Last week I sat up with some friends late into the night, and we talked about our experiences with therapy. I was relieved to hear the stories they both shared of sitting across from a man who let them be their unedited selves, who affirmed their feelings--all their feelings--and validated their emotions, perhaps for the first time.
This scenario might not sound valuable or necessary to you, but when you’ve been denied this kind of empathy your whole life, believe me, it is. And I could see it in the eyes of both my friends as they told me their tales, the relief they’d felt to hear that it’s not ridiculous or selfish to have thoughts that aren’t happy and fine all the time. The freedom they’re beginning to experience now, to just be themselves and live from a place authenticity, instead of fear or shame .
I have shared history with these two friends. I know how they grew up, in a church culture that told them all they had to do was act right and believe right, and the rest of life would turn out great for them. Meanwhile they faced heartache and loss, isolation and loneliness, year after year. Add to that a do-it-yourself, we-don’t-need-anyone, and we-never-ask-for-help, American culture and you get the mental unhealth of many Southern women I know, including myself.
The last time I had therapy myself was two and a half weeks ago. I sat in my bedroom, in front of my laptop, and talked with a guy five years younger than me for an hour. Just like we have twice a month, for the last seven months. Before I started the Zoom call I prayed for a few minutes, asking God to show me whether or not I still needed this practice. Maybe there’d be a little more money in our budget for some other necessities I reasoned, but the words that popped into my mind instead were “brother,” “father,” and “son.”
After our session was over and I was in tears again, I realized anew how my therapist has been the brother, father, and son to me that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else in the past year, and I knew I wouldn’t be quitting therapy anytime soon. I don’t make that statement to throw shade at my actual brother, father, or sons (physical and spiritual). Instead what I hope to suggest is that I’ve reached the point in life where I need an embodied experience of the Jesus Christ I claim to follow, and for now I’m finding that in the listening ears and kind eyes of my therapist. Christ is no way limited to this one expression of himself, but I’m afraid it’s the one I’ve lacked for most of my life in the Southern-American-Church culture, (which I still inhabit), so for now I’m gonna keep partaking.
And my greatest hope in sharing this post is that if you see yourself in any of the things I’ve said, you would begin to seek out an embodied experience of Jesus Christ for yourself--whatever that looks like. If you believe the Bible, it promises that we will find God when we seek him with our whole hearts. For we are more than our mistakes, our thoughts, and our feelings, friends. We each have a whole heart, along with a life and a body that cries out for redemption, and it’s alright, good even, to share those tears with each other.
Until we meet the real Jesus face to face. Selah.