In the Spring of 2009, I knew that I had exhausted my own ability to decipher why I was so prone to cycles of anxiety, fear, anger, rage and collapse. The cycles varied in intensity but always followed the same pattern. There was no way out using my own rationality.
If Amanda had told me during that first meeting that my biggest stumbling block to disabling those cycles was to understand and attend to the idolatry that governed my life, I likely would have politely ended our counselling relationship. But by helping me contain and disarm the wild emotions on which I was carried, she created a space where I could see the idolatry of approval that made life so infuriating. Seeing my pursuit of everyone else's approval as true, Biblical idolatry changed my world.
But getting there was a process I couldn't guide myself. Amanda's guidance led me step by step to see the effects of idolatry, to see the untruths that corrupted my view of God and to see that the struggle to be free is evidence of God's mercy and it is praiseworthy to be involved in the struggle.
"Change is the result of Christ loving me. Change is a result of my heart being transformed by Christ."
I think what drew me on, and still compels me to work toward more freedom, is the gentleness of Amanda's counsel. For those of us with painful histories of Christian family dysfunction, it is essential to work with someone who puts intelligence and compassion ahead of dogma. Amanda amazed me with her capacity to do that. Where I was certain that God was to blame for my suffering, I was able in the end to see only mercy. That was a long way to travel in one year after 40 years of struggle.
My journey with Amanda started where it needed to—where things were first broken—but quickly unfolded into a new understanding of my true identity in Christ. I would have rejected religious platitudes but there never were any. Instead, I was helped in seeing that my cravings for control and approval give life to crippling anxiety. Amanda's patience and compassion led me to see the mercy and compassion that God has poured out in Christ. The idols, and the anxiety they ignite, are no longer in control.
The words "I am a fruit tree" are written in large letters in my notebook. It was a phrase Amanda used only once and very quickly but it always makes me laugh and feel cheerful. It sums up the entire counselling experience despite its brevity. I was created in Christ for good works, I was made to bear good fruit. I am a fruit tree.
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