Celebrate Recovery small group guideline #3 says, “We are here to support one another. We will not attempt to “fix” another.” Some days this is easier said than done, especially when the person that is suffering is close.
I remember a time when my wife was talking with our dear friend and pastor; his name was Jeff. My wife, Sherawn, was going through a really hard time. Many of the reasons she was struggling, on their own, would have been something that my wife could handle without much trouble. Unfortunately that was not the case. She was being hit from all sides. One thing after another was happening to her, and what was more damaging for her, dear friends and family were also being hit.
At the time Sherawn was the leader for our church’s prayer team. This seemed to only amplify the hurt because she was constantly giving to others, praying for others, helping meet the needs of others so she was being drained. She was watching the prayers of others being answered but not her own.
It wasn’t that Sherawn was trying to fix anyone, that isn’t where I am going with this. Sherawn was trying to support people she cared about while she was being pummeled.
It was the way that Jeff explained the situation that made things so much clearer for her. He explained that in Ancient Roman times during a conflict if an enemy had them surrounded in battle they would circle up. Using their tall shields they would stand close together making a fortification from direct attack. A drawback to this technique was that the soldiers on the outside would become fatigued from pushing to hold back the enemy while occasionally striking out at the other side. Eventually a soldier would become too tired to withstand the onslaught. As a way to account for this the solders would not all go to the outside when they first circled together. Some of them would go directly to the center of the circle to keep from having all of the soldiers fatigue at the same time. When a soldier needed to rest they would switch places. The battle worn soldier would take time to rest.
Jeff told Sherawn, “It is time for you to go to the center of the circle.”
So often we forget that even just being a support for someone is in itself a difficult task. Sharing the burdens of others is hard even when we don’t take them on as our own. I would argue that often times it is harder. Anyone who has the experience of watching a loved one become sick, or experience a loss can attest to wanting to save the other person from that pain. This is often called “Compassion Fatigue.”
I have people in my life right now that are struggling with this. And I am at a loss as to what I can offer and that is so frustrating. I want to take the pain away. I am not yet at a point where I need to go to the center of the circle. And I am glad that those people are reaching out and I want them to continue to do so! I need to be aware of where I am at so that I can continue to be there for them.
We are all in a battle. Our battles look differently from person to person but make no mistake, we are in a battle. A battle for our minds, our hearts, our spirits, even our bodies to an extent.
So what I want to offer is this.
No one in the center of the circle was looked down on. No one in the center of the circle was not considered part of the battle. Being in the center of the circle made them stronger.
If you need to be in the center then reach out to those who can encircle you. Then rest.
If you encircle someone let them know you have their back. Encourage them.
Some of us have been on the outside of the circle for so long we don’t know how to even operate in the center. It is ok to admit you don’t know. It may even feel painful to slow down. This is not a reason to stay on the outside.
Some of you use the outside of the circle as a way to drown out what you are afraid to find in the center. I know at times I fear the inside of the circle because of the times I have found that the quiet seemed to amplify the voices inside my head from mental illness that doesn’t seem to want to let me rest. This doesn’t make you a bad person or weak. Ask someone to journey to the center with you. To sit with you. Talk with you. To hug you and tell you that you are loved.
Someone to help you remember that there is reason to hope.
“O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.”
It won’t always be this hard. It won’t always be this painful. Joy comes in the morning. Let God get you through the night.
National Director of Mental Health for Celebrate Recovery