Monday, January 12, 2015

Stepping Forward in Freedom

I sat with my finger poised above the "delete" button as I re-read the status I was preparing to post on Facebook. It'd been a great day and I wanted to share it – along with some of the reasons why I was feeling so optimistic. At the end of the post was the sentence I couldn't figure out whether to leave in or delete: "Add to that some continued processing of what ended up being a really good therapy session yesterday... and, yeah.... Jenn's feeling pretty doggone good!" On one hand, I didn't want to get into the specifics of that session... but on the other hand, there had been a real "ah-ha" moment that was a tremendous source of hope and a large part of the positive attitude which had permeated my day. I wanted to share that joy and the hope I was feeling from the discovery. On one hand, I was slightly hesitant to even mention counseling (what would people think?)... but on the other hand, I wanted to do my part to dispel any possible stigma against counseling... to make it okay for someone else. Because... it wasn't that long ago that the person who resisted... was me.

In 2001, at the end of a long email to my friend/pastor, I wrote: "And now I'm beginning to sound like the crazed psycho-analysts that I've always despised. LOL! I'm way over-analyzing, aren't I?" When he saw me later that evening he suggested that if I didn't want to get into the issues I'd raised with him, then maybe "someone else" could help me.  I knew by "someone else" he meant counseling. And that... that is when I came completely unglued. His suggestion both shocked and terrified me. I held my tongue then, but later that night I emailed him again and unloaded on him, "Don't push me too hard, here.... Don't give me a reason to run or shut down – it's not worth it.... You started this, don't you dare bail on me now."

As I think about that night I have to shake my head. What a difference a few years makes. It took me over another decade, but I've come to realize that counseling shouldn't carry the stigma that I gave it for so many years. I never had a hesitation about talking to my pastor about things that bothered me or that I couldn't seem to figure out. So why on earth would I have a hesitation to talk to someone with even more training – someone who could help me even more? Someone who could help me with my kids... my spouse... myself?  I believe seeking that help is even biblical:

  • A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.
    (Proverbs 1:5) 
  • Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.
    (Proverbs 11:14)
  • The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
    (Proverbs 12:15) 
  • Through insolence comes nothing but strife, But wisdom is with those who receive counsel.
    (Proverbs 13:10)

You don't have to be "messed up beyond belief" to benefit from counseling. You just have to want to be more than what you are... to want to be the best that you can be for those around you.  None of us are perfect... we haven't arrived... Why do we want to pretend we have? Each of us at times could use a little help figuring out the world around us and how to interact with it. Each of us has been broken in ways that impact how we view the world around us – many times without even realizing the impact or ramifications. None of us see ourselves accurately.... Neither do we always see our spouse; our children; our parents; or our friends accurately. We live in a broken world. We have all been harmed. Every single one of us has suffered harm. We all look at the world (and ourselves) through those glasses. Learning to recognize it frees us to become more.

I've learned that those "crazed psycho-analysts" aren't as off-base as I once thought they were. I thought we were supposed to leave the past in the past and that they were just stirring up what should be left alone. I've come to understand that isn't necessarily the case. Moving on doesn't mean burying or ignoring. Hiding is not healing. Forgetting isn't even necessarily forgiving. Sometimes we need to come face to face with our past and deal with it before we can truly move on.  Understanding where certain feelings or reactions come from can be very freeing. That was part of the positive session I wanted to post about. I had suddenly realized that the feeling I feared and felt here in my present was actually a very intense reflection of something that had happened when I was a child. By realizing it, I could recognize the lies in my head for what they were – lies meant to keep me from being the woman whom God created me to be. While that doesn't automatically fix the problem, it does give me hope and the ability to realize where the lies come from; to recognize them for what they are... and allow the truth of God (and my loving husband) to begin to heal and overcome them. I'm no longer chained by something I don't see or understand. The power of that understanding and the recognition of my brokenness allow me to experience the hope of healing and freedom.

I smiled. My finger moved from above the "delete" button. I left the sentence as it was and moved the mouse to post the unedited status. No hiding. I don't want to be party to the stigma. I want to step forward in freedom... hoping to bring that freedom to someone else.