The Hardest Thing
I sat on a squishy maroon couch, feet tucked together, eyes downcast. I hung my head in shame even as I took one of the most courageous steps of my life. I looked down at her toenails across the floor from my sandals. The big toe was aqua, the next purple, alternating. She spoke to me and I looked briefly at her face before reverting my eyes back to her colorful toenails. I didn’t want to be there.
Each of us has things in our life we avoid, the very things we should be facing. Maybe it is a visit to the doctor to find out why your body isn’t working properly, only you are afraid to find out. Maybe it is finally visiting a gym, but you don’t want to know how badly out of shape you are. Maybe it is stepping out to take a career risk, but you are afraid you won’t be able to handle failure. Maybe it is joining a local church, but you are afraid to be held accountable, or afraid you won’t be accepted as you are. Maybe it is picking up the phone to call a friend because you are lonely, but it’s easier to just turn on another tv show.
It’s different for each of us, but certain things prick us where we’re weak and we keep shying away from the challenge. We know we need to do it, but it’s hard. The difficulty of the action is directly correlated to its worth. It may be the hardest thing we’ve ever done, but it could also be the game-changer. It was for me.
It was my first visit with a therapist in a Christian counseling office. I felt ashamed and anxious and completely embarrassed of myself, to need this kind of help. My eyes and my spirit were both downcast. I desperately needed someone to lift my head. I didn’t even want to face my own need, because I was ashamed of it.
Gently, she began asking questions. The tears flowed down my cheeks. I had no idea where they came from, deep wells of sadness I could not explain. My emotions were a hopeless snarl of yarn within me and I needed help. No amount of pulling, tugging, or ignoring it would do. I needed the relief of someone who could gently take the whole snarled mess and pull the knots free.
Some people talk about giving God all of your problems. This is good, but God dwells within people through His Holy Spirit, and sometimes seeking Him means seeking the representatives of Him on earth. Especially those skilled and trained in helping you with your need. God’s help for me wore aqua and purple toenail polish.
I felt I was hopeless. It was a lie.
Within two months of attending counseling, I began to find an extra handful of emotional energy I didn’t have before. Within four months, I felt so much better. Within six months, I began tackling things in my life I had neglected before because I was living so much on empty. One handful of emotional energy became two. Parts of me I didn’t like but thought were permanent began to fall away, like scales. Parts of my personality that had been buried for years due to depression began to resurface.
I wasn’t hopeless after all. Actually, my turn-around came fairly quickly.
It was very simple: I needed help.
Not help from my spouse or my family or a friend. I needed help from a professional. After the initial embarrassment of the first month of visits, I began to change in my feelings about my therapy. I began to see it as the luxury it was—an hour to focus on me without feeling selfish, which was a major hang-up for me. Even with the closest of friends, I had a tendency to focus all conversation points on the other person and deflect questions about me. Counseling gave me an opportunity to discuss my issues with someone completely separate from my life, someone objective and unattached. I could say anything I needed to say, and I eventually I learned to do just that.
Getting help is brave. Some people think it is weak or foolish or shameful; that’s ok. Possibly, they have not come to terms with their own humanity. I have found that to be human is to need help. And to seek that help is hard—maybe the hardest thing ever. It’s painfully vulnerable and it feels a little bit like dying. But on the other side?
Oh it’s spacious and free—full of grace and joy.
In the areas where we are weakest, the game-changer is seeking help. God did not create us to live life alone, to hide our greatest challenges and seek perfect independence. Accountability shores up our tendency toward avoidance on those things we most need to face. Whether it’s finding a gym-buddy, calling a friend, seeking financial advice, or finally making that doctor’s appointment, the way through our greatest challenges is found in reaching out for help. I am not claiming it will be easy; it won’t. You will be sweaty and anxious and think about turning back one thousand times. Your fingers might be shaking as you dial your phone, you might sit in the car thinking up excuses, and you might even cancel once or twice or three times. But when you want it bad enough, whatever it is, you will push through the resistance.