Editor’s note: This content was originally published for the Christian Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Event. This content is shared with Denver Institute for Faith & Work with consent from CEF. David Park is a speaker at “Business for the Common Good” on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.
I woke with a start. It was 2:30am and there was a sense of foreboding in the air. Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on Houston, and it was raining hard. I walked through the dark to the windows at the back of our house and looked out to where I knew the Buffalo Bayou should be. Normally it wouldn’t even be visible, but now it was almost into our swimming pool. For the next two hours, I watched the water rise, first into the pool, then slowly up the steps leading down to the pool deck. At 5:00am, I went to wake up Jean. “What is it?” she asked sleepily. “You need to get up; we are going to flood.”
When water starts coming into your home, the sewer backs up through the bathtubs and the vermin living underneath your house start to scurry through every crack in the floors and walls seeking higher ground. It is like a horror movie, but there isn’t a scary soundtrack in the background. It’s eerily silent as the water quietly rises in your home. You try to save what you can, but it’s impossible to move everything to higher places in the house. There is nothing you can do to stop the water; you can only prepare to leave.
Hurricane Harvey was the most significant rainfall event in the history of recorded weather in the United States. It caused catastrophic damage throughout Houston, destroyed our home, and upended our lives. And for our family, it was just what we needed.
A Crowded Altar
“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth . . . . And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.”Deuteronomy 8:17-19, ESV
Tim Keller writes in Counterfeit Gods that an idol is “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, and anything that you seek to give you what only God can give.” Few people set out to make something an idol, to find security and significance in something other than God. Fewer still want to acknowledge they have made something an idol. Yet we know, as Calvin said, that our hearts are idol making factories.
I first became aware of the idols I had made in my heart when I had a meltdown while putting our three children to bed, several months before the hurricane. They were being children, complaining about not wanting to go to bed, griping about something they hadn’t been able to do that day. It had been a day filled with a great deal of fun and laughter. Yet here were our children, both ungrateful for what they had received that day and unaware of the privilege they lived in generally. Suddenly, I was terrified. My children were ungrateful and privileged, and perhaps on the path to being spoiled, worthless people. This was not an acceptable outcome. I had to do something about it. So I got angry. This was a desperate, uncontrolled anger meant to scare my children into seeing the error of their ways. I would make them remember how wrong they were, and ensure they knew how urgent it was to fix their perspective. Minutes of yelling and screaming led to crying and terror in their eyes.
Later that evening, I was stunned and heartbroken. I had certainly been angry with my children before, but never in the way I terrorized them that night. I was stunned because I remembered being their age, trying to make sense of my mother’s explosive anger. My entire life, I had sworn I would never be someone who would react that way, ever. I didn’t know what had led me to be so afraid and angry that evening, but it was clear it wasn’t going to be a one-time event. I had been fighting off that moment for months, perhaps years. The fear and anger had been there under the surface—it just came out at that moment of weakness. That evening, I told Jean I would get help. I reached out to a counselor who had been recommended to us. He was busy and couldn’t meet until the first week of September. Hurricane Harvey flooded our home the last week of August.
Facing My Shadow
Your shadow is the accumulation of untamed emotions, less-than-pure motives and thoughts that, while largely unconscious, strongly influence and shape your behaviors. It is the damaged but mostly hidden version of who you are.Pete Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Leader
What unfolded in the months after the flood was life changing. I began a journey of facing my shadow self—the part of me I tried to keep hidden but knew was lurking in the background. My shadow was carrying wounds from my childhood and baggage from the brokenness of my young adult years. Facing my shadow also involved delving into the generational sins of my family, as well as identifying the idols I had made of my parents and children. It was real work to face these issues, and I often found myself drained from the process. There were also significant consequences to some of my closest relationships, including with my parents. The perfect life I had tried to construct—built on a beautiful family, thriving friendships, and a growing company—began to crumble. That life had not been built on a solid foundation. That life was leading down a road of greater devotion to idols that would never be satisfied until they had taken everything. It was a path that would lead to passing down generational sins and emotional baggage I had inherited from culture and family.
It took a heartbreaking moment with my family combined with a literal flood for God to get my attention. He had been knocking on the door of my heart for years, and I had ignored Him with what I thought were reasonable excuses:
Nothing is wrong—look at how great everything is going!
I can’t deal with that issue . . . it would rock the boat too much.
What would people think if they knew I had this problem?
God in His grace was giving me a way out. It has sometimes been painful and uncomfortable, but through facing my shadow I have discovered a freedom in Christ I have never known before. What has this process looked like? Some highlights are below.
Experiencing God’s healing
Whoever said time heals all wounds didn’t understand how the heart works. I have experienced healing and begun the healing process in areas of my heart I thought had mended simply with the passage of time. This process cannot be comprehensive, and I cannot live in the past. But it has been very helpful in getting unstuck and moving past roadblocks in my thinking and behavior. I also believe if I lead from woundedness, I am far less likely to use power and authority in God-honoring ways. I now take seriously the process of experiencing God’s healing and restoration on a regular basis.
Growing in self and other awareness
Men versus women. Type A versus Type B. There are many rudimentary ways I have made sense of the differences between people in the world. Recently I have learned of better frameworks for understanding myself and others—different motivations, work preferences, personality traits, and so on. Gaining non-judgmental awareness of differences between people has helped me break destructive, repetitive patterns of conflict. It has also grown my empathy for others in many situations.
Sharing my story
My testimony used to end when I accepted Christ because my conversion is an amazing story of God’s grace that I felt was the highlight of my life. While everything did change that day, my walk with God was just beginning. Being able to share the many areas of brokenness God has been restoring in me is just as much part of my story now. And when I tell my story, it often gives others the comfort to do the same. From the Garden to now, man has struggled with shame and the desire to hide from God and others. Sin festers in shame and isolation, and simply breaking this pattern can change the trajectory of a life.
Healthy Kingdom Leadership
The emotionally unhealthy leader is someone who operates in a continuous state of emotional and spiritual deficit, lacking emotional maturity and a “being with God” sufficient to sustain their “doing for God.” Unhealthy leaders lack awareness of their feelings, their weaknesses and limits, how their past impacts their present, and how others experience them. They also lack the capacity and skill to enter deeply into the feelings and perspectives of others. They carry these immaturities with them into their teams and everything they do.Pete Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Leader
I have traveled with my family around the United States and Canada over the last year, visiting nearly every state and province. The highlight of this trip hasn’t been the beautiful national parks we have visited and fun adventures we have had. Instead, it has been visiting with dozens of friends and their families all over the country. These are extraordinary people with significant Kingdom assignments leading companies and ministries. As we have shared stories about life’s joys and challenges, we have formed deeper connections and encouraged one another along the way. At the same time, it has become clear to me that the path toward emotional and spiritual health is often a lonely one, especially for leaders. There just aren’t many avenues for leaders to receive honest feedback or to begin working through their struggles.
Like many other CEF members, I have a deep desire to integrate my faith with my work, to partner with and support organizations led by faith-driven entrepreneurs, and to leave a legacy of redemptive stewardship and changed lives. All of these endeavors require partnering with leaders and the organizations they lead. I believe it is paramount that these leaders are undergirded by an intentional journey toward emotional and spiritual health in order to sustain their work with integrity. The next season of my life will be dedicated to helping these leaders begin and progress on their journey.
Continuing the Conversation
If you are interested in learning about the tools and resources for emotional and spiritual health that I have found to be most compelling, please reach out to me. I will also be working to increase the awareness of and access to these tools and resources in communities of faith and work, so I would welcome your advice and input in that endeavor. Above all, I look forward to sitting down with you someday to share my story and hear yours as well. May God bless you on your journey!
Hear More From Aimee Minnich at Business for the Common Good
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This post was published January 2, 2020
David is a Partner at Greenwood Hospitality Group, a company he helped found in 2009 that has over 4,400 hotel rooms under ownership and management. Through 2017, David was responsible for Greenwood’s business development, underwriting of investment opportunities, and sourcing of debt and equity capital. From 2015 through 2017, David was also president of PRD Inc., his family’s real estate development company in Houston. Before Greenwood, David worked for a variety of ventures focused on real estate investing and development, and also spent a number of years in investment banking.