Hope In The Hallway

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It’s the beginning of the year, which is usually around the time I think about when I started my first full time position in youth ministry. I have been in Savannah for just short of five years and it’s actually crazy for me to think about when my mind goes back to the start.

I had just finished college and was standing in a place that I like to refer to as the hallway. I had interviewed for a job that I really wanted and was waiting to hear back. A lot of people like to use the metaphor of a waiting room, but the more I wait in life, the more I see that there’s more than one door we can walk through.

The hallway, a place where I often live, is actually full of doors. Some are closed, some are open, and some are cracked. Cracked doors can be the worst. But they can also be pretty great.

So back to 2011. I am waiting on a call that most people had told me was just not going to come. I prayed. Every day, actually. And I called. Probably too often for anyone’s liking. As much as that door could close, it could open, and I wanted to wait until I knew for sure.

There’s this hopeful anxiety we encounter in the hallway. There is uncertainty and dreams that are created. A story we make up with much anticipation. Sometimes our focus is so great on one door, that we dare not glance at any other doors, in case we miss the opening of the one we most desire. 

There were a lot of days where I lost hope, but most days I had a “feeling” that I would be moving out of the hallway soon. I refused to look at any other doors, in case mine would open, even just a little bit. Somewhere in the early part of spring I got the call and that “feeling” (the Holy Spirit) was affirmed as the door flew open. In April of 2011, I was given the opportunity to leave the hallway and cross the threshold into a new chapter. A chapter I still love so much today.

There’s something about the hallway though, where it feels like our hope can die. My story started a great chapter, but that’s not always the case in the hallway. It can turn into a dark place. And when we anticipate certain doors to swing open, we can live under a cloud of disappointment.

Doors don’t always open. Sometimes they slam in our face. Sometimes we don’t get the job. Or we’re not chosen for something we know or feel would be a great thing. Sometimes we have to shut the door ourselves and we’re called to grieve the death of that dream.

It can be so hard for us to see a closed door as a good thing. We feel like we know better, which can make leaving that closed door so difficult. Our instinct may be to kick down the door we so desperately want. We cling to the last chapter, but when we do, we prolong the opportunity to write the next one.

I’m not sure what your hallway looks like. I can’t promise you that the door you want to walk through the most will open, but I know that we live in a world with a lot of doors. I don’t really like the phrase “when God closes a door, he opens a window…or another door…” or whatever. I think that we are called to pray our way through the hallways of life. To never give up on the doors we want the most. And to grieve the loss of the doors that shut.

 

What I Learned In A Year Of Counseling

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A year ago I made one of the best decisions.
One of the bravest decisions I could make.
I started going to counseling.

It’s kind of weird to write. Because I didn’t think I would ever really need to say that.

I had a great childhood.
My friends are nice.
I’m a Christian.
I work in a church.
Why would I need counseling?

Ok, so before I write this I need to tell you some reasons I didn’t need counseling:

I didn’t need counseling because I was sad all the time.
I didn’t need counseling because Jesus couldn’t fix my problems.
I didn’t need counseling because my parents did something wrong. No mom, it’s not because I didn’t get a ‘my size barbie’ when I was 7. I’m over it. I promise.
I didn’t need counseling because of something you said or did.
I didn’t need counseling because some event happened and I couldn’t handle it.
I didn’t need counseling because someone told me I needed counseling.

I think I originally started going because I thought it would be good for me.
Spoiler alert: it was. It is. I’m glad I go and I want this to be an encouragement.

After my first session, I realized something. Counseling is not just how to deal with the past. It’s a chance for you to learn to use tools to deal with the present and future.

I guess what originally led me to walk through the doors of my counselor’s office the first time was because the weight of ministry can be a heavy load. I don’t say that because it’s too heavy. Or even because I’m on staff at a church.
I say that in case you need to permission to go to counseling because someone told you that you shouldn’t need it. Especially if you’re a Christian. 

I have quickly learned over the course of a year that counseling is like a massage for your soul.

Counseling helps us see things through a different lens.

Sometimes we make up stories in our head. We make up conversations we’ve had. And not because we’re crazy. Surely you’ve done this. You have a disagreement with someone or someone doesn’t show up for you. You immediately start running through scenarios in your head where you say the right thing and the perfect outcome happens. And that’s just not reality. So you’re a little frustrated. Or disappointed. Counseling redirects those “made up” conversations and helps bring some reality into my life. It helps us see things from a different angle.

Counseling helps us own our story.

Your story is not just your past. It’s happening right now. Your story is being written today. If we can’t accept the terms in which our story is happening, what kind of reality is that? And if we don’t like the story, how are we supposed to change it if we can’t even own up to it? Counseling helps give us that courage to step into what is happening right now and gives us the tools to own it. Brené Brown says “When we own our story, we get to write a brave new ending”. Yes. That, please.

Counseling is a “judgement free” vent session.

Have you ever vented to a friend and they love you, but you can actually feel them judging you for how you handled something? Yeah, no. Me neither. Ok, fine. I lied. ALL THE TIME. Counseling can be a chance for us to tell our side, without judgement. Without feeling like a terrible person. We just need to be open to any guidance on how to handle things in the future.

Counseling helps me a be the best version of myself.

You’ve probably seen the hashtag “new year, new me”. You know the crowd. They just started working out. Ate a salad instead of a burger. Left things in last year. It’s a fresh start. I started going because I wanted to be better. I wanted to work on who I was as a person. Not because I was broken, or needed something in my life to be fixed. But because I knew I could do better. And I wanted that. It doesn’t work every day, but that’s why I keep going.

Seeing a counselor was a gamechanger for me. I was afraid of it at first. I was worried about what people would think. Would they think there was something wrong with me? Are they going to ask why? Will they think I won’t need it if I don’t give them a “good enough” answer?

Counseling is not a bad thing.
It helps us learn more about who we are and how we can do better.

I want to do better.
Not because what I’m doing is “not enough”,
but because I want to be the best version of myself.

If you’re on the fence about counseling, or you’re too afraid to make an appointment, I hope this encourages you. I hung up the first time I called because I got so nervous. Be brave. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.