Some of you have had weekly private sessions with a professional counselor, because you realized you needed help. I had to marry my counselor.
“Matthew, L.C.P.C. (Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor), do you take Christy, H.M. (hot mess), to be your lawfully wedded wife? Do you promise to love and cherish her, in mental and emotional instability and in health?”
A few days ago, I sat on his office couch at church, pulling Kleenex frequently out of a nearby box. (I always tell people who go to see him for counseling, “Don’t worry. I’ve got his couch all warmed up for ya.”) My stress level through the month of August had grown to an unmanageable level, to the point that I was spending more hours awake at night than asleep and was starting to feel physically unwell. The stuff ulcers are made of.
So I talked, and he counseled.
Then he came home and listened to me cry some more. At that point I said, “You need to take me out to dinner.”
He got his truck keys really fast and drove me to Mod Pizza, where we found a table tucked in the back of the restaurant. There I dripped tears over a hot Dillon James, with added pepperoni and green peppers.
We talked about stress and how it was building up in both of our lives, like the wallpaper I tried to remove from our 1950’s house on 3rd Avenue East. I scraped off one layer of paper, only to find another underneath, and another, and another. Finally, I thought, “Wow, if I keep scraping there won’t be any plaster left on this wall.” So, I painted over the cavernous hole and hung a picture over it.
Matt said, “I don’t know many people who aren’t feeling just like us right now.” Covid stress. Work stress. People-we-care-about-suffering stress.
Oh, and riots. After getting pizza we went for a drive. Then we came home and went for a walk and just kept talking about all the things. We landed on riots, and I told him about the church parking lot I saw a picture of, where rioters had lit all of the cars on fire, and the flames were licking up the church sign that said, “Black Lives Matter.” Who could make sense of that? I said, “Good grief, we take a break from talking about personal stress only to land on rioting as another conversation option?”
I’ve been singing out to the Lord, from Handel’s Messiah, the lyrics “Wonderful, Counselor.” That’s just what I’ve needed. Before Jesus left this earth, he said, “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26 NIV)
Listen to the definition of counselor: summoned, called to one’s side, one who pleads another’s cause, helper, assistant, comforter.
Sometimes we need people counselor’s too -real life professionals or dear friends who will help us get all of the thoughts and feelings from the deep, dark bowels of our souls and into the light. Jesus says we need the encouragement of one another.
My son, in encouraging me about going back to school, said, “Ride the wave of change, Mom. Ride the wave.” I sent him a picture of a surfboard flying up over the wave, absent the surfer, with the caption, “I think I did something wrong.” Maybe you’re feeling the same way? Maybe you’ve been trying valiantly for months, to stay on top of all of your stress emotionally, but somewhere along the way your board flew out from underneath you and you feel like you’re tumbling in circles under the rolling ocean.
Well, here’s what you need, not necessarily in this order: A good cry. A professional’s couch or a stone-fired pizza, with someone who will just listen and listen and listen, because they care about your pain and aren’t trying to hurry you out of it. A relaxing drive in a rural area or a walk around the block. A good night of sleep, and I’ll confess here that I took a sleeping pill last night. (My L.C.P.C. said it was a good idea.) Then a good cup of coffee and time with your Bible open in the morning, spending time with the Counselor, capital C. And overall, a willingness to be honest and say, “Life is hard and has been hard for many months, and I’m not handling it well on my own. I need people help and Spirit Help.”
Then cough out the saltwater and try surfing the wave again today.
Oh, by the way, my L.C.P.C. says I’m going to be okay. I’ll pass that on to you for free. We’re going to be okay. Eternity with Jesus is coming, and it will be stress free.