Click here to read Part I.
In Part I of this series of posts, I listed three areas of my life God needed to reconstruct:
1) My Superhero Complex (my ability to work hard, do things well, and usually succeed)
2) My “Understanding” of Myself (“I’ve been through counseling, I’ve totally got a grip on this!”)
3) My Solitude Complex (I’ll ask my friends, they’ll know what to do…)
We covered “The Superhero Complex” and now, we’ll move on to number two, “My ‘Understanding’ of Myself.”
A Bit of Vulnerability… Pt. II
Your understanding of yourself, does not, in fact, begin with yourself…
I went through a few years of counseling in my early twenties. The fact that I can type “early twenties” like I’m a real adult or something, makes me feel very old. I digress.
I had an excellent counselor. He worked at my university, which offered free counseling for its students. Until they didn’t. So, we fast-forward a couple of years. I’m now a successful teacher with a full-time job. And I’m still just as screwed-up as I was in college. Once my screwed-upness reached a level I couldn’t cope with anymore, I did some digging and found out the counselor I had seen at my university now had a private practice. At an office building. Thirty seconds down the road from my house. Literally. I took that as a provision from the Lord, and made an appointment as soon as humanly possible.
While in counseling, a whole heap of things were brought to light about why I am the way I am and blah blah blah. I won’t bore you with the details. The main thing I came out of counseling with was a knowledge of my main weakness, how to recognize it, how to combat it, how it affects my relationship with others, and the Biblical principals that are in contrast to that weakness. Riveting, I know. And yes, don’t worry, I’m going to tell you what it is, chill out. The term psychologists use is “codependent.” All humans exhibit codependency to some small degree. Worried about what they think of your shoes or the way you raise your kids? Congrats, you just exhibited a bit of codependency. In my case, it was much, much, much more severe and debilitating to my everyday life. My actions, thoughts, and way of life completely revolved around pleasing one person and keeping them happy. Like a drug addict looking for their next fix, I was a people addict looking for my daily wave of validation. Were they happy? If yes, I won that day. If not, I’d better work twice as hard tomorrow to ensure their happiness, and by extension, my happiness, was achieved.
Talking about it now makes me sick. It was the unhealthiest I had ever been. It put the other person in a position they were not meant to fill. Blech. Not how God intended our relationships with one another to be.
So, I processed and worked my way through all of that mess, applied to become a missionary, and here I am now in Papua New Guinea. (For those of you wondering, yes. I got clearance from my counselor before I came here. #healthy)
Well, Leah, it sounds like you worked through your issues, so what did God need to break in you?
I’m glad you asked.
They say that when you enter the mission field, any issues you have will be amplified a hundred times. Or ten. I can’t remember the number they made up to get their point across. The point is, things you deal with in your home country are going to rear their ugly heads and grow into giants that will be much more difficult to deal with. You’re going to have to develop some new coping mechanisms and be ready to press into the Lord more than ever about these issues because they are going to mutate into something bigger.
So, I prepared.
I resolved that my life would NOT revolve around a particular person. That’s not why I was here. I’m here to teach. I’m here to minister to teens. And so I did. I threw myself into youth ministry and teaching. And it was awesome. My first two-year term in PNG was brilliant. I knew how to not be codependent!
But I had not yet learned what my salvation meant for my life now. I had no clue. I knew a behavior I shouldn’t exhibit… but I never sought the Lord about what to do instead. Or about how He filled that piece of me. Or about how even though I wasn’t “being codependent on anyone,” I still have what my friend and I have deemed, “codependent brain.” And this brain affects my view of the Lord, my relationships with my friends and family, the way I interact with co-workers, the way I interact with Papua New Guineans… I could go on and on and on. And He wanted in to correct these views. So, to get in, He first had to strip me of any confidence I had in my knowledge of myself so He could replace it with a confidence in HIS view of me and the way HE works THROUGH my codependent brain, rather than me fumbling around trying to work IN SPITE OF my codependent brain. This paragraph’s word count has a very high percentage of the word “brain” in it. My apologies.
So, in addition to stripping me of my self-proclaimed super hero status, He broke me of my grip on myself, by showing me I had no grip at all. He showed me that for every piece of me I have an understanding of, there were a hundred other pieces under the surface I have no clue about. Or even knew existed. It’s like memorizing a map. You can list every street name, intersection, and landmark. You put the page away, someone asks you for directions and you can tell them exactly where to go. Then another person approaches you and asks for directions to a place you’ve never heard of before. You confidently say the place doesn’t exist. At their insistence, you get out the page and condescendingly hand it to them. Then, to your utter horror, they begin unfolding the map. There’s more than one page. You’ve only memorized five blocks of a one hundred block city.
I may have understood an important piece of myself, but I did not understand every aspect, because I did not understand my relationship to my creator, because I do not understand my creator. My understanding of myself does not begin with myself. It begins with understanding Him and who He created us to be. This wall of mine was crumbling to the ground…