Friday, May 2, 2014

I Am Loved; I Am Human

This post is dedicated to Renee, a woman who has so lovingly and carefully counseled me through this semester. This is such an incomplete picture of what you have taught me and how I've learned from the safety and kindness you've offered. Thank you for teaching me how to be human. It's setting me free.

Okay. I won't lie. I was sitting in Intro to Counseling, and it took me several minutes to decide whether or not I would really sign-up for the extra-credit counseling my professor was offering. It would take an hour a week for the next ten weeks and the extra credit was extremely minimal. I tried to sincerely consider it. I really didn't feel like I had any major crisis or problems going on in my life currently (ha!), but I supposed it would be good to learn about counseling by being counseled, and I figured that it could teach me to be a better friend and walk with hurting people, and plus it would help an MAC student get her hours. I went back and forth, and my friends laughed at my dramatic anxiety over such a little task of choosing whether or not I'd take counseling. Finally, with the sign-up sheet in my hand and my professor already into her lecture, I just decided, "Why Not?!"

And then I went to counseling.

And then I figured out I had more problems then I thought I did. *wink*

And that's how this all begins.

Besides figuring out that I have plenty of problems, I also found out that there was a lot more living and freedom to experience in my life than I had known were available. Two of my favorite things are when normalcy is questioned (Maybe trying to live like a superhuman isn't normall?), and when normalcy is defined (Maybe feeling burnt out and lonely are normal feelings?). Both of these happened in counseling, and both of them helped me on my journey to becoming human.

"Childlike."

Renee, that was one of the first words that you caught with your mirror and reflected back to me, letting it catch new light. I had said it from my own mouth, but I hadn't heard it. 

"Wow. That's how I feel. I didn't realize that before."

We talked about both extremes of how I see myself . . .

as a small, child-like person who wants to be credible and intelligent and adult

and

as an indispensable part of people's lives, as needed, necessary and important to all.

Renee, you taught me to shift perspective, to look at my problems as stemming from sin, yes, but also from the vulnerability of how God created me.

Yes, I am proud. (SIN). Yes, I believe that I need to be needed and struggle with platonic friendships, but that pride is deeper than something I could just pluck out of a garden. Roots aren't just a careless metaphor. Sin is a complicated thing, and this sin has more depth than its outward behavior. It comes from a legitimate need to be loved, a need that points to the vulnerability that God created in me. (VULNERABILITY). I cover up the need by trying to do things my own way. I become the special person who pours out her soul with the subtle and subconscious hope of being loved in return. As I fulfill this role for myself, I become untouchable. I create a standard for myself that is far above the standard of being human. I have to be perfect in order to be loved, so I expect myself to be, and I either punish myself when I do wrong or criticize those around me to protect me from facing my own heart. I busy myself in order to not hear the silence, to not hear the possibility that I may not be all that special and because of that, I may not be all that loved.

Renee, you held the shovel and showed me how to dig carefully. While I was trying to cut down the tree from the trunk, you showed me how to dig with gentleness and kindness toward myself in order to understand the roots. You taught me to see that my idea of being "special" or my fear of admitting my own needs isn't just a pride issue to be taken care of quickly and ruthlessly, but it leads me towards a vulnerability of my need to be loved.

Vulnerability.

It makes me human. Our needs make us human, don't they? What other creatures need to be loved? Sure, all things of earth need to be taken care of, but who else needs the emotional and spiritual act of  love?

Renee, you helped me on this journey of re-routing my identity. You helped teach me to "embrace" my vulnerability of needing to be loved as you led me to the Father. I have always known that God has loved me, but while saying that, I have lived with my head always over my shoulder, hoping He's watching, hoping He's not disappointed in me, anticipating the expression on His face. I have categorized love as sounding like the words, "I'm proud of you." You know what that means though, don't you? That if I believe that "I'm proud of you" means "I love you," than I believe that "I am disappointed" means "I don't love you right now."
Stephen Chbosky says it well: "We accept the love we think we deserve."

I can know in my head that God loves me, but I can also look at my life and see a million downfalls and character flaws that I know aren't pleasing to Jesus, that seem so disappointing. I have struggled to believe I deserve His love. Struggling to believe is struggling to accept His love.

I asked you, Renee, how can we really believe that we deserve love? Isn't that self-centered and self-worshiping? After all, I don't deserve what Jesus did for me on the cross. I don't deserve Him dying, Him loving me so powerfully. I don't believe I deserve that. I know I don't, so how can I accept His love for me as something of which I'm deserving?

And you offered me the kindest gaze of compassion and empathy, and it almost looked like you were about to cry with me and for me . . .

"Danae, you are expensive. Jesus has made you new, and when the Father looks at you, He sees His Son. You have been made to be worthy of His love."

And for some reason, all of the same truth I thought I learned in Sunday School and all I learned in Church and Bible School somehow never taught me that song the way that your words did.

Me?

I can actually believe that I have been re-created to be worthy of His love, simply because I am made new through His Son?

I am loved? In a love that isn't about pleasing or escaping disappointing but in just being?

I like to say that often with me, the simplest things are the most profound. This was profound.

I'm learning to live loved, to actually accept the love of a Father who transformed me and rewired me enough to be made humbly worthy of His love in a way that I can accept it. Living with this understanding of a need for love and in the fulfillment of this need makes me human.

You taught me, Renee, that sometimes, loving people is enjoying them. Because I've lived my life secretly needy and have been urged on by my own neediness to fulfill the needs around me, I've equated fulfilling needs so much with love. That is such a restless and inadequate picture of love because it means that when love isn't reciprocated out of my hard work to meet people's needs and make them happy, than I'm anxious and frustrated and feel unappreciated. Love isn't like that. Love means that I enjoy people, who they are, not simply in what they can give me in terms of fulfillment of being needed or in the identity I feel they give me.

I'm learning that being loved means being enjoyed too. This frees me up to having platonic friendships that aren't need-based but are love-based. What if I were vulnerable and brave enough to let myself be in relationships where I wasn't needed? What if I gave others the chance to love me instead of protecting myself in a way that de-humanizes me and forces me to be superhuman and walled in?

I'm learning that God loving me means that God enjoys me. Sometimes, believing this makes it a little less scary to hang out with Him. Sometimes I'm so afraid of being still, of hearing Him speak, so terrified that all I'll hear is the angry and dismal drum of His voice beating "You have dis-ap-point-ed Me." Instead, I can live safe in His love and face the things that He wants to turn around in me and make more like Him because Him chastising me is not withdrawing His love. It's actually a way for Him to express it.

I am a needy person too. Sadly. I've been trying to avoid that most of my life, being so very careful not to be an inconvenience, a burden, a disappointment.

But how else can I be humble except to realize that I am needy, that I too have cares to cast on God (1 Peter 5:6)?

How else can I really let myself be loved without accepting love?

How can I root out pride in my life without realizing the source of the issue: my view of love?

Long before I visited Renee, I have been a firm believer in counseling for others, especially because I've had relationship and interaction with the different counselors that work at Multnomah University. Chris and Lisa are incredible people, as are the interns that have lovingly given their time to Multnomah students. I think of Andrew and Eva as well as Mike who have been working here this year. Even though I believe that only Jesus heals, I firmly believe that sometimes (often), He has to use other people to be conduits of that healing. He has made humans in a certain way so that there are certain patterns to healing. As a doctor is trained to heal the broken patterns in a body, so a counselor learns a skill of helping rework broken patterns in our hearts. They're not the end-all, be-all, but they sure can be used by Jesus.

Renee helped me become a firm believer in counseling for myself and helped me experience the potential and healing of it. It was very, very much God's Spirit leading me to scribble my name down so impulsively on that extra-credit counseling sheet. It was most definitely Jesus' careful guidance that placed me with you. Thank you for playing a part in making me more of whole person. Truth does set people free. Jesus is right. You were an instrument.

I am still far from living into the gift of my humanity or of my beloved-ness (as Henri Nouwen likes to describe it). I really am. I'm a little closer though. :) I'm a little healthier and a little more aware of His love. I am beyond grateful for that progress.

What is the need in you that God has placed in your life? Maybe you'll find it in the places that make you feel most vulnerable. Vulnerability isn't comfortable, but how freeing it is to actually learn to embrace that vulnerability in a way that helps us live the life that we were designed to live, to make new patterns of a healthier normal and to embrace the parts in our lives that are who we are, to accept those parts as normal and loved?

This is what I leave you with.

Counseling: If you get the chance, do it. No matter how healthy you think you are. *wink*

Being human: Living into who you are meant to be will translate into living a free life. A full life. A more holistic life. It is good to be human. After all, weren't we created to be?

Being loved: You are. You have been made to be worthy of His love. Seek it. Enjoy it. Enjoy others. Love changes everything.






6 comments:

Alan Julie Cowan said...

I am so thankful you could experience this, Danae! It was probably one of the top most valuable things you did in your time at MU. It is so great you could blog what you felt you learned so you can look back at it to remind you. I am so grateful for the counseling I have had in my life and I agree that everyone can benefit greatly from it if a Christian counselor. Thanks for sharing this dear Danae. I love you! Your Mama

Tiffany said...

I love this a whole lot.

Kayla said...

Powerful. Thank you for letting Him work this journey in you. His beauty is shown here. I see His goodness here. Thank you for sharing, Danae.

Rachel Goodner said...

I love the picture of the clock you have up, Danae! Thanks for your generous giving toward people and desire to minister to women! What a beautiful heart the Lord has given you!

Rachel Goodner said...

I love this! What if I were vulnerable and brave enough to let myself be in relationships where I wasn't needed? SO POWERFUL!

Shelley Smucker said...

Oh, I love this. I have often considered the possibility of counseling, but it is such a shame how we put such a black mark on counseling in our culture, when it could bring healing and freedom. Bless you for sharing!