Eighteen months ago I started on a journey that changed my life forever. I met my now husband, Ryan, and on November 23, 2013 started a journey of falling in love and realizing that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives partnering with each other, fulfilling the call together God has placed on us both.
Awesome! Right? The best thing ever! Right?
Here’s the reality: in 18 months, we met, we began dating long distance, we got engaged, Ryan was told he might have a brain tumor (he did not!), numerous trips from Washington to Texas and back again, planning a wedding, deciding to quit my job, resigning my church, moving to Houston, getting married, being unemployed for a month after our wedding, starting a new job, trying to meet new friends, transitioning into the lead pastor role Ryan had previously been holding, and to top it all off, experiencing my first Christmas without my parents or siblings. Whew! That’s a lot for any person, and while it was an amazing 18 months, it’s been A LOT of change!
Better people than I would struggle with a few of these so I know that I’m not alone. In the midst of all of this transition it’s been easy to feel off kilter-like I don’t know myself.
One of the major tensions I have struggled with is the idea of “being perfect for others.” Too often as leaders and pastors we feel pressure to put a face on for our congregation and the teams we lead. In reality, I’ve learned we do a disservice to them and to ourselves by trying to hide the real struggles we face.
Newsflash! A pastor or leader is not perfect or without struggle. I am no different. I have been forced to fight with depression during all the transitions and new experiences I’ve been through in the last year and a half. And who can blame me?
One of the tools I have utilized that has most helped me to process through all of these life changes in a healthy way has been to see a licensed Christian counselor. My counselor has been invaluable to me, and a good therapist can help you, too!
Here, based on my experience, are the “Top Five” reasons all pastors should see a counselor:
- You spend a lot of time listening to others people’s problems. It’s good for you to have someone who will listen to yours.
- Processing feelings and thoughts in a safe, confidential and supportive environment will save your spouse, family and close friends from having unprocessed raw emotions thrown at them in stressful times.
- Counselors ask great questions! Also, though I am utilizing my counselor’s service as a leader, I can’t help but take mental notes on how to be a better questioner and listener.
- This person is there to help you with no other agenda than to see you grow and be healthy. As pastors we should be ever growing!
- Investing in your own mental and emotional health will only benefit you and your ministry!
Pastors I encourage you to seek a professional counselor. Whether you’ve dealt with major life changes, death, divorce, moving or discouraging interactions with parishioners, counseling can bring fresh perspective, encouragement of heart, and clarity for walking forward in healing and hope. Don’t wait for depression and stress to overtake you, be proactive in this area!
I can promise, you will not be sorry for seeking help!
And as for Ryan and I….I would not trade him or this adventure of life together for anything! I am so thankful for the counselors who have helped us navigate the transitions in health.