I Gave Counseling a Try

Most cheesy counseling picture ever (free images)

Through overconfidence comes nothing but strife, But wisdom is with those who receive counsel. – Proverbs 13:10

Back in 2010, my eldest son was about a year old. About the same time, my wife discovered that I was texting inappropriately and a lot with another woman. We were married for about three years at that time. Let me be the first to tell you, my wife is beautiful and amazing! Sadly, I was consumed with a desire to just enjoy flesh desire after flesh desire. I was an absolute mess.

To give a little further background, I grew up with parents who were married, Christians, but argued bitterly… a lot! There were many times my mother threatened to leave, would grab her car keys and a bunch of clothes and disappear into the night for hours and hours. Sometimes, I still wonder where she went, who she talked to or what she did. Did she just go sit somewhere by herself and blow off steam? I like to hope that she either went and talked to Christian friends or just sat and read her Bible in her car, but the truth is that I have no idea. I remember a few times my dad doing the same… just leaving. They had a lot of big time, blow out fights about a plethora of things. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to my mom’s voice begging me to call the police. I also remember my mom grabbing knives, pans, and even the wall mounted phone once and throwing it. Suffice it to say, both of them were at fault a lot.

I say all this, because I remember my mom mentioning to my dad many times (usually in the downswing of those bitter arguments) about wanting to try counseling. It never happened. I remember most of my dad’s reasons, “I’m not going to sit there and tell some strange quack doctor all about my life.” Another time he said, “I work 14-15 hours a day so you don’t have to and so the kids can eat and play sports.” Then this simple quote was a regular when my mom would bring up the topic of counseling, “We don’t need counseling.”

I mention that background because it very clearly painted the idea of what counseling was in my mind. First, it usually came out when my mom was blaming my father for something whether it was a correct or incorrect accusation. So, it almost always put my father on the defensive. Second, he was very clear that he didn’t view counseling as necessary, something to even attempt to help their situation and marriage, and a financial burden that he didn’t think was worth the costs. I absolutely don’t mean to put either of my parents down in this, as any of us who are married certainly know we all have our faults. The majority of the time, my parents were very loving to my siblings and I, made every effort to ensure we had as much as they could provide for (which wasn’t much), and were diligent in ensuring we were raised in the church. All of those things, are very positive attributes they had. However, I carried into my adulthood a disbelief in counseling, and a very negative and defensive reaction to the notion of utilizing it as a marriage tool.

Taking the timeline back to 2010, three years into my marriage, and my wife’s discovery of yet another emotional and mental affair she insisted we try counseling. I was very much against the idea of it. I think I remember saying something to the effect of, “I doubt this will help.” She looked up a marriage counselor in the area, and I think we made a couple visits. Not very many, if my memory is accurate. I participated, but I wasn’t very into it. My mental attitude while there was the embodiment of “fake it ‘till you make it”. My heart was not into it. I was embarrassed that I had been caught in my sin, but I had no desire to change. This was my “I tried counseling” moment that I would lean on for nearly the next 12 years.

I continued my sin, knowing I had no sincere desire to change, and was able to use the “I tried counseling” line as much as necessary. I know why it didn’t work. I wasn’t letting God have unfettered access to my heart. I was compartmentalizing God to a small box of a couple hours on Sundays, and maybe a Bible study here and there because I knew that kept my wife from thinking I was messing up. What a complete mess I was. To be quite honest, I think I had even convinced myself that all those excuses about counseling I heard growing up were true. That’s what happens when we allow sin to get deep like the roots of an oak tree. It takes hold and is what feels stable to us.

This is where my story takes a drastic 180. Last May (2021), when I told my wife I wanted to separate she again mentioned counseling. My immediate response was, “We already did that and I’m not interested.” I truly wasn’t interested at all. We sat down with a pastor, and I lied my way through a lot of that meeting. He recommended a local Christian counselor for me to see. I reluctantly made an appointment for the first week of August 2021. Soon after I made that appointment though, I received an email from his office saying he had an severe accident, was recovering and not seeing any patients. Boom! I had my out. I never went. Then in December 2021, a few days before the divorce was final, I was in a rock bottom state (see previous blog posts). I went to my wife and asked her if there was any chance we could reconsider. The same morning, I walked into church in tears, found my friend Graham, and talked through the fact that I needed help. We both mentioned seeing a counselor (I honestly don’t know who said it first), and it was such a weird feeling of wanting to talk with a Christian professional. It seemed like every part of me felt foreign to the idea of it, but still wanted it.

That’s the thing though, looking back. It wasn’t my flesh, my worldly thinking, or anything about me wanting to try it. It was the very explicit push of the Holy Spirit guiding my actions and changing my heart. I was still in the midst of a lot of sin at the time. I had not fully admitted to many things, and that came over time. Yet, God was calling me home. God was changing my heart, I was allowing myself to be transformed, and healing was happening.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove that the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

We are currently near the end of May, and I’m about five and a half months into regular visits with my counselor (every couple weeks). It’s actually the same Dr. who had the accident back in August. Thankfully, God healed him and he is a very instrumental part of my life, recovery, and walk with God. I’m thankful that God’s timing is vastly greater than ours. God knew that by December, I was going to be at a point in my life that I would be open to the Holy Spirit’s move, the blinders of sin would be removed, and that I would have a desire to do everything I could to change my ways and follow Him.

I truly tried counseling, and it worked! I do believe our heart has to be in it, but I want to speak from experience that if you change your heart, God will use tools you once thought weren’t possible. I’m hoping to one day get to a point in which counseling isn’t a regular need, but at the same time it’s growing me in many ways. First and foremost it has made me so much more comfortable in confessing my sins and being honest. It’s helped me with an ability to open up and be real with my wife (most importantly) and my men’s small group.

I apologize for the length of this blog, but I felt it is an important topic for men. It is OKAY to seek the help of others, to sincerely open up, and to find outlets of trust in which you can confess your sins and help us to stay in the light. I’m very thankful that the Holy Spirit pushed me back to counseling, and that I can be an example of the success of Christian counseling to other men.

A wise person will hear and increase in learning, and a person of understanding will acquire wise counsel. – Proverbs 1:5

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