“A high school dropout. A teen-age father. I don’t deserve to be here.” And with those words Douglas Pearce MA ’14 began his presentation to his classmates in the 2014 Graduate Counseling Commissioning Service.
“Four years ago,” he continued, “part of me died. I was holding the body of a dead twelve-year-old Afghani boy and knew that I, the platoon leader, was responsible for his death. I returned to the States in February 2011 broken and traumatized, and when I arrived at Ft. Campbell, no one was there to greet me. My wife had abandoned me and filed for divorce, and I stood alone in that hangar.”
Doug’s inner pain intensified, and his body was shutting down, and he realized he was close to dying. “In a moment of complete brokenness,” Doug said, “I cried out to God for help.” He sensed that God was helping him, but, he added, “I also realized that God expected me to live a different way. I had lived a life of destruction—both professionally and personally—but God clearly called me to change one step at a time: to trust God, to live a life of authenticity, to gain power over myself.” Accepting that new way of living, which he calls “living in the flow with God,” Doug—for the first time in his life—began living a life of purpose and a plan.
Disabled from injuries sustained in military service, Doug resigned his commission as an Army officer and began trying to discern what God wanted him to do with the remainder of his life. He knew that the next chapter of his life needed to include healing. “I had had enough destruction,” he explained. He visited Trevecca, learned that Trevecca had a master’s in marriage and family therapy program (MMFT), and applied.
The news that he had passed the entrance exam for this program made Doug weep. “I was so scared when I took that exam; I never believed I was good enough, and life seemed to reinforce that belief. But when I passed that test, I heard God telling me that I am good enough, and that affirmation began resonating within me,” he said.
As a student in Trevecca’s Graduate Counseling Program, Doug found himself facing his own brokenness and destructive patterns of behavior. Instead of being depressed, Doug remembered God’s affirmation and saw another option: He could work to change those things, mend those broken relationships, and do his part to be healed.
Living life in the flow with God was becoming easier for Doug until Jan Harvey MA ’00, clinical coordinator of the Graduate Counseling Program, informed him that he needed to complete a required internship at Ft. Campbell’s Family Life Center. That information caused a recurrence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for Doug.
Returning to Ft. Campbell was the last thing that Doug wanted to do, and he asked Harvey about alternate internship opportunities with another agency; however, falling back on his training as a soldier, he heard himself saying, “Regardless of where I want to go, I will follow orders and go where God wants me to go.” And with a smile, Doug said, “I was sure I heard God say, ‘Exactly.’ And I said to myself, ‘Ah, I’ve been set up.’” He immediately called chaplain at the Family Life Center at Fort Campbell and said, “I need to intern for you. It is where I am supposed to be.”
Doug was surprised by what happened during his internship: “I did not go to Ft. Campbell to heal, but healing is what I found there. I wanted to help others, and I have, but in that process, God has helped me overcome my long-held resentments.” Doug added, “I now pray that God will help me to see myself as God sees me, love myself as God loves me, and forgive myself as God has forgiven me. Then I ask God to help me see others, love others, and forgive others as God does. This new way of experiencing God and self transforms me every day. I realized that I have the power to create and receive wonderful things in my life.”
Those wonderful things in Doug’s life include his three adult children; his Trevecca classmates, who have become part of his new family; and a woman who loves and accepts him unconditionally. Accepting that unconditional love, according to Doug, was the most difficult part of his journey.
“Living in the flow with God does not mean that I live a charmed life,” Doug explained. “It does mean that I now see purpose and a plan in my life.” And then he looked into the faces of his Graduate Counseling classmates, and said, “And if you have not found God’s plan for your life, I encourage you to find it.”
With graduation behind him, Doug continues to volunteer at the Ft. Campbell Family Life Center. Eventually, he wants to go into private practice as a marriage and family therapist.