By Sandy Bacon
I am a Biblical Counselor.
That title is a huge part of my identity. Even my given name means “helper of mankind”. On the enneagram, I am labeled a 2, “the helper” and I am an INFJ, “the advocate” on the 16 Personalities Test. That’s what I do; I help people. I have deep passion for God’s word and experience tremendous joy as I walk with fellow sufferers toward hope as we discover truth that applies to their lives in helpful ways. Well, usually. I mean, almost always….until I didn’t.
I was counseling almost full time. I was also helping lead a missional community for our church where I serve as a deacon. My husband and I were doing marital and premarital counseling for a few couples. Both of our adult children purchased their own homes and we donated many, many hours of sweat equity to transform their fixer uppers. Two of my closest friends were going through extremely trying life circumstances and we wrestled together with unanswered prayers and deep pain. I ached with my daughter daily as she struggled through her 10th year of sickness due to a bacteria she contracted on a mission trip in high school. I was running 5 miles most every day and doing yoga to keep strong. Because we are empty nesters, I chose to travel with my husband on his work trips in support of our marriage and more time together, so the rest of my work list got juggled around his busy agenda. I was exhausted and surviving in the hope of the break I was going to take between Christmas and New Years. After hosting a huge Christmas gathering, I could feel myself unraveling.
It’s okay, tomorrow I will rest.
The morning after Christmas I got a call that my mom had fallen and hit her head. The mailman found her bleeding in the driveway. She was in acute trauma in the neurological ICU. And me?, I was mad… So much for being a helper or a loving daughter. If you are familiar with the enneagram, you may know that 2’s become resentful in disintegration and I was disintegrating.
My husband and I joined the rest of the family at the hospital to provide what comfort we could as she, thankfully, recuperated. But even as I prayed, I felt little compassion and an incredible desire for escape. I secluded myself with my bible and rested as much as possible over the next week between trips to the hospital. In many ways, I healed emotionally as my mom recovered physically.
But the New Year came and so did my list of commitments with some new additional chores to care for my mother. I was unable, or more likely, unwilling to renege on my obligations. As the months wore down my reserves, I began a march of discipline in faith as I lived out truth that I could no longer feel. I was numb. I had no tears. No anger. Just a heavy feeling of lament that clouded any chance at joy. It was past time for the helper to get help.
Here are some things I’m still learning:
• We will never arrive. No matter how well versed we become in helping others, we still need others to give us perspective. I was not taking my own advice and had let subtle lies creep into God’s requirements on my life that I would never put on someone else. I had begun to believe that God had done so much for me, that I couldn’t ask for more. Yet, He has unlimited resources. Philippians 4:19 “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” If you would have asked me, I would have told you I was depending on Him to supply all my needs, but I needed someone else to show me that I wasn’t receiving because I felt guilty for asking more from Him when He’d already done so much for me. God continues to gently remind me that He’s got this – and I don’t.
• When we are weary, verses like, “Let us not become weary in doing good,” can sound like an admonition that condemns us rather than that fatherly reminder that “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:29. Isaiah 40:30 says, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall.” Instead of self-condemnation when we are weary, we need soul care. Jesus promised, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV) Sabbath rest needs to be part of our life rhythm so that we are renewed in hope (Isaiah 40:31).
• The truth is the truth, no matter how I feel. During those days of numbness, I had to rely on what I know to be true, rather than the lies of my heart that told me. I felt I was all alone. Like the psalmist I cried, “Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress.” Whether I felt him or not, I was able to rely on the numerous proclamations in scripture of His love and faithfulness, and my own history and experience with Him. Despite feeling weak, I was able to continue to walk in truth and speak truth to others knowing that His power would be made perfect in my weakness (2 For. 12:9). Again and again, I was able to see His word do its work despite me, and my faith increased as I got out of the way and let Him do His thing.
I am still a Biblical Counselor, but I am learning daily to find myself in Him and not in what I do for Him.
My daughter, a perfumer, called me to ask what she should name my new custom cologne. “How about something to do with counseling or encouraging people?” she suggested. “No!”, I answered laughing, “how about something to do with who I am at the end of the day without all of the titles?” She decided on “Optimist”. Now that’s something I can add to my identity as I put my hope in the One who sustains all things – even me.