$#!+ My Therapist Says

Trigger warning: this post contains words that some people may find offensive or inappropriate.

 

Several weeks ago, Vanessa and I started seeing a therapist. We are not in couples counseling. We are a couple in counseling. Sometimes we talk about our marriage. Often we talk about our anxieties. We talk about our growing up years. We talk about things like work and what we did over the past week.  

schulz-lucyWe began talking about me going to therapy a few years ago. I have a friend who is well-connected to the counseling community in Northwest Arkansas. I asked him for a list of 5 or 6 therapists that I would connect with. He sent me a list. And I didn’t do anything with it for two years. Probably because I was scared of the unknown.

And then several weeks ago, it felt like everything in my life started falling apart, and we decided it was time to finally go. At first we thought I was going to counseling and Vanessa was just along for the ride. It didn’t take us long to realize that we were both in therapy.

And, as it turns out, we love it. Therapy has been a wonderful experience for us. It is a chance to talk openly without fear of how we might burden a friend or church member. It is a place to get new perspectives on things, to experiment with new ideas. And it is a place for us to get better at being us. We have started thinking that everyone needs to go to therapy.

 

We love it so much, I think, because of our therapist. I’m not quite sure why I picked his name off that two-year old list. Providence, maybe? But from the first few minutes of talking to him, I knew we had found someone we were going to like immensely. The weeks since have only confirmed this. He’s insightful, irreverent, and hilarious.

Most of the time, he just sits and listens, creating a space for us to be honest and open. Every once in a while, however, he offers some opinion, insight, or wisecrack. I told him a couple of weeks ago that I am very tempted to start a twitter account of $#!+ My Therapist Says. It would include gems like this:

  • With his face in his hands, to Vanessa: Him, I understand. You, I haven’t been able to figure out yet.
  • To Vanessa: Maybe you need to drink more.
  • Slightly sarcastically: You know, thoughts don’t have feelings.
  • After our vacation: You have achieved escape velocity.

More than just the funny stuff, what he has said has really helped us to make sense of a rather tumultuous time in our lives. Yesterday, especially.

 

We’ve talked a lot over the past couple of months about my work situation, my experience as a bivocational pastor, and my desire to return to “full-time ministry.” This is a source of great anxiety for me. It is something I spend a lot of emotional energy on. It has even been a source of conflict between Vanessa and me at times.

You see, I feel like a failure because Vintage is not at the point of supporting me full-time. If you had told me seven years ago when we started Vintage that I would still be bivocational today, I would have laughed at you. But here we are. And I have felt like I am to blame. 

  • If I prayed more, God would bless us.
  • If I worked harder, we would be better.
  • If I was more of a people-person, we would be bigger.

The voice in my head says that I am a shitty pastor. And Vintage is the way it is as a direct result of my shittyness.

Being able to go full-time at Vintage would be some kind of validation, some kind of proof that I am not wasting my life or doing all of this in vain. It would be the success on which I could hang my hat, showing that everything we have done has been worth it. 

If I could go full-time at Vintage, I think I would wake up in the morning feeling like a success rather than a failure.

This is my inner dialog.

 

And into this shit, my therapist began to speak. 

He talked about how people work at their jobs or careers for one of three reasons – choice, character, or calling. He explored why I do what I do with Vintage. He confirmed that it is a calling.

And then he said, in his typical slightly sarcastic way, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”

He then said that if God has called me to pastor Vintage, then any time, any way that I pastor Vintage is a success. If I am called to pastor Vintage then I should pastor Vintage. Being a shitty pastor of Vintage is being a successful pastor of Vintage if that is my calling. If pastoring Vintage is my calling, then it doesn’t have to be full-time and fully-funded for it to be what I ought to be doing.

Further, I am pastoring Vintage. It’s not a distant dream; it is a present reality. It is not out there somewhere. It is my here and now. I should stop thinking of it as something I have to still attain. It is what I am doing. It is who I am.

“If you pastor Vintage, even as a shitty pastor, you are a success.”

Whoa.

Mind blown.

In the next few moments after he said these things, I felt myself being freed from a burden that has weighed me down for years. I could feel it lift off my shoulders.

All I have to do is be true to my calling. If I do that, then I am a success. 

I don’t have to add any other qualifiers to it. I don’t have to make it “full-time” or “fully funded” for it to be real. I don’t have to stress about the fact that I am bivocational and spend time and energy on my day job. I don’t have to frantically seek a change to all of it so that I can meet my artificially-crafted standard of success.

I can just be. I can just do what I have been doing. Because it’s worth doing. And that means it’s worth doing even if I do it poorly, because I’m a shitty pastor.

 

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  • Bonnie Mattocks

    awesome !

  • Sara

    Awesome post 🙂 I think i just read an article featuring Jennifer Anniston that said something like ” I think everybody should go to therapy. If I could tell anything to my younger self it would be to go to therapy.”

    I’ve been to therapy 🙂 It was great 🙂 It helped me see past so many things that I was never really able to get past before. It helps me now still even though that was about 4yrs ago when I last went. It still helps me in raising my kids, feeling adequate in the life God has given me to live, and it even helps me ‘counsel’ others still. So I agree 🙂 Everyone should go to therapy 🙂 I’m even thinking about going again as I transition into my thirties.

    • rryerse

      Thanks, Sara.

  • ChristiMadrid

    I think I’m going to therapy! No, for real. I made my first appointment last week and then canceled it. My inner dialog: “once you go, there is no un-going. You can never again say ‘I’ve never been to therapy’ It’s like virginity.” How is it that therapy still has a stigma when it’s concerning me, but not concerning others??? Sigh.

    • rryerse

      Christi, I was taught to have a profound distrust of psychology. All we need is the Bible, right? This led to me being very skeptical of therapy and kept me away from it for years when I should have been going. It’s been so good that I wish I wasn’t so stupid before.

  • lifewithkaishon

    I have been praying for you and Vanessa. Really and truly praying for you. I hope you continue to learn and grow through this experience. Sending lots of warm thoughts and zero curse words. : )

    • rryerse

      Thank you so much!