by Jami Amerine
In 1993, my sister and I traveled to South America for an extended visit with our mom and dad. Our parents had been transferred there with my father’s oil company a few months before. Eager to show us all the sites, my parents drove us to a Venezuelan, open-air hotel on the coast.
They reserved two rooms, one for them and one for my sister and myself. My dad told us we could pick which room we wanted. The bellboy said, “Por favor, señor, solo esta habitación tiene la iguana…” We knew just enough Spanish to deduct one of the rooms had an iguana and one did not.
My sister insisted on the room without the iguana.
So, after a seafood feast on the beach, we made our barefoot journey back to our iguana-free suite.
Note to reader: When in Venezuela, pick the room with the iguana.
I boldly commit to this truth: the iguana would have shied in comparison to the vast collection of Chernobyl sized creepy crawlers we did not sleep with that night.
Occasionally, I would doze off and then abruptly wake up because I felt one of the insects of unusual size tugging at my pajamas or heard another moving our luggage across the room. Each time my eyes flew open to the Sci-fi terror of South American coastal bug life, I would find my sister staring at me, “Are you asleep? Don’t go to sleep! We have to stay awake! We must keep watch!”
To date, it was the longest night of my life. Our parents and their reptilian keeper of the night slept like babies. They emerged the next morning bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to frolic on the beach. Later that evening, my sister inquired if we might procure an iguana for our room. They were fresh out, so she asked for a flyswatter…or hunting rifle that we might defend ourselves.
What seemed like a burden or intruder was in fact a welcomed asset, one we wished we had.
And this story was fresh on my mind when I stumbled into my first counseling appointment several weeks ago. It is ironic that I had ignored counseling for myself, as I would be the first to tell others, “You need counseling.” Greater, I have a Master’s of Education in Counseling and Human Development, I am fully cognizant of the benefits of counseling. Still, it is easy to tell others what they require, and often harder to recognize something we desperately need ourselves.
I began my appointment, “I am not really sure I need this. We have experienced some loss. My son’s best friend was recently killed in a random act of violence. There is that and some other stress. I am sure it is all fine, but I guess I might benefit from talking about it.”
The appointment ended with me heaving sobs, complete with gagging, and booking as many future appointments as the receptionist was allowed. But more importantly, I took a deep breath. I feel certain it was the first in a very long time. And this is what I am most convicted of, when in the throes of mental anguish, fatigue, grief, strife or all those things, bringing in a professional to help can make all the difference. Sure, I have friends and my husband that I spoke to. However, with someone unknown to the scenarios I was dealing with, who had no emotional existence to the pain, and with a professional outlook on the scope and sequence, I found real help.
From a professional counseling point of view, I wasn’t healing prior to that appointment, I was “circling the mountain.” By this I mean I was replaying the stories and my listeners were offering comfort, and this would repeat as necessary. I would voice my fears and pain, and they would do what they could to comfort, which is precious, but I wasn’t getting off the loop and heading down the road.
In one 50-minute session, I voiced the deep traumas, and then good counsel said, “Okay, now, what spaces need time to grieve and what spaces need to be dusted off so you can carry on.” Granted, this isn’t rocket science, or maybe it is, but it was exactly what I needed to get control over a mind overrun with creepy crawly things.
Candid as it may seem, I was a counselor and Bible teacher ignoring my training and my Bible. And even if I were not those things, I know myself well enough to know that I would have ignored counseling for longer than was necessary. Proverbs 13:10 tells us, “Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” While I am certain I had heard this scripture before, it became most profound once I laid my pride down and sought help.
Yes, of course, I am wholly embraced by the Great Counselor. Certainly, He was of great comfort. And while I believe God is the answer to every question, yes my help comes from the Lord (Psalm 121:2), I am most confident He also gently whispered, “Baby Love, you need counseling.”
My prayer for every eye that falls on this is to recognize that sometimes, even if it goes against what you would normally choose or is outside your comfort zone, we all need an intruder to help us. Confessing to a stranger, exposing ourselves and our weaknesses, losses, fears and pain, might seem scary, but the alternative can be just as terrifying.
May you grow in peace and wisdom. Jesus be all over you.
Jami Amerine M.Ed. is a three-time published author and royalty artist. Jami and her husband Justin live in the North Houston, Texas area and have six children ranging in age from 6-25.
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