I don’t often write about issues related to God, faith, religion, or spirituality, but those are of utmost importance in my life. I am a person who is accepting of others, including in the realms of faith and spirituality. I accept and respect what anyone believes or does not believe, even if I may not understand it or if it may be contrary to my own beliefs. I have my own strong faith and opinions, and I am able to accept and respect the beliefs of others without forcing my own beliefs onto them. My counseling training and experience have helped me to accomplish this. This is just one area in which my counseling training and experience have helped me to personally grow and develop.
I recently read a book written by a colleague and friend which was a fairly concise autobiography and which included many references to her faith journey. Her story is one of mistakes and unwise decisions in a life where she felt unwanted and unloved, until she allowed God to work in her life. I have honestly never read a story quite so extremely personal, and I let my friend know that to pen her life story was very brave and inspiring. There were instances in her life that I could relate to, especially in regard to intimate relationships (or the lack thereof), and we have also spoken about this in the past, as well. What was most inspiring to me about her life story were the many Biblical references she included that have helped to shape and mold her, and that show God’s love of her.
In my own counseling work, I often ask people if they could go back into the past and change one thing about themselves or their lives, what would it be? When I ask the question, I try to leave it very open-ended so people are not tied to having to choose one particular thing. Every so often – but rarely – someone says they would not change anything because they would not be the person whom they are today. While most people answer my question with something they would change or improve, a few people respond that everything in their lives would be different if they went back and changed something. This is extremely true and insightful, and I encourage people to explore that, understand it, and appreciate it. My friend who wrote her book also answered this question to herself in the same way, and she has explored it, much to her benefit.
I also often encourage people to find something positive even in the worst and/or most traumatic experiences in our lives. Sometimes, people are unable to do this in the moment of crisis – which is understandable – but on the road to healing and recovery (from whatever it is), it is important for us to find even that one tiny thing that is positive in a terrible experience to help us learn, grow, and stay sane. I find that people who are mentally resistant to this continue to experience their own roadblocks and setbacks; people who are open and willing to view something in a different light generally have a more healthy attitude and positive outlook. In this way, they have helped themselves, and they may even be able to assist and/or support others who have experienced the same or similar situations.
In my own life, as a Catholic and a Christian, I am a lover of God. God is truly paramount in my life. Even though I am no longer able to regularly attend church, I am a person of faith, trust, spirituality, belief, and prayer. In my mid-30s, I questioned whether or not my faith was the best one for me. I went on a faith journey of exploring whether or not it was, and ultimately, I found that it was, despite some of what it did not provide for me. I did not want to be that person who was just raised in a faith without having a choice of what to believe or not believe. I explored and searched many different faiths and denominations. While Catholicism doesn’t have “all” that I seek, neither does any other faith or denomination that I explored. The next closest thing to what I believe is Episcopalianism, but that also does not provide all that I seek in a faith. Therefore, I have had to bring to my faith my own aspects of spirituality that help me continue to believe.
This also brings me to talk about life’s ways of testing and/or tempting us to do things that are not good, beneficial, or desirable for us. I like to think of these things more as tests or challenges rather than temptations. When we encounter such tests and we remain steadfast in our values and beliefs, we are demonstrating strength, courage, patience, trust, faith, and endurance in God, and ultimately, in ourselves. We are constantly surrounded by so many things that can sway our values and beliefs, but reliance on God and His love and support – as well as good people that He places in our lives to help and support us in our decisions – see us through. We experience what we do as a result of life, just the life process itself. God does not “prevent” things from happening to us, but provides us with all variety of life experiences. It is our choice whether or not we want to take those experiences (from the best to the worst) to help us grow and/or to support others. Faith and trust in God and His love can help us make the “right” and “best” choices for us.
This brings me right back to having trust and faith in the Lord. God is always there for us, regardless of the circumstances. My counseling training has also helped me overcome “Catholic Guilt.” I am truly thankful for this since I know and can accept myself as being “human,” and not feeling guilty or shameful simply for being human. Further, reading my friend’s book helped remind me how much God loves us, and inspired me to write this blog post. It also reminded me that one of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 23 which states,
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Another favorite Biblical passage is 1 Corinthians 13:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Regardless of what one may believe or not believe, I hope that all have strong support in their lives to assist them with their life journey, as well as with holding healthy beliefs and values and with making positive and beneficial choices. Life is all about choices. Hopefully, we all have those strengths and supports in our lives to help keep us on the right path.