Congratulations, Steinhausers!!


One of my Face2Face castmates, Jason Steinhauser, got married this weekend, and it was awesome.

The whole event was just very “them,” from Jennifer’s beautiful purple dress to the groom’s cake — a giant stack of donuts — to the Auburn game playing during the reception.

Congratulations and best wishes to the Steinhausers!!

“Wonderful Counselor”


 

This is a light-hearted picture. This is not a light-hearted post.

One may think we’re alright
But we need pills to sleep at night
We need lies to make it through the day
We’re not okay

— The Perishers, “Pills”

I mentioned a while back that I’ve been taking a counseling class. I’ve been meaning to expound on that.

After last week’s class, I really felt like I needed to.

This is something I’ve been interested in for a while. If I had the means and time and dedication to go back to school, I would love to earn a degree in mental/behavioral health and be able to work in that field.

So when I saw that Heather’s church was offering a counseling class on Wednesday nights, it was sort of something that I had to do.

The class is being offered through Light University (which is apparently basically a continuing education  program of Liberty University) and, after a number of semester-length classes, culminates in participants earning a certificate from the American Association of Christian Counselors.

It’s not “real”counseling licensure, and I have no illusion that it is, but it could be used for church counseling, and will provide me with some formal training and background in the field. Flint River is interested in working on establishing a stronger counseling service, and it’s possible I could be involved in that after finishing the program.

It’s going to be a long process, and I’m still at the very beginning of it. But I’m excited about starting.

I’ve long had an interest in the field. My ex-wife worked as a counselor and social worker, and over the years I picked up both a little knowledge and interest from her. I’ve done some reading on the subject myself, and have been seeing a counselor myself on and off for about two years, so have connections in several ways.

My ex-wife had experience on both sides of the fence as well, both working as a behavioral health professional, and seeing professionals to help with her own issues. During our marriage, there were times when I felt like it was my role to sort of keep her duct-taped together so that she could help other people. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one or the few. It reached a point, however, when I felt like she presented more a potential danger than benefit, and it was no longer my job to keep her duct-taped enough to do that.

I very much like the idea, however, of being able to work with others myself to help fill that void. And I like the idea of being able to help people deal with things like she was struggling with; things that, because we were married, that we both had to struggle with. I would love nothing more than to make those struggles easier for other people than they were for us, and possibly to help them find a happier ending.

Last week was very much a wake-up call along those lines, however.

The first couple of sessions of the class were just breezy for me. I went in to them with enough of a background that I felt pretty comfortable with everything that was being discussed. Not really anything I hadn’t heard before.

And then, in the latter half of last week’s session, came the video on dealing with victims of sexual abuse.

I mentioned on here yesterday that those had been issues in my marriage, along with addiction issues. My ex-wife’s story is not mine to tell, but I don’t think she hid the fact that she had been abused as a child, in pretty much every way a child could be — physically, emotionally, sexually.

The class stopped being breezy. I cried. Pretty much the entire time.

I knew about her past before we even started dating. I understood nothing. I had no clue.

I was sheltered and naive. Utterly unequipped to be what she needed.

I’ve wondered several times if I had known then the things I know now, if things could have been different. Could I have helped her better? Could I have made things better for her? Could I have been a boon instead of a burden?

Or would I have run instead of dealing with it?

Someone made a comment along the class that it’s just a problem like any other problem. That’s true, to an extent.

Other than the fact that it’s completely false.

It’s insidious. It’s not one thing. It’s everything.

What did we deal with because of that “one problem”? Trust issues. Self-esteem issues. Eating disorders. Mental health issues. Addiction issues. Self-harm. Medical problems. Relationship issues. On and on and on. The better question is what part of her life did it not touch? And, by extension, what part of my life did it not touch?

Twelve years ago I was too naive to know what I was getting into. Today, it’s overwhelming. Could I help someone in that situation? Could I even try to work with someone in that situation?

It’s scary.

The thing I have to remind myself is that I’m just at the beginning of this process. I don’t have to confront it tomorrow. There’s a lot more training to go through first. A lot more preparation.

But my confidence has been shaken. And that’s probably a good thing, right? That’s the whole point of Christian counseling. I don’t help anybody. I just help be a catalyst for God to help them. And I’m certainly willing to see where I wouldn’t be the person helping anyone in that situation.

Father, help me.

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. — Isaiah 9:6

We Can Be Heroes, Just For One Day


Brick at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center Davidson Center. Purchased while we were married; we were divorced before it was put on display.

And the license said you had to stick around until I was dead
But if you’re tired of looking at my face, I guess I already am
But you’ve never been a waste of my time
It’s never been a drag
So take a deep breath and count back from ten
And maybe you’ll be alright

— Liz Phair, “Divorce Song

I was going to write this post anyway, but I’m posting it today because of Anne Jackson.

I wrote a post published Saturday about her book, “Permission To Speak Freely,” and my reaction to it and to learning after finishing the book that she and her husband were divorcing.  She was kind enough to not only read my post this weekend but to actually respond to it, and her response caused the gradual back-burner mulling that was still going on in the dark recesses of my mind to demand more immediate attention.

I may have been a little glib in my review, but the truth is I didn’t realize how much the book was still challenging me.

I stand by my original main thought — the book wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. I reiterate that for two reasons. First, to say that, should she read this post as well, I would be the first to read a book by Anne Jackson closer to my original expectations — dealing more with the things people feel they can’t say in the church, why the church creates that culture, and how the church can begin the work of changing that. The things she wrote about that subject in “Permission” were quite interesting; I would love for her to expound on it.

And I’ll admit again that my review was colored by the fact that those things are very much a pet subject for me; I’m passionate about those issues, and perhaps gave the rest of the book shorter shrift than it deserves for that reason.

I do agree, passionately, with the point she makes in the book — that the reason people feel like they can’t say things is that nobody says those things. Whatever you’re dealing with, you’re not the only one who has experienced brokenness, and there are others who can empathize with where you are and what you’re dealing with because of their own brokenness. But, unfortunately, since no one feels like they can talk about their brokenness, no one talks about their brokenness, and because no one talks about their brokenness, no one feels like they can talk about their brokenness.

She’s right, and she’s also right that the only thing that changes that is when people stop caring if others are transparent, and start being transparent themselves. When someone starts, they give permission for others to follow suit. They create a place where it’s safe to share. I believe this passionately also, and have strived to do this myself, and have encouraged others to do so.

Her book may not have handed me exactly what it wanted, but she’s done something more valuable — she challenged me. And I hope she can appreciate that I offer that as high praise for an author.

Which leaves the other issue; the one Anne talked about in her blog post, the one I eluded to in my review, the one I’ve been mulling ever since.

I wished I hadn’t read about her divorce until after I wrote about the book. It was impossible for me to not be colored by that. I did wait until after writing the review to read her post about her divorce, which may or may not have been good to do.

In my review, I alluded to the fact that the book, to some extent, held her marriage up as evidence of the merits of her arguments. In her reply, Jackson wrote:

Yep. My marriage failed. And it sucks. And the “progress” made in my book is now printed tens of thousands of times to remind me.

Yet have I failed? Am I less loved? Am I less learning?

Hell no.

I’ve much to learn, much to grow, and never…ever…ever…ever…have the answers.

(As stated in the final chapter) 🙂

And here’s the thing — I’ve been there.

You read Anne’s post and you read her book, and together you get this picture: A marriage of about seven and a half years. Struggles because of her sexual abuse in the past. Struggles because of her addiction issues. Perseverance. Love. Victories over those struggles. A marriage that shows that those things can be overcome. And then, one day, it’s over.

I’ve been there. I lived that picture, exactly. Exactly.

The worst days came about two years after we married. I got a call on Valentine’s Day that my wife had done things I assumed couldn’t be true. They were. Less than two weeks later, we celebrated our second anniversary in a mental health facility.

Those were not good days. Nor were the ones that followed them.

But we persevered. We endured. We struggled and we survived. And things got better.

And because we persevered, because we endured, because we struggled and survived. We thought we had won. We declared victory over the demons that plagued us. We encouraged others. We counted ourselves as a success story. When a cousin’s marriage was falling apart, we held ourselves up as an example of the fact that if we could endure what we endured, their problems were certainly no reason for divorce.

And those demons laughed, and waited.

Yes, the worst was behind us. Yes, things had gotten better. But, eventually, even the better version of those problems, over time, wore us down.

And one day we stopped persevering. One day we stopped enduring. One day we stopped struggling and surviving.

And it ended.

We stopped being a shining example, and became another statistic.

Her post does a good job of capturing some of the emotion of being in that situation. If you’ve been there, if you know anyone who has, if you fear being there, read it.

My most glib and regrettable comment in my review was this: “one’s answers to life’s problems are valuable only if they’re efficacious, and Jackson fails to fully make that case using her life as example.” One, it’s unkind to rub salt in such a fresh wound. Writing online provides a certain illusion of disconnect, but the truth is its a network that allows anyone to connect with anyone. My words were placed where they could find their way to their subject, and as such were inconsiderate.

Second, they’re not really true. Like I said, I agree with what she wrote. I agree with the value of transparency. Nothing in her story belies that.

So why would I write that? Because of the third issue — those words weren’t really about her. They were about me. Substitute “Jackson” for “Hitt” (and change the pronoun, of course) and it’s a truer statement. Who am I to ever act like I know anything?

Unlike Anne Jackson, I don’t have a book recounting those victories and perseverance, my successes and the lessons I shared from them.

All I have is a brick.

A brick we bought during a fundraiser for a major project here in town. We assumed we would be together forever. We had divorced by the time the brick was placed. There’s an irony there about being “written in stone.”

The brick is still there.

I could probably have it removed. But I don’t. Because, as I’ve said many times since, “those things happened.” That’s part of my past. That’s part of my story. It’s a testament to my brokenness. There are lessons there and truths, too valuable to be erased for the convenience of creating a prettier picture.

Things happen sometimes that suck.

Anne, you wrote a good book. I hope your current life situation doesn’t diminish that for you at all. Whatever is happening now, whatever happens in the future, those things happened. Your book is truth. And truth is an absolute good. Be proud of it.

For me, the lesson is this.

Until we die, the story isn’t over. Our lives aren’t fairy tales. We can’t declare “happily ever after” until the story is completely told.

Victory doesn’t come with major battles that ensure lasting success. It comes one day at a time.

When we declare victory, we’re setting ourselves up for defeat.

To have any chance, the only way — the only way — is to fight each day as if that’s the day that matters. And be glad for that day, and not think winning today somehow wins tomorrow.

We do indeed have “much to learn, much to grow, and never…ever…ever…ever…have the answers.”


I’ll also add that you can get an autographed copy of the book for $10 or a really cool t-shirt via the official PTSF website.