I had an interesting visit with my counselor on Monday. Interesting usually means I learn something valuable and it’s generally not an easy lesson to learn (which no doubt is why it becomes valuable). The lesson this time was about giving our hearts to God, nothing held back. That’s not an easy thing for me to do. In fact, I think I do it more “letter of the law” than “spirit of the law” and that’s kind of my problem. But, the valuable lesson I learned is that I can see the difference now. I know that I am not all in yet. It means I struggle a lot on my own instead of turning to God for help. But the good news is now that I’m aware, it means I can work towards improvement. And it all began with a question, “Do you believe in God?”
In the past I would have brushed right by that one, “Yep. Next question?” But I’ve learned over the last couple of years that the more exact and the more honest I can be when talking with my counselor, the more I will get out of our session because he can see the real me instead of the facade me.
The answer I actually gave was, “Well, I believe that there is a God. I believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus died for our sins and that we can be forgiven. But I kind of struggle with having a real relationship with God. I don’t know if I keep Him at arms length on purpose? I don’t know if I simply don’t know how to connect? Or if it’s a case that the God I grew up with and was taught to believe in was a fearsome God, who punishes those who are not perfect, and that forgiveness and heaven was for others, but not for me.
That got his eyes open nice and wide. I don’t think he expected that answer from me. But then, in his normally thoughtful way, he invited me to discuss further and to “explore this some more.”
Several interesting revelations came out of this conversation:
- I have some serious baggage blocking my communication pipeline with God and we’re going to focus on that next week.
- I have a shame issue and it’s a big one. He recommended I read books and watch TED talks from Brené Brown. Interestingly enough, my daughter had just given me her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection“. I’ve tucked that away and will dig in soon.
- It takes true humility to connect with God. In fact, my counselor’s words were something to the effect of, “Well. That’s going to take a lot of humility. A lot of humility.” Which of course made me slightly resentful and kind of angry.
Let’s talk about the humility comment. Since I got agitated by most of those comments, especially the shame and inability to personally connect with God, my counselor got really introspective for a minute. I continued to talk about my struggles and inability to know what direction to take next (which also leaves me feeling anxious and fearful). Then in mid sentence he blurted out, “Wow! I just made a profound connection with what you’ve been saying and a couple of scriptures from the Bible!”
He next asked me a question, “Don’t you think the young rich ruler who followed all of the commandments and sought out Christ to ask what to do next was a perfectionist?” Then he said, “I also just realized that the parable of the sowers has a completely different meaning than I originally thought. What do you think the Lord’s payment was for their labor?”
I replied that it was a day’s wage and that those who worked since morning were angry because the wages were the same as those at the last light. But Christ loves all the same and it does not matter in His eyes. The lesson was about equality in God’s eyes.
To which my counselor replied, “It wasn’t about money at all. Nor was it about their labor in the field.” The reward was the Kingdom of Heaven. To live with God forever. The price paid was that each person was finally, “All in.” It didn’t matter when they decided to be “All in” and follow Christ, it simply mattered that they were truly “All in”. Once that happened, the reward was their’s.
It was cool to see him realize that. I felt the truthfulness of his revelation. But I also felt that because I wasn’t “all in” yet, I wasn’t going to receive the reward. I felt like I was right back where I had started — full of shame, fear, guilt, and a bit of anger at feeling stuck in that place. We ended with a commitment on my part to ponder this, read some of Brené’s books, and keep trying. I’ve learned to trust my counselor so I left feeling at least hopeful that there was a plan, and for now I would borrow his faith in God and try to find my own along the way.
I realize that’s not a fairy tale ending to my story, but the reality is, there are no fairy tale endings because we have no end. We will continue to progress as long as we keep trying to put one foot in front of the other. And that’s exactly what I intend to do. I don’t have all of the answers. In fact, at this point in time I have more questions than I have answers. But I feel like I have a support network to help me find those answers.
I hope that one day I’ll be able to say that I have a deep connection and relationship with God. Or maybe, it’s just always been there and I’ve put some barriers in place and finally knocked them back down. I look forward to finding out. I don’t know when that will happen, or how, but I feel confident that it can and therefore one day it will.
I hope you kind find some peace in knowing that all of us struggle. That no matter our difficulties there is a path forward. Reach out to others. Read good books. Practice communicating with your Higher Power. And pray for each other — we all need it!
My name is Mike