A few days ago, my spouse and I paid for a babysitter, got in the car and headed down the interstate toward Atlanta.
It wasn’t a date night because it was in the middle of the day.
It wasn’t a daytime date or a shopping trip.
We went to counseling.
It’s something we started doing a couple of years ago, and it’s made a huge difference in our lives and in our marriage.
Our counselor is about 40 miles from us, but she’s awesome, so we make the drive. We pay the babysitter and the counselor out of our own pocket because we believe it’s important. Nobody makes us do it and we didn’t make the appointment because there was another crisis. Maybe it’s weird, but we want to go.
So it’s off to Atlanta for a double session.
I suppose there are closer options, but we’ve got a level of trust happening. I suppose there are cheaper options, but I’m not sure the best deal is the best thing. My personal opinion is you shouldn’t look for discount counseling or boob jobs. Seriously, that’s dang good advice right there, even if you read no further.
Counseling is a relatively new thing for me. We did a few sessions of pre-marital counseling before we got married. But those mandatory sessions didn’t adequately prepare us for much of anything.
Three years ago, I didn’t want the stigma of counseling anywhere near my carefully constructed persona. Professional counseling was for other people. If people in my church found out I was seeing a therapist, I’d lose credibility. And to be honest, I just didn’t want to deal with anything. It was easier for my introverted self to keep quiet about my issues and keep my friends at arms-length.
I tried to manage my sin, rather than deal with it.
Looking back, I wish I had gone to counseling five years earlier. Maybe ten. A decade of kids, church planting, and spiritual drifting mixed with a career that gave me a platform, combined with my selfish spirit nearly destroyed me and my family.
At our first appointment, my counselor looked at me and said, “You are responsible for your own actions.” Then she widened her gaze, looking at my spouse and me and said, “You both are responsible for the condition of your marriage.”
She didn’t make me cry or hug somebody or tell me to try harder. She didn’t tell me to pray about everything and to lean on the Holy Spirit. Going into it, I wasn’t sure it would help, but she was smart and she was honest. She was honest, insightful and helpful.
Today, I have a dramatically different opinion about counseling.
Every pastor and church leader should go to counseling.
I’m not talking about talking to another pastor or skyping with a life coach. I’m talking about the real deal. I’m talking about paying for professionals. I’m talking about preventative soul-care.
And every church should put monthly sessions into their budget. Every single pastor and leader on staff should get ten sessions a year. You’re asking these people to shepherd your soul so give them some resources to take care of their own. Make sure your entire church knows it’s normal and healthy.
Every human being, whether a person of faith or not, should go to therapy. As a person of faith, it was important to me to see someone who shared my same values but who could be real. But I truly believe if you are breathing, you could benefit from professional counseling.
I think we’re on some kind of maintenance plan now. I rotate my tires and go talk to my counselor every 5,000 miles. We check in from time to time, and I imagine it’s something we’ll do for the rest of our lives.
I neither proud nor embarrassed to say I go to counseling. It’s just reality. And I hope it will become a reality for you.