Guided by Grace: Lessons from a Mentor on Life, Spirituality, and Self-Belief
Several years ago, I worked with a therapist named Dr. Paul Fairweather following one of those rough periods in my life. You know the kind — where everything gets turned upside down, shaken out, and eventually put together again (hopefully) but in a new way. It’s not about discarding the self as known but augmenting that self with the conscious support of God/Spirit and some good coaching from a mentor.
Paul was an older man who carried a lot of wisdom and shared it with me. He was easy to talk with about anything. I wasn’t always sure what we were doing was technically therapy. It was more of a mentorship, one where he would compassionately listen, occasionally offer some advice, and tell some great stories from which I would cull some powerful teachings — all the while knowing that he wasn’t judging me at all.
I often came to his office feeling broken, fragmented and generally confused about life and out of sorts. Inevitably, once I left, I would feel myself lifted and I swear, I even felt a little taller and definitely more confident that I could handle my current life situation.
Paul had retired from his position as a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, so that added to his credentials, and thus spirituality was naturally and easily woven into our conversations. This was early in my spiritual journey, so his depth of relationship with God was also central to our talks. I was at a stage where I was exploring various facets of spirituality, eager to understand more about life and my life’s journey. I hadn’t yet been introduced to shamanism, but in retrospect, I now see how I was building a platform that would eventually be augmented by a deep dive into incorporating shamanism as an essential aspect to my spiritual journey.
I will always appreciate this man and our relationship for the significant support and help with my life’s direction at a time when I felt broken and needed an anchor. He was that anchor and so much more.
One of the most significant memories was when I was short on money. I had income from my self-employment but had faced some unusual expenses that month and my checking account was almost zeroed out. I had to pay for the usual expenses, so I almost cancelled the appointment. Instead, though, knowing that my income would eventually be sufficient, I decided to keep the appointment.
When I showed up, he greeted me with his usual warm welcome. I was nervous because I had to tell him that I couldn’t pay him that week. We chatted briefly until I broached the subject. “Paul, I have something to tell you and I’m embarrassed to do so,” I stated. He paused, looked at me intently, waiting for me to continue. “I can’t pay you this week. I’m short but I’ll catch up eventually.” He furrowed his brow and looked deep into my eyes. Then he said something that I will forever remember.
“That’s okay Steven. I believe in you.”
Tears streamed down my face as I allowed this blessing to fill my heart and soul. Here was this wise elder, this man who had walked the earth for many years and brought his knowledge and wisdom to the table for our sessions. Yet it was those four words that landed gently yet powerfully so much so that whenever I recall that experience, I know that no matter what, I can believe in myself and in my Higher Power to carry on my purpose.
Thank you, Paul.
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