Have you ever been asked to care for others in a church or other similar setting and wondered what you actually had to give? That’s where Robert Ward found himself not too long ago. Rather than press on as if all was well, he decided to take a risk and enter into Mentored Sonship. Through Mentored Sonship, he wanted to see how to live more deeply out of God’s love for him—and from that place be able to love others.
During a recent interview, Robert shared a portion of his story.
Serge: Tell me a bit about yourself.
Ward: I was born in Alabama, the youngest of five and son of a physician. I grew up focused on academic achievement as my drug of choice. I am married, a dad of five daughters, and I am a physician. My story is one of fear, shame, anxiety, and betrayals—and one of endurance, unexpected blessings, and love.
Serge: How did you first hear about Serge and Sonship?
Ward: I first heard of Serge in 1990 when I met my wife, who had just returned from two years with Serge in Uganda.
Serge: So how did you get started with Sonship?
Ward: A couple of years ago, I was feeling stuck spiritually. I was not feeling connected to God’s love for me, and I was feeling discontented and anxious. While these are not new battles for me, I was scheduled to start leading a small group and felt that I had little love to give. [At that point,] I had taken a Sonship course a couple of times with a group some years ago, but never in a one-on-one mentoring situation. So, I was looking for something that could stir the pot.
Serge: A lot of people mention that Sonship’s questions can be pretty pointed and dig into some deep heart issues that we tend to gloss over. Did you have that experience? What heart issues did Sonship bring up for you?
Ward: The questions are a critical part of the course. They remind you of the main points, then they help you to interact with the material. For example, I learned how quick I am to say I am sorry about something and move on thinking I had dealt with the whole episode, without asking myself some hard questions. Did I need to ask the other person about how I had affected them? Did I do the work of repentance and ask myself hard questions about why I acted that way? Repentance is something that takes more thought and active participation and less presumption. It had some negative connotations for me before, but now I see repentance as a positive invitation to rest.
Serge: Do you have any examples or stories of how the lessons from Sonship worked their way into your day-to-day life?
Ward: I was on the phone with a patient who wanted me to fill out a DMV form for a drivers license. She needed it pronto, because she had gone out of town and was late getting it to me. I was frustrated that she was pressuring me to make a difficult decision about whether to place driving restrictions on her, and fill out a complicated form so quickly when it was her fault she was at risk of missing the deadline. I felt bad after hanging up because I knew that my frustration with her (and my defensiveness) was made clear. This is a woman with a very difficult life.
After a few minutes of considering this, I called her back. Rather than just apologize, I said: “I think that I was short with you and I’m sorry, because I’ll bet I made you feel bad. How did I make you feel?” And she said “Well, it was hard because all of this has happened and it was just one more thing.”
I was broken because she wasn’t even mad, just sad. So, I apologized. It was a more complete repentance for me and a more healing process for her, because I reached where I had hurt her. She expressed appreciation, and I told her approximately when I thought I could get her forms done. I felt that we ended the conversation as closer friends.
In addition, I want to encourage my wife Sally, as well as the few guys in close relationship with me, to pursue me and to feel free to tell me how my sin affects them. For example, I might say to Sally: “I want you to tell me what that was like when I responded that way.” Beyond my asking forgiveness for being impatient, I may have made her feel contempt, or disrespect. She feels the heart of the behavior. I am not doing this well, and I am praying the Holy Spirit grows this sort of faith in me.
Serge: What was your biggest takeaway (or takeaways) from your experience with Sonship? How has Sonship helped you and your walk with God?
Ward: One impactful concept for me is to live life with a posture of receiving (John 1:12). I am slowly learning to put aside anxieties, meditate, and receive His forgiveness and love through the day. At work I am spending more time between patients or when walking from my office to the hospital to take time to observe my feelings, ask myself what I am believing to lead to those feelings, and asking the Spirit to reveal sins. I am learning to “actively receive” His forgiveness and love, putting aside anxieties and frustrations, meditating on His mercy and grace, our status as sons and co-heirs, His sovereignty over disappointments, fears, and frustrations.
Serge: How was the mentor experience for you? Do you think that made a significant difference versus, for example, just reading the book and answering the questions at the end on your own?
Ward: My previous experience with Sonship in a group setting was very good. But with a mentor, the experience was very different. There was no one else there to take the heat! I found that I participated more, I worked more at being vulnerable and honest, and I saw the effects of that. The mentor sharing his own unique insights and experiences, adding additional insight to the material. I found this essential to the whole experience.
Serge: Would you suggest Mentored Sonship to others, and if so, why?
Ward: Mentored Sonship takes presumptions, misperceptions, and life’s pressures, which create this negative vibe that clouds our view of the Gospel, and exposes them. I would suggest Mentored Sonship for anyone who wants to deepen their relationship with Jesus.