There are striking similarities apparent in many of life’s messy situations. In counseling people who are dealing with everything from addictions to marital problems, to spiritual emptiness, I’ve found four common problems, phases, and solutions for those problems. These are denial, acceptance, vision and action.
Close your eyes. Imagine you woke up one morning to find your bed, and yourself, in the middle of a swamp. You might first blame your situation on a dream that isn’t reality, so you go back to bed. This is denial.
So you wake up again and now realize the swamp is not a dream. It’s cold and soggy when you dip your toe in it. You might waffle in and out of denial for a few moments, but the cold hard facts remain. You accept the fact that you are in a swamp.
Understanding that you are in the middle of a swamp, you look 360-degrees around you and your bed to find the optimal path out of the swamp. Some directions are full of trees or thick algae, so your slog out that direction has many different obstacle, many of which are hidden. Other ways are clearer, but dry land is farther away. You choose the longer direction, and you have the vision to get out of the swamp.
Finally, there is action. You get off of your bed and slip waste-deep in water, encountering rocks and gushy things with every step. You keep your eye on the dry land you’re aiming for, and remain committed even when you’re tired and scared. Your are, and remain, committed to complete the action that gets you out of your mess.
Your “swamp” may be an addiction. Just knowing there is a way out is enough to get help. Reach out to a detox center or other health care provider. After detox, you need to commit to a 12-step group that helps you stay clean/sober. Your action step never stops, and becomes a lifestyle with some really great people.
Another “swamp” may be facing the end of a marriage. Your husband or wife may find their life-partner has been unfaithful. You will have to resign yourself to the brutal honesty that the contract has been broken. You need to get a pastoral counselor to help you make decisions that will square with your faith. Or, you may prefer to talk with a DSM-based* secular counselor. Your action may be reconciliation with honesty and transparency, or it may need to be dissolving the marriage.
The key to getting out of your mess is to get started. Why not today? There are pastors, pastoral counselors, secular counselors or other professionals who know how to navigate your way out of the “swamp”. Whatever your mess is, I can’t stress strongly enough that honesty must reign over every step. There is immense relieve in honesty.
“You’re only as sick as your secrets” is an instruction I’ve found and followed with my own messes and in counseling others in their mess. Once you expose the secret center of your mess, the relief is tremendous. You will be greatly relieved that you no longer have to defend your secrets. There is an unscientific saying that says “90% of what you worry about never happens”. May today be the day that you end denial about your mess and you reach out for help. Google it. It’s not hard to find.
1 John 1:6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin. (NIV)
I look forward to reading your story, answering your questions, and hopefully help you get out of the swamp you find yourself in.