Month: February 2012

When Life is Too Heavy…

By: Courtney Hollingsworth, PLPC
The following excerpt is from one of my favorite books, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. It is the true account of a Christian woman who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust for hiding Jews. It is a beautifully told story about the light of hope and grace in the midst of terrible darkness, unspeakable horror, and despair.
Often times I would use the trip home to bring up things that were troubling me, since anything I asked at home was promptly answered by the aunts. Once, I must have been 10 or 11, I asked father about a poem we had read at school the winter before. One line had described “a young men whose face was not shadowed by sexsin.” I had been far too shy to ask the teacher what it meant, and mama had blushed scarlet when I consulted her. In those days just after the turn of the century sex was never discussed, even at home.  So the line had stuck in my head. “Sex,” I was pretty sure, meant whether you were a boy or a girl, and “sin” made Tante (Aunt) Jans very angry, but what the two together meant I could not imagine. And so, seated next to Father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, “Father, what is sexsin?”
He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing.  At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.
“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said. I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
“It’s too heavy,” I said.
“Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little daughter to carry such a load.  It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”
And I was satisfied.  More than satisfied, wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions, for now I was content to leave them in my father’s keeping.
This memory from early in her life was one that she kept with her in the face of witnessing and experiencing horrors beyond imagination during her time in a concentration camp. After seeing something torturous, she had these thoughts: “It was father’s train case once again. Such cruelty was too much to grasp, too much to bear. Heavenly Father Carry it for me!”
We all experience suffering, pain, and trauma in life. Often the weight of the world can feel too heavy a burden to carry. As life unfolds around us and brings loss and suffering, we can become lost in a sea of “why?” questions. We feel alone. Abandoned. Confused. Lost. In these moments of despair, we need to trust what is true of our Heavenly Father over our feelings. He never leaves or forsakes us. He has unending love for us. He is sovereign over all our suffering and joy. He will always carry what is too heavy for us.

Learning to be Mentored by the Lord

By:  Lianne Johnson, LPC

This past weekend I had the opportunity to speak at a conference being held at Twin Oaks Presbyterian Church.  The conference was called, “Beautiful.”  I was by no means the keynote speaker.  I simply led one of the breakout sessions.  I was asked to speak on the challenges and joys of being single.

While we talked about the many statistics associated with those that are single, as well as the lies singles are often tempted to believe about themselves, we purposely spent most of our time talking about what it would be like to be mentored by the Lord.  Since the bible would tell us that all of our thoughts and actions flow from our heart, it made sense to focus our attention not on changing our actions but on beginning to think about changing our mindset when it comes to our relationship with God.  This is where the idea of being mentored by the Lord comes into play.

In our society we have a human way of thinking about being mentored.  It usually consists of an older person taking a younger person “under their wings” to teach them things about life.  When I think of the word mentor, I am reminded of my mentor in life.  Her name is Karen.  Karen was (is) wonderful.  From  pretty much the very first moment I met Karen she began investing her life into mine.  She spent time with me, she invited me into her families home, she taught me about God and about life.  I am forever grateful to Karen and her family for the many ways they have remained (even to this day) committed to my growth as a human before the Lord.

As I think back on this mentoring relationship, I am struck by some realities that need to be present in any mentoring relationship.  This is what I came up with (and honestly this is what Karen taught me)…

1.  In any mentoring relationship both parties must be FAITHFUL.  Both the mentor, and the one being mentored must be committed to one another by faithfully meeting.
2.  In any mentoring relationship both parties must be AVAILABLE.  Both the mentor, and the one being mentored must be emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually available to one another.
3.  In any mentoring relationship both parties must be TEACHABLE.  The one being mentored must be relationally in a place to trust their mentor to challenge, correct, and learn from them.  (And honestly, the one mentoring will also need to be teachable.)

Is this making sense?  I hope so.  So now what if we take these same characteristics of a human-to-human mentoring relationship and apply them to the Lord-to-human mentoring relationship?

The beautiful thing about now applying these characteristics to God is that He is already FAITHFUL and committed to us.  He is already AVAILABLE to us.  He is already committed to TEACHING us His ways so that we are safe.  Where the Lord-to-human mentoring relationships can often break down is our lack of being faithful to Him, our lack of being available to him, and our lack of allowing Him to transform us.  Most often, I would say, we lack these characteristics because we do not trust Him with our good.

Intimacy is a function of time.  The more time we spend with anything, be it a person or a thing, we will know it better.  What if you chose to spend more time with God?  What if you chose to allow Him to mentor you?  To love you, to nurture you, to learn from, to become familiar with Him.  What if you moved slowly towards the Lord through prayer letting Him know you don’t trust Him?  He will listen.  He will move towards you.  And you, by risking, will begin to know and believe your identity in Him and feel safe.  Over time….over time….over time…

I’m still learning how to allow the Lord to mentor me.  Everyday.  Some days I fall flat on my face trying, but at least I am trying.  And no matter of how “well” I am doing at the Lord-to-Lianne mentoring relationship He always remains.  I cannot, nor will I, ever change His love, commitment, or presence in my life. Whew…..

Start at the Bottom… And Stay There.

By Jonathan Hart, LPC

I work with a lot of couples, and one thing I notice a lot of is Expectations.  I think this is a simple fact of being human.  We place a lot of expectations in the people around us.  The closer they are, the more we expect of them.  Most of the arguments I hear (and honestly, most of the arguments I start myself) begin the same way:  “You always…” or “You never…”.  Loosely translated, what this usually works out to is something like this: “You don’t do what I want/hope/expect you to do.   I have the right to expect that you will do this. My expectations are disappointed.”

Naturally when someone hears a statement like this, the human response is a defensive counterattack.  “Oh Yeah?  Well, YOU always…” and it only goes down hill from there.   A good rule of thumb is to listen for the words “Always” and “Never”.  Often, those words are code for the expectations that we have, and that we feel our partner is not meeting.

It is a natural pattern to look at everything our partner is supposed to be doing and highlight where they are dropping the ball. But what if we turned this pattern on its head?  What if we were able to shift our focus away from the places our partner is disappointing us and look instead at how we can help them be everything they were made to be?  To organize our efforts at encouraging and building them up instead of encouraging them to build us up?

I am not suggesting that we should simply try to do everything our partner tells us to do.  That would be about as much fun as boot camp.  That only feeds the conflict monster.  I am suggesting that we work toward helping them be more emphatically themselves, rather than trying to shape them into who we want them to be.  

This requires listening to and learning about who they are, who they want to be, their hopes and dreams, desires and fears.  It requires starting at the bottom, working to understand what makes them tick and why they do things the way they do rather than trying to convince them that the way they are doing it is wrong. It requires placing yourself in the position of learner rather than expert.  We are asking the question, “How can I help you reach your dreams and goals?” rather than “What have you done for me lately?”

This is not mindless subservience.  Sometimes helping someone be better at being themselves can include challenge. It can include confronting hurtful and destructive patterns. It can include stretching and pushing someone we care about outside their customary limits.  And again, these things must be done in a spirit, not of reshaping them into our own image of what they should be, but of helping them sharpen and explore their own potential.  I am talking about placing yourself at the service of your partner.

There is a lot more to this idea than there is space to explore it here.  Consider this a teaser, food for thought. I am asking you to simply consider what it might be like to “through love, serve one another”.