As I look into the face of the one who faces me squarely, I sense their trust. Day after day, my office fills with a steady line of souls who have no place to fall and they come to me seeking out a bit of safety though covered by a myriad of other excuses. Some are here for meager stumbles in the road and others carry secrets that eat at them as canker sores, growing to the point of snuffing out their inner life. All of us have blinders that keep us from moving forward and of the few who seek help, some will stick around to trust me and take refuge as they walk through the pain. I cannot help but wonder what ignites this willingness to risk to trust.
Our relationship has legal parameters of confidentiality giving clients the boundary of respect to hold their story from spreading about the community. The office is hidden from view, the door closed and the sound machine muffles our inner conversation. But these protections are still not what provides them the right place to fall. No matter what I do, a percentage of my clients will not be assured and not return. I must conclude it is a hard, cynical world out there and some are unwilling to try. Authenticity is rare, but my goal is to draw them into my confidence, to afford them a place to share their secrets and search out their truth in hopes of understanding how God made them and rejoice in the freedom from their past.
I am reminded of not being able to swim. My father wading with outstretched arms ready to catch me in the deep, dark pool, a local swimming hole. “Are you sure, Daddy?” My eyes move search the the pool for anything that would speak of danger. “What if I am just too heavy and I take you down with me?”
“Sweetheart, I’ve got you! Just jump. You know I would never let you sink. You’re missing all the fun, but you have to jump. Come on, you can do it, Nessie, jump!”
My clients almost never consider my own story and why I am strong for them with layers of understanding. This is as it should be, because the more I can remove myself, the better it is for both of us. My confession is this is the perception, but unfortunately not the reality of counseling, because after more than a decade of this work, I have come to realize I am deeply affected. Inwardly, my empathy and understanding draw from my own life experiences, patterns and themes come from characters and parts of my past and my experience is how I make sense of this messy thing called life. I may not have been in their exact shoes, but my years of living in my own glass castle helps me offer a measure of understanding and empathy that is unexpected. It is the cost of hardship and a way to be a good steward of my own pain as a professional helper.
Still the one in front of me now searches for cues, mustering up any measure of intuitive skills looking for connection. My eyes are fixed and my lips silent hoping with my mere presence they can make out my pleading, “It’s fine. Jump. You may shock me a bit, but I have held many before you. You are safe with me. Lets float out of all your worries, but first you must let go.” More often than not, they concede to stick their toe in the waters and I see the mask lower. I hear their sigh and my inner thought is, “Why wouldn’t you be timid living in such a world.”
So, as I sit and bring some measure of hope to the hopeless, my confidence is firm. God is in the details. He longs to use those wounded parts if we can choose to release them. Be intentional in seeking out someone you can trust, someone who be a light in this cynical world and walk you through the pain when you are ready to make that journey.