I need help. Always. Don't you?
It's a little hard to admit most times, isn't it? Someone offers to help me and typically my first reaction is "oh, that's okay. I can do it." How little we actually accept help when it's flat-out offered to us, and I'm noticing that it's even more rare for us to seek out the help we really need.
This past weekend I (Amy) enjoyed a fabulous weekend with the other RUF wives from across the country in Atlanta. I mean, Cheesecake Factory, free time, 3 nights in a hotel, great conversations with the only women in the country that know exactly what I deal with on a regular basis... what's not to love??? It was, indeed, an emotionally refreshing time to get away, eat some GLUTEN!, and sort of "recharge" for the new year.
But something struck me as I talked with and listened to the other pastor's wives. I don't know why I should think that pastor's wives should be any different from anyone else, but as they were wonderfully transparent about their lives-- struggling marriages, disappointments with their lives, anger toward their children, etc.-- I began asking several of them a single question:
"Have you sought out any help? Have you thought about counseling?"
And the answer almost every time was a resounding: "No."
Now hear me out-- I don't think counseling is a magic bullet that is sure to take your pain away. Nor do I think every counselor is helpful. There are certainly some really bad ones out there. But here's what I am saying-- I wasn't shocked that the pastor's wives' marriages were struggling. Or that these ladies "lose it" frequently with their kids. Or that they are dealing with completely dysfunctional family situations. (After all, it's a broken, fallen world. Seriously, what do we really expect?) But to many of these pastor's wives that I spoke to-- many of whom are "counselors" themselves-- there seemed to be no consideration to go and seek out anyone to help them through their pain.
I have a feeling it's not just them.
Why can't we (all of us) be honest with ourselves? If the Bible is really true and we are utterly broken, we desperately need HELP! Why is it so hard to admit it and go GET it?
Personal confession: I LOVE counseling. Marc and I have benefited from it greatly, both together and separately. (For some of you, that last statement perhaps conjures up pictures of a marriage-on-the-brink, or a "last resort," or only for unstable people that don't love Jesus enough. I love Jesus. I love my husband. We have a wonderful marriage. But we're sinners. And that means there will always be problems. I know I need help. And guess what? Jesus has appointed people, both in my church and even trained professionals outside of the church, to be able to give me just that!)
In our premarital counseling with student couples, Marc always stresses the importance of post-marital counseling, even of higher priority than pre-marital. Premarital counseling is great, but it's a little like giving a swimming lesson to someone before they've ever had a chance to jump in the pool! They don't have a clue what the water's like yet! (and they're so googly-eyed at each other that we wonder if they're really even able to listen at that point! ha!) But give it a year. Two years. Five years. Suddenly they aren't looking at one another so googly-eyed, and suddenly talking through issues with a counselor looks a whoooooole lot different post marriage. I find it incredibly healthy when couples (or individuals) realize their own struggles and reach out to actually do something about them. Before it's too late.
In our almost 12 years of marriage, Marc and I have walked through some dark times together: years of infertility, broken relationships within & outside of ministry, and most recently the mysterious and terribly heartbreaking health situation of our daughter. I cannot IMAGINE where I would be had I not gotten help through counseling at several points in my life. Seriously.
Marc and I don't use counseling as some kind of threat when we discuss going-- you know, like the stereotypical heated "if-you-don't-shape-up, we're-going-to-counseling!!" arguments. Rather, we call it a "tune up" for our marriage. And just like you take your car in every so often for a tune up to keep the thing a'-runnin', that's how we joyfully approach going to counseling together. It keeps our communication lines open. It helps us process the stresses going on around us, as well as the thoughts and feelings happening inside of us. Sure it's a strain financially. I'd rather spend money on other things. But if I had a choice between a full bank account or a happy marriage and/or mental health, I know what I'm choosing every time.
Whether it's with a pastor or a trained professional, I would hope that especially those of us who call ourselves Christians would believe the Bible enough to admit we need the help. And not only admit we need help, but go GET it! Can I dare be as bold to say that some of my best counseling sessions were with a trained, "secular" counselor?? (gasp!)
In order for me to know & love God, I need to know myself. Sometimes I have no idea why I feel the things I do. I need someone who is trained to help me figure that out and put it into words. When life feels completely overwhelming, I need someone to sort through it with me. When I have no idea how to handle something or someone, I need help seeing my options. And especially as I am in a position to help provide counsel to others as a pastor's wife, how can I understand what good counsel is if I have never received it myself??
Let's admit we need help, shall we? And then let's go do something about it.