've come up with (and please pardon a brief segue) -- these kinds of opportunities occur out of the response of the full human being. (Sounds all nice and theological, don't it?)

Let me explain how I got there. The brain consists of various sections. Each section has its role or job, and can function fairly independently. For instance, if I am asked "what is 2+2," the memory and/or math calculation portions of my mind would spring into action to answer that question. Yet other situations call upon us to process information on a different level. If a friend of mine says that they are hurting, I'm not just using my analytical side to understand the cause of their pain. I'm feeling with them, striving to make sure I'm understanding them, perhaps moving closer to them to show support, verbalizing something supportive (hopefully), monitoring their response to see if I've got it right, etc. In other words, I'm processing this information with much more of the entirety of my being.

I think this experience is called many things by many traditions. Some might call it "being fully present." Some might call it "mindfulness." Some might call it "compassion." But it is a response out of the fullness of ourselves.

It is in these moments, I think, that I am most aware (or most capable of being aware) of God's presence -- of having an experience that brings my faith alive. Whether that is in kissing my son goodnight and simply recognizing the power of my love for him, noticing the beauty and grandeur of the sky, or reading the inspiring thoughts in others' blogs. After all, the question is not whether God is there, but whether I am able to be aware of Her presence.

Thanks, more cows, for inspiring my reflections on this one.

Monday, December 18, 2006


My name is Steve, and I am a news junky. (All together now, "Hi, Steve.")

I have tended in the past to acknowledge this little character trait with something resembling a bemused acceptance. Sure, I knew it affected my stress level, but so what? Isn't it good, even perhaps God's will for us, to stay informed? Shouldn't we be open to God's call for us, to be concerned when ill falls on our fellow human beings? Couldn't a sort-of willful ignorance even be considered sinful?

Well, yes, but...

I've come to realize that ingesting so much news can be rather different from trying to discern God's call from the news. This rapid rush of information that builds layer upon layer of anxiety within us can actually distract us from that sort of listening. Worse, opening myself to so much misery can create a sort of helplessness or hopelessness that can blind me from doing what I can.

I find it very difficult to bring peace to my world if there is no peace in my soul.

There is, I think, a balance here that I need to find. A balance between staying informed and cultivating peace and love -- so that any action I take on the former is based upon the latter.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

when faith became alive

All this talk of Advent, of the point at which we prepare for Christ's birth, has had me thinking about the point in my own life when faith became a living thing, something that interested me and inspired me rather than just a set of beliefs.

It was in the early months of my senior year of high school, as I recall. The teacher of CCD class I was taking (which I participated in with some combination of resignation and loathing -- one more thing in my life that I "had" to do, which was not of my own choosing) happened to mention that there was to be a TEC retreat, and wondered if anyone would be interested in going.

I actually surprised myself when I raised my hand. Did I really want to go? I'm not sure. Religion held no particular allure for me at that point in my life. But something about the description sounded interesting -- or at least caught my attention. And so I volunteered to go.

The weekend of my retreat, I remember walking into the classroom in a school about an hour away from my hometown. My apprehension about doing so was fairly substantial. These people were singing hymns. (Hymns! Voluntarily!) And this wasn't even church, where everyone generally agreed that the proper recitation of hymns was somewhere on God's checklist for entry into eternal glory -- kind of like an earthly substitute for the flames of purgatory. Hymns!

Mind you, I was seventeen.

Anyway, the hymns eventually stopped and the retreat began in earnest. The first day was "Die" day. Sadly, I recall very little of the topics discussed, or the people who presented speeches that day. I do recall the basic idea of examining our lives for areas of sinfulness, reporting these to the larger group, and a mass with an option to enter the confessional.

What I recall far better was my group leader, Jennifer. Jennifer remains to this day the best example I know of God's willingness to use almost any means to make people take a relationship with the Divine seriously. Subterfuge. Trickery. And, in my case, some degree of adolescent hormones.

Jennifer was, in a word, gorgeous. Not merely pretty, gorgeous. She had been Miss Teen South Dakota the previous year, had active work as a local model (not that I knew any of this at the time). And the thing was, she wasn't stuck up, arrogant, or any of that. Quite the contrary, she was kind, genuine, compassionate. A truly beautiful soul.

Mind you, this is all very difficult to understand for a kid who felt socially awkward and unsure of himself. This was the kind of girl the star football player spent time with in the hallway at school, not an average (albeit earnest) member of the debate squad.

So I had a hard time falling asleep that night. Feelings of guilt over the areas of sin in my life, concern about what the others might be thinking about me, and significant confusion over why Jennifer was acting so nice to me swirled in my head until fatigue finally got the best of me. Even then, I didn't sleep particularly well.

The next morning began "rise" day. Which, of course, began with a mass. And when it came time for the sign of peace, Jennifer walked over to me, gave me a hug, and said simply "I love you, Steve."

It was another thing that she did quite simply, naturally, and easily. It was sincere and came off her tongue without difficulty. Which, looking back on it, leads me to believe that she probably felt quite comfortable saying this kind of thing, probably said it to a lot of people in her life.

Anyway, there it was, my moment of grace. I felt...loved. I had this indisputable proof that I was worthy and acceptable and...loved. Which is a shocking and powerful thing when you've spent years building up an identity as something of an outsider, as someone who didn't quite fit in. It shook me to my core.

I sometimes wonder where she is now, whether she had any idea how much that moment changed me. I honestly have no idea where she is now or what became of her. But I think if fortune ever crossed our paths, I would simply want to say "thanks." Her example of simple kindness and genuineness sticks in my head to this day. I pray to show my gratitude by living my life in a way that lives up to the example she showed me.

Monday, December 11, 2006


I did what might be considered a good and generous thing today. I wish I could feel better about it.

I was contacted by an attorney not long ago, asking me to do an evaluation on a pro bono basis for one of his clients. "Pro bono" as in: free. No charge. And I accepted, feeling that it would be a good thing to do, that the attorney would get to know my work, etc.

The thing to understand here is that the kind of evaluation requested isn't just an hour or two out of my day. It was the whole day. The second thing to understand is that I'm in private practice. This isn't like a salaried position where I get the same amount of money regardless of what is collected in may name. If I don't bill for it, I don't bring money in.

Which is why it was a good thing to do, and probably a big part of why I don't feel very good about doing it right now.

If I look deeply enough into this feeling, I think a lot of it has to do with how much money I've had to invest in training lately. Two trips to Houston for a week apiece. The hotels, the meals, the cost of the seminars themselves. Basically, we've had to dip deep into our savings to pay for that.

On top of that, my wife and I both cut back our hours at work in order to have more time to spend with our boys, trying to work on their autism. So whereas before it used to feel like we were pretty comfortable financially, now it feels more like living paycheck to paycheck. Or, better, like "paycheck to paycheck" isn't enough -- like we're cutting pretty hard into savings at this point.

Of course, the truth is I have no real reason to complain, in the big picture of things. This cost is temporary. Savings can be rebuilt over time. The training I'm getting should be of direct benefit to my work with my boys.

And yet, I think in a sense this feeling is trying to teach me something. Helping me to understand that my negative feeling isn't towards this evaluation, but to more general financial worries. Helping me to understand my need to do something to feel a bit more financially secure -- even if that's just developing a plan to get there.

And going through that process, there is this realization at the end of it that doing the right thing should matter more than my short-term financial concerns.

Friday, December 08, 2006


I can still remember my first therapy case. This person, sitting there, probably wondering whether I could help them. And me, sitting there, having basically no clue how to do so. Fumbling through conversation, trying to be supportive, yearning for some easy opportunity to apply some bit of skill or wisdom I'd picked up along the way. Worried, above all, that my supervisor was going to watch this tape, that they'd somehow see how utterly clueless I was.

That feeling eventually passed. But life is funny because experiences like that have a way of returning. I recall working at a VA hospital over the summer, sitting next to the bed of this patient wracked with the pain of a car accident -- but the even more brutal horror of PTSD. Seeing them go through flashbacks right in front of my eyes while I sat there with my pen and paper, somehow trying to complete this silly form (a symptom checklist) they'd asked me to complete. And again that feeling of utter inadequacy. Who was I, this second year graduate student, in the face of such devastation?

Later that year, after his physical injuries healed, I saw that person again. He was still wracked by his PTSD symptoms, desperate to leave the facility so he could go back to using alcohol -- the only coping skill he knew worked for him. I remember sitting him down and saying that I thought he might be the bravest person that I'd ever met. And I challenged him. Basically I asked how he could think about giving up when he just had to make it a few more weeks off of alcohol in order to make it into a more intensive PTSD treatment program.

It worked like a charm, as it turns out. I like to think the soldier in him rose to the challenge, refused to see himself as a coward.

Was this some crafty clinical approach I'd learned in school? Nope. Something I'd even seen before? No. Was I internally calm and sure of myself as I spoke those words? Not on your life! Was I desperately making it up as I went along? Yep.

That feeling still returns at times. Like the first time I worked with a certain kind of disorder, or deal with a certain kind of dangerous behavior. Or when I might have to testify in court, or when I know my opinion will have a big impact on when (or if) someone gets their kids back.

What's different now, in looking back on it, is that my response to the feeling has changed. Now it teaches me something, whereas before it could almost paralyze. Now I can study the feeling, understand its cause, learn to manage it. In other words, I face that fear, even dance with it. I no longer treat it like an enemy.

It's tempting for me to think that it's easier for me to do this now, since I have more experience under my belt. I have a bevy of ideas, skills, techniques, approaches that I can call upon. But in the end, therapy is always to some extent just sitting in a room with someone, creating a relationship with them. It's always making it up as you go along to some extent, because ultimately healing only occurs through relationships (if skills alone could heal, then there would be no therapists -- only self-help books).

Embracing the uncertainty in such situations also means opening yourself up to possibility, to change, to hope. I like to think that's how God works in our lives as well. Calling us out of our comfort zone where we are in charge, asking us to grow, to change, to love in more profound ways. If the season of Advent is preparing ourselves for God's entry into our world, then perhaps it is partially opening ourselves up to some degree of uncertainty, of inadequacy even -- so that we might grow.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

the caretaker

I've been thinking lately about another theme that comes up in my job from time to time. It's usually from those in some sort of crisis or another, and the story usually goes something like: when I met my wife/husband/partner, they seemed great, but then they started drinking. And now they yell and scream, threaten suicide if I were ever to leave them, even get aggressive.

These individuals typically were the caretakers growing up, kids who were in charge of taking care of someone's feelings -- or who tried desparately to "make everything OK." And often the current difficulty is a perpetuation of that pattern: of trying to manage things for someone, unwittingly enabling the negative behavior.

The interesting thing is that my job becomes, in part, telling them that they're right to be upset. That their pain and discomfort is telling them something -- that they can't (and shouldn't) try to be responsible for their partner's anger or drinking or aggression. That they have right to expect that their partner step up to the plate, be responsible for themselves, be more of a full partner emotionally.

It's always interesting and somewhat sad when I come across people in these kinds of situations, in part because those in the "caregiver" role are almost always some of the nicest, kindest, most decent folk you could ever want to meet.

In a sense, they're too nice. I sometimes wonder if my advice to them might come across as asking them to be selfish, to be mean. Sometimes I get this look from them, like they're saying "...whaddya mean 'turn the other cheek' isn't always for the best?"

My hope for them is that they can learn to to balance their love for others with a respect for themselves, that they can learn "love" doesn't always mean giving someone what they want. I pray that they come to see how "love" in its deepest sense can only happen when they're being genuine and real, open and honest about how they really feel, rather than hiding behind some wall of "being nice."

Saturday, December 02, 2006


There are some things that people say that stick in your head for a long time. For me, one of those was from going to a conference at some small town in North Dakota (where I attended graduate school). The presenter was talking about his therapeutic approach, and how he works with people to get out of self-defeating patterns in their lives. When it came to working with romantic partners, one of the things he focused on was the ability to be vulnerable. How there is far more power and effectiveness in saying "that hurts me" or "I guess I'm just really scared you're going to leave me" -- rather than hurling insults, accusations, etc.

That notion, the strength of being real, being vulnerable, has stuck with me. I go back to it with some frequency in my clinical work. I try to live up to that wisdom in my personal life.

So I find myself thinking about this idea again now that we've entered the season of advent, a season of preparation, so they say. Preparation for God coming into the world, preparation for letting God into our lives.

But what would that look like? How would we know? Putting aside the notion of God being everywhere for just a moment, how do we attune ourselves to be aware of moments when God is present most powerfully?

I like to think that the humbleness with which Christ entered the world is a hint in what to look for. Not in signs of war, anger, self-righteousness, or ideology -- but perhaps instead for places where there is genuineness, vulnerability, even weakness. Perhaps that means expanding our awareness and action in issues of social justice (such as attending to the devastation in Darfur). Perhaps that means paying extra attention when people around us show the bravery of being vulnerable. Or perhaps that means that we, too, are called upon to be more vulnerable at times. To speak from the deepest and most genuine areas of our hearts to those we love, to enter into dialogue rather than trading accusations.

The great paradox here, whether viewed through the lens of psychology or when considering the humble circumstances of Christ's birth, is that power comes through humility, through vulnerability.