Being a part of Celebrate Recovery gives me an awesome opportunity. Not just traveling around the country. Not just getting up and speaking in front of thousands of people. Not being invited to speak at churches and events that allow me to share space with some of my heroes. These are all really cool things, but my greatest opportunity is witnessing change.
I get to interact with people every day that have lived their life in one way; often isolated, hopeless, ashamed, and fake. And then I get to see what has happened in recovery when a transformation has taken place and people who are isolated find community. People are finding hope and saying goodbye to shame. I see people becoming a better version of themselves; someone they are proud of being.
Especially over the last 2 months while attending the 2018 CR Summits, first in Tennessee and then again California, I had the opportunity to hear from hundreds of people who said that since the mental health initiative had begun in 2016 their lives were completely changed.
I had several people share with me that they finally felt like they were able to admit that they were taking medication without feeling that somehow they were failing God. I had people tell me that their marriage was able to be saved after hearing some of the things I had talked about in my story, that matched their own story, they went out and got assessed and received a diagnosis that for the first time explained some of their behaviors, and were now receiving treatments that allowed for real lasting change making room for restoration where only resentments had existed.
I can go on and on listing all of the amazing things that God is doing in the lives of people around the globe. And with every story I can rejoice because I see people realizing a value that they didn’t know they had.
But there has been one issue through this entire journey that has plagued me. For all of the change and hope and purpose I am able to see being realized in the lives of others, I often find it hard to realize that change in my own life. From a logical perspective I can say that yes I believe that I have purpose and value. And from an emotional perspective I can say that I have indeed felt the touch of God on my life and it is a wonderful experience. To know that God is using me with all of my shortcomings to effect change in this world is beyond words for me. The struggle that I keep running into is that my mind and the mental health issues that I have are easily my own worst enemy. I can go from feeling great one moment to feeling like a failure the next because my mind, my physical brain, does not function properly. I have to battle on a daily basis to keep myself on a path of health.
I also know that I am not the only one who struggles with this whether there is a mental health issue exacerbating the problem or not. Often it is easy to see the positive in the lives of others but not the positive in our own lives. To prove my point I suggest making two lists. On the first list write out all of the things you don’t like about yourself. This one tends to be pretty easy to do. We all have things we don’t like about ourselves. Next make a list of all of the things you do like about yourself. Suddenly this task is getting more difficult. It is difficult because it isn’t practiced by the vast majority of us. But it should be!
I am not saying we have to walk around with our chests puffed out as if to tell the whole world we are awesome. We shouldn’t be arrogant. We should be humble. The struggle that I think most people run into is a misunderstanding of what humility actually is. Humility is having an accurate view of one’s self. This doesn’t mean thinking that you are lowly and pitiful because that is self-focused and as a result prideful. This doesn’t mean you think you are the best at everything because that is self-focused and as a result prideful. This means realizing your place in this world as one of God’s creations; equal in value to those around you. It is ok to think that you are good at a task or bad at a task if it is accurate in regards to your abilities. But our ability to perform dose not dictate our value. Our Creator gives us our value! And if I cannot understand my value then I will struggle to see the positive that is in my life.
I need to practice this. I need it to be a part of my daily walk. I need to make a conscious choice to remember my value on a daily basis. If I want to combat the lies that are in my head that say, “I don’t matter”, then I need to have a realistic understanding of why I DO Matter.
Walking around the church campuses during summit this year had nothing to do with me getting my ego stroked. I am able to appreciate the work that God is doing in me which in turn allows me to serve Him in the way I do. And it is ok to agree with someone who acknowledges that work with a thank you. God has given me tools and an opportunity. It is not prideful to acknowledge what I do with those tools if I remember the source of those gifts. And if I recognize that there are gifts that God has given to everyone specifically for them to do some really cool stuff. We all have a purpose and we all have value equally and uniquely.
I urge you not to fall into the lie that you are the only one in the world who doesn’t matter. You do matter! And you have opportunities to use your God given abilities. You may just be having a hard time seeing those opportunities through the clouds of lies that float past our eyes. If that is you I want to offer a couple of things to help you start to clear out those clouds.
First…don’t talk to yourself the way your enemies would. Something my wife has helped me with over the years we’ve been together is calling me on my negativity by saying, “Don’t talk about my husband that way.” She wouldn’t want anyone else saying the things I say to myself so why should she allow me to do it either? Accountability in this is huge so ask someone for help in treating yourself better.
Next…If you get a compliment then accept it. Don’t call the person a liar by brushing off what they said because that is what is being done. Responding with thank you is also saying I value your opinion and your right to have an opinion. It is respectful of the other person as well. I also had someone tell me recently that it is hard for her when someone says “Oh it was all God.” when she gives a compliment. She said she wants to reply to that with, “Please, it wasn’t THAT good.” I know it is hard, but accept the compliment.
Lastly…Share your gifts. The first time someone gave me a microphone and asked me to speak publicly I did a horrible job. I mean just awful. Then the person gave me a microphone again and I stunk it up less. Now people compliment my sharing. I still have a long way to go before I would say I am really awesome at speaking but I don’t think I suck anymore. Gifts are refined over time. Use them and see how God is shaping you. Take a chance. It may take a while to feel comfortable doing whatever it is you are doing but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have gifts to offer.
This whole concept is hard to put into practice, that is: understanding your value. But please hear me when I say this, YOU DO HAVE VALUE! YOU DO MATTER! YOU ARE LOVED AND THERE IS REASON TO HOPE! So thank you in advance for being you, because the you that you truly are, is really, really cool!
National Director of Mental Health for Celebrate Recovery