Reclaiming Who and What We Are: The Power of Symbols

A few hours ago in my full time work as a street outreach crisis counselor I had the opportunity to facilitate a gang intervention with a young person. There were many positive seeds planted in this young person’s life before what occurred this evening, and for that I am grateful. There was also a lot of weeding out negative seeds that were planted in this young person’s life before what happened this evening, and for that I am even more grateful.

Life, for each of us, is about tending to our personal garden. Weeding out that which hinders and chokes the life, dreams, truth and beauty of who and what we truly are. Tilling the soil. Planting wholesome, loving seeds. Allowing the sunshine of laughter and bliss, as well as the cleansing water from tears of both sadness and joy to work in their beautiful unison to grow the love that’s been planted. It’s work. A beautiful work. A labor of love. When we’re children we lovingly tend to our garden and help others do the same. For some, over time, we begin to pull away from tending to our garden because of the voices of lies that come through some people. Lies told through people like, “You’re not good enough.” “You’re not pretty enough.” “You’re not handsome enough.” “You’re not smart enough.” The list of lies pointing out all that we’re not goes on and on, and it’s sad that it does. Remember: fear always lies within lies, and lies always lie within fear. Only the fearful tell themselves and others what they’re not. Only the courageous tell themselves and others what they are. And the truth of who and what you are is beyond words, however the best words I know to remind you of who and what you are, are the same four words that every youth and young adult I’ve had the honor to serve in my twenty-six year career are: sacred, blessing, miracle, gift. Yes, you’re a sacred blessing, miracle, and gift. We all are.

There is no script for interventions, whether the intervention is for sex trafficking, drugs, alcohol, gangs, violence, homelessness, or suicide. An intervention is truly walking the razor’s edge, simply because interventions are life or death situations for the person you are serving, as well as for you, the interventionist. In situations where you have minutes, sometimes seconds, to get a person to put down a loaded gun, drop a knife or box cutter, not jump into traffic, or make an exodus from a lifestyle that is certain to end in early death or incarceration, but is the only lifestyle the person thinks can meet their basic needs, a life they’ve become used to, and sadly, is often something that isn’t any less dangerous or painful as what the person experienced behind the walls within the house they lived in as a child. 

There are only two things that are a must for me whenever I facilitate an intervention. The first thing is that I need to make sure I am not the one who is facilitating the intervention. I get out of the way and pray, “God, You know what this person needs, not me, so please, You do this through me. Use me, Lord.” The second thing is that the first words the person hears from me is, “You are a sacred blessing, miracle and gift.” And these are not mere words, it is as close as words can get to describe who and what that person truly is. And in a world where we are bombarded with all the things we are not, when someone hears a sincere reminder of who and what they are, it penetrates deeply, beyond the mental, it’s a connection that is felt and not just cognitive, that interrupts someone’s pattern of crisis and opens the door of dialogue, pacing, leading, and de-escalation. Like being funny or knowing how to fight, an intervention cannot be faked. The words you are a sacred blessing, miracle and gift, have to be from such a deep, heartfelt, Spirit-led place of sincerity that they penetrate the lies and instantly remind the person of their truth and worth of greatness and beauty. For me, if someone cannot see you as a sacred blessing, miracle and gift, they cannot see you. Again today, by the grace and guidance of God, I witnessed this transformation happen with a young person who was on the fence about leaving gang life. I was called in, so I called God in, and it happened.

When that young person heard the words you’re a sacred blessing, miracle and gift. You’re not a gangster, you’re a Godster. You’re a child of God, she shook and tears welled up in her eyes. She instantly remembered when and why she stopped believing that about herself, and because she was being seen as the sacred blessing, miracle and gift she is, she was willing to see, hear and believe that about herself again and reclaimed her truth. She made the internal transformation and wanted the internal change to be matched with an external change, so she gave me all her items that were gang affiliated. One of the items she gave me was a rosary she wore only because its color matched that of the gang she was previously affiliated with. In exchange I gave her a tree of life necklace, so that she now has a symbol to wear that represents healing, positive growth, beauty, and positive transformation. She’s also going to get a new rosary, not to wear, but to use to pray and remind her of what she is whenever she’s bombarded the lies of what she’s not.

Symbols bypass the conscious mind and go straight to the subconscious mind, creating a strong current of direction within a person’s life. Are the symbols you’ve allowed in your life, be they words, items or thoughts, reflecting the truth that you’re a sacred blessing, miracle and gift? If not, then it may be time to weed your garden of any lies and anything that represents lies, and take that seventeen inch walk from your head back to your heart.

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Your Road to Damascus

Acts 9:3-9 New International Version (NIV)

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

 So there Saul was living his life, mercilessly persecuting those who believed differently than he did. Along the road to Damascus he was struck blind and heard God say, “Why do you persecute me?” He didn’t ignore this, or try to write with some type of scientific explanation. He understood the importance of that moment, and began an intimate relationship with the Creator. In this intimate transformation, he became Paul, and a disciple of Jesus Christ. His sight was brought back to him but with a renewed vision, this time living from his heart and following the intimate and personal voice we all hear from deep within our hearts. 

What was your road to Damascus? If you haven’t had a road to Damascus experience thus far, it can be challenging to appreciate those who’ve had this type of experience.  

The lives of every person we encounter are never as simple as presented. In a facade-filled society where protecting perceived prestige and titles is a norm, it becomes challenging to appreciate those who are willing to reveal their past mistakes and challenges.

Those who are willing to share their testimonies are sometimes labeled in negative ways. The very urge to label someone who has the courage to share their testimony with others demonstrates how sharing our personal testimony stirs a remembrance within others about the roads to Damascus some hold secret. Thoughts or statements in response to someone sharing their struggles such as “I would never”, “I can’t believe she did that”, or “Why would he share that?” come from many who claim various forms of religiosity as bedrock for their lives. It’s interesting how those who claim Christianity as their religion will quote various individuals, who, before their moment of transformation had bad reputations from less than honorable lifestyles. If it isn’t obvious, the irony is simple: people will quote scripture from those they themselves would have labeled as “undesirables” and “criminals” but who are now considered spiritual leaders, yet will reject people who have come from the depths of prostitution, gang life, drug dealing, alcoholism, and incarceration among us right here, right now as living, breathing miracles, and in-your-face testimonies of the true healing power of our Creator regardless of religion, but exclusively dependent upon Spiritual Relationship. 

It’s in the complete and honest dialogues of our challenges and shortcomings that true teaching-learning experiences blossom. I am not advocating indiscriminate & complete personal disclosure; we have to be careful with that. I am advocating that our personal road to Damascus experience can be the greatest foundation of compassion we have with ourselves and each other. To a greater or lesser extent we all have our own personal road to Damascus. A moment we saw beyond our physical sight and beyond ourselves with great perception in order to glimpse the impact our thoughts, words, and actions are having upon our family, community and world. Never underestimate the power of your personal road to Damascus, and never demean someone else’s personal road to Damascus.  

For anyone reading this that views others in our communities who are currently or were previously afflicted with alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, gang affiliation, drug dealing or any other forms of negative lifestyles as “less than” perhaps this writing is a personal road to Damascus of sorts for you. A moment for you to reflect upon any self-righteous indignation you may carry towards or about those you would consider “less than,” “beneath you,” “unreachable,” or “beyond help.” Carrying this type of view about anyone is a poison that blinds us to the reality that the Creator has placed within all of us. A reality we must see in one another so that we can remind one another of the greatness placed gently within everyone by the hands of The Great One.  As disturbing as it may be to your ego, your labels, judgments, and opinions cannot hold the translation of anyone’s life, including your own. The Creator alone holds the final translation about everyone and everything.

Perhaps if you take a moment to go beyond your physical sight and look deep within your heart you’ll see nobody sets out to become a prostitute, addict, and place more value on money than human lives. Perhaps within your heart you’ll hear a still, small voice saying, “They are my children and deeply wounded. You might have wound up exactly like them if you went through exactly what they did. If you’re so perfect then shouldn’t you have more than just labels and judgments to place upon the altars of my hurting children’s minds and hearts? Don’t you see them as a part of Me? Don’t you see them as part of you? Why do you persecute yourself? Why do you persecute Me?”

Hurt, pain, loss, tragedy, condemnation, and persecution in various forms is what moves our youth into negative lifestyles; offering the exact opposite is what’s required of us to bring them back.

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Youth Gang Intervention Tip About Activities

Youth Gang Intervention Tip About Activities: 

Activities in and of themselves are not gang intervention. Baseball, soccer, chess, yoga, creative writing, painting, basketball, poetry, spoken word, music, football, boxing, MMA, etc., are all good activities. The intervention comes into play before, during and after the activity, where the facilitators of the activity connects with the youth, and guides them in developing powerful, internal metaphors that instill resilience, fortitude, honor, healthy choices, and a powerful healing vision that the youth can and will focus on and apply in challenging situations when they’re away from the programs and activities.

A program will only rise to the level of the people facilitating it. Allow the Creator of your understanding to facilitate your programs through you with the most powerful force there is – love.

Walk in Beauty,

Anthony Goulet

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