My take on Healing (clinical, spiritual, etc.-al)
When I came to college, I went to counseling for the first semester of my freshman year here and there. I had gone to counseling on and off from 2nd grade until 4th grade, and then went pretty much weekly or biweekly from 5th grade until I graduated high school.
I came to college not realizing that I did not need it. I believed very firmly there was something wrong with me, and I was dead set on fixing it. I believed that there was something more wrong with me than anyone else. I believed I was someone who deserved to be indefinitely miserable, and I believed that my life was doomed to be a failure from the moment I was born.
Well, something was wrong with me. It was a something no more wrong with me than anyone else. It was a something that would make me one of the happiest I know. And my life is beautiful.
Jesus is strange like that. He shows up in weird places, constantly. He is just around; it’s like the person you don’t invite to share your candy corn who lives across from you in the dorms. All people are capable of love and compassion, and goodness is a gift.
And yet, there I was, trying to make sense of my life, trying to earn the happiness everyone else seemed to have.
The word of interest here is “seemed”. None of my peers were any happier. In fact, all that hard won surviving crazy skills that I had learned came into great use in the Scholarship Hall I lived at. I cooked. A lot. Like, name a baked good, I probably made it at some point. I loved cooking for my friends. I still do, it’s a nice feeling to have someone enjoy something you did for them. I love doing a lot of things like that. I’ve realized over the years that service is more of an attitude than any place or gift or action. It is making oneself of use to the needs of the people who are conveniently there. It is peaceful to me, because I often could not contribute in many normal ways when I was upset, but I could always make brownies.
I went to a few sessions, avoided them, tried one session of a mindfulness group (focus on enjoying the beauty of the moment), and didn’t go back ever again. I will never accept counseling services again for the rest of my life, I know better.
The thing about all of that is that it meant nothing to me. It helped me define what no one else would listen to otherwise. It gave me a 60 minute slot to be myself. Apart from that, the scraps of what I remembered and loved stayed embalmed in my memory until I could actually accept all of them. Cue last semester’s crazy avalanche, and we’re almost there.
I don’t understand how counseling is any more effective that just deciding to be a good person. I know that people need kindness, and sometimes you just need a friend to talk to. I don’t believe in shaming anyone for any reason, lest of all when they feel weakest in the entire world. But if many members of my congregation were seeking outside help for problems instead of Jesus and I was their pastor, I’d be seriously concerned because that implies I am not doing my job.
Many people are going to tell me I’m wrong for saying that, but hear me out.
First, you cannot change any person unless they make the active decision to choose health. You can call that whatever you believe until you get blue in the face, but people make their own choices if they believe them. Period.
You cannot force another person to choose anything. Ever. As in, not once ever. You can abuse someone into thinking they should. That is psychological manipulation. You can belittle them with words until they do. That is verbal abuse. You can take it without asking. That is stealing, and often, abuse. You can do whatever you like because if you are in the position of power to where you can afford to wound others and you do so for fun, it is very likely that no one will stop you until you either murder, rape, or ruin in an irrevocable way. And then, the odds are still in your favor if you are white, male, etc. The people that the world calls ugliest know the most about trial because they live it. No one asked to be born as they are into their situation, otherwise we’d all take the side of the rich white guys that run most of the world. Apart from that, beauty comes to us all.
If there was perfect justice like God, the world would see equal rates of incarceration, crime, justice, and even college entrance acceptance in all people (among other things). That does not happen. Ever. Those opportunities have never been equally distributed. Not once.
If Jesus is set to come back whenever the gospel has been shared well enough to merit it, and he is set to save exact equal amounts of people from each of the tribes of Israel (peoples of the world), perhaps making everything perfect here through our social structures is not the best immediate plan of action, from a God point of view. Jesus says very plainly in Revelation that he will be the one to judge, and he gives practical advice for people living in oppression to hold on to as they are destroyed on a daily basis.
Which begs the question: Why are we being such jerks constantly? We can blame it on the laws, we can blame it on the courts, we can blame it on your skin pigment, we can blame it on “who is crazy” (lol), we can blame it on the monsters underneath our beds and skeletons in our closets, but still, even in the most stupid and dying, this is our choice. Stop.
The world is a beautiful place if you let it be. Hell on earth or Heaven on earth, take your pick: there are two. It boils down to an attitude of ingratitude vs. gratitude. And you don’t really need to know much to be aware of that, just look around. If the world we see is in conflict with our holiest book? What then?
Well, I’d say it’s time to take ownership of that and accept our shortcomings so that we can actually get what we keep asking for: Christ.
If you believe in Jesus, and yet take no active measures to ask him to come back by being kind and dying to your ego, why even ask? Surely you know that predisposes you to be damned, right? Those are God’s words, you speak them, right? I seriously don’t get it.
I believe in those words. They may be extreme, but so is the other side of things. You have a choice. I am not trying to convert anyone against their will here, I’m just being real. Life is a series of choices, if people want Jesus, they have to say so with their mouth and know it in their hearts to receive him anyways. Why would I step on anyone’s toes who doesn’t believe in God? Better yet, why would I try to pelt Bibles down upon people who are already wounded by the Church? It makes no sense.
I believe that if people want to know about the Gospel, they will. We pursue the knowledge we desire no matter what, look to the Garden of Eden for that obvious. If you want to walk with God, you will, no matter what you or I call it. It is not my place to tell you how to live your life if I am a disciple of Christ. I can live my life and live it well, and if it makes sense to share that with you naturally and without insulting your character or choices, I will do so. I know for a fact that a lot of popular evangelism doesn’t work due to things like insensitivity, unkindness, not knowing how to relate to other people, and being afraid to talk about common truths that happen.
I may not agree with everything, but hell, let’s talk about it. There is no reason we should be keeping any secrets here, no one else does. If you believe that Christ is a gift you have received and you believe he calls you to share it via the Great Commission, what good is doing that if no one listens? Intolerance is bitter in any language, in any person, in any church, in any context.
People can call me an extremist; that is fine. The people that my country calls extremists are also people that work under the guise of religion. I understand. However, not everyone would like to acknowledge how great a role the United States has and always has had in worsening the conflicts we get involved in. It’s about fifty fifty, from what I know. That isn’t much, but if the entire rest of the world thinks we’re tools, shouldn’t we listen to that? Especially if we believe God had some role to play with the founding of this country (I’m talking freedom of religion, not bald eagles of peace with olive branches).
I just believe in love for all people in the simplest ways possible through a Savior that lives, and if that makes me a jerk, I accept that. I don’t know why it’s so complicated, though. If we have people dying right here in Lawrence, Kansas of health conditions and abject poverty and yet, we think anything will turn rosy if we ship our intolerance (in any context, the point is it is mean and it travels) overseas, why do we call ourselves Christians? Do we want to belittle the love of God? Because that is what it seems like to many people I have spoken to, in my tenure of paying attention.
There is no proof for that. There is no proof for any of this. For all you know, I could have fabricated every last detail down to my name. But I did not. Not all of it is perfect, but I don’t believe it has to be. It was always something I hoped to share, it was never something I had to earn, it was always something that was my choice, and it was never something I felt like lying about. I just think that the God of Abraham and Isaac deserves a little more glory than we as a body of Christ are currently giving him, and I know I’m not the only one.
You should not have to justify your faith if it shows. People will often attack your for it if you let it speak for you, that happens to anyone. If we attack other people for their goodness, why would we expect any person to listen to us ever? It is obvious.
Being like Christ means sitting, listening, learning, and an infinite list of attributes that are meant to be shared. It does not have to be difficult to love people; in my experience it comes best when it comes easy, after allowing it to happen by accepting your limitations. As a Church, we do not respect other people’s opinions very well in the means we take to talk about the Gospel, and it shows.
My dream is that the kindness we have in every facet of society would come together under faith and unite as a stronger Church. I don’t believe in breaking things you do not seek resolution for, and that is why I believe in Jesus. He resolved each and every one the world’s problems simply by dying in the worst way. It may have not come to complete fruition yet (as in, he has not come back), but that does not mean we should be cruel. His most perfect work was death, despite all those miracles. If we want to be like him, we have to let our egos disintegrate by practicing kindness and learning from one another. If it is complicated, then it is probably not what we want in this. God tells us the gifts of the Spirit very simply, he does not make great manuals to how to live our life; he provides examples. The entirety of the Bible contains so many leading characters, it has rules and laws and love stories and battles and heroes and villains and all of it. Why wouldn’t you enjoy that if that is the word you confess?
If ever person brought their gifts before God in terms of what they can offer and did so in the name of goodness, this would have already been wrapped up a long time ago. Jesus is coming back, yes, and no one knows when. Apart from that, there are no easy solutions, just some work to do. You cannot have it both ways, either you want the Gospel to be alive or you act in a way that makes it dead. What else could you possibly need?
In my personal experience with mental health disorders, the one most helpful thing to me was the knowledge that I was not alone. It was listening. Medication gave me a great excuse to believe I was greater than my circumstances, but that came so much easier in God that eventually, I quit it cold turkey in Chile. I was on a terribly low dose of a mood stabilizer, but the point is that enough goodness had to come into my life before I was able to just leave it and move forward. I do not suggest stopping anything like that cold turkey, because of the chemical dependencies built up by your body when you take it. But for me, it worked. I knew that I could, because I trusted God and I was willing to take that risk. I was away from everything else that scared me a lot. I had friends.
Now, the hardest part was defeating the part of my brain that told me I would never be enough on my own. It was so hard to give up something that was meant (but failing) to make me happier in an attempt to accept the unknown. It made me sick to think about it, because I knew, due to faith, I could not make up the rest of the room on my own. I slowly learned that God would do that for me, but dang, those were a rough two weeks. Good friends, time, and a lot of patience and prayer. It took years; that was only the end. I was finally able to let go. It is not so easy for many people.
People who have recovered from serious heartache have very few choices in the conversation we are currently having as the Body of Christ. You can become a symbol for why the gospel is true (to everyone’s somewhat bewilderment and joy at finally seeing it was true all along), or you can give God ownership and continue to address what has become part of your story in such a way that he still retains his glory. I did not “recover” alone. I believe God helped me move forward through Jesus and his Holy Spirit, and otherwise, I’d still be very miserable.
But this is how life works. It happens that way, so much of the time. I just hope that what I do would be small enough to still reflect God. Apart from that, I trust him, and it’s enough.
That is a long synopsis, but it happened. You can’t condense years into pages, so I’m happy.