By Shannon Davy Mimbs
The therapeutic context provides sacramental space for persons to redefine, experience, and embrace God’s uncontrolling love.
I hope this letter finds you and your family doing well. As mentioned in our last session, I often send out follow-up letters 2-3 months after services. There are various reasons I believe this to be important; but to sum it up, it celebrates the tremendous growth that I’ve seen in you. Let me start by saying that I’m so very proud of you! Some people who come to therapy think it’s a sign of weakness or just someone needing help with problems. But you quickly understood the heart of what it is—entering conversation with someone who helps sort through past experiences, gameplan about present situations and work towards a better future. And you didn’t simply come to a class or lecture.
You grabbed the truth that it’s a process, one in which you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Rather, we will get out of it what we put into it. And we know that’s because your story, perspective, and voice matter greatly. You, Jade, matter.
So, my celebration is not only that you rocked showing up to sessions (though that was awesome, no doubt). You genuinely gave “100” in owning your story, talking through some painful parts of your past, and deciding whether you wanted to put in that four-letter, wordy-dird—“w-o-r-k.” And that you did. Deep down you weren’t looking for an Abracadabra or quick fix. You were searching for ways to find meaningful, substantial, significant relationships. And, yes, I remember your comment in the beginning—“I don’t need no one.” Yet, you were hungry to understand your place in this warzone of a world.
I think that in many ways you discovered even more that you have a place, moment-by-moment, in every connection around you. Like you said in one session before, “Maybe I just need what I didn’t experience when I was growing up: genuine acceptance and loving relationships.”
This sacramental space for presence and healing is what therapy is all about. We discovered the truth that love is healing, life-giving and has the best interest of you and everyone else in mind (“Facts!”). It energizes reality itself, having a center with no borders. You were open-minded, considerate, and honest during this process. That, no doubt, is worth celebrating.
So, let’s review some of the feedback that you shared in your survey. And, yep, I’m going to use your words throughout the letter. I’m pretty sure you remember why.
1. “Yeah, I trashed the idea—‘It is what it is’… I’ve learned that sometimes, ‘It is what it shouldn’t be’.”
Wow! You went from understanding the world as being a movie script in which you simply zombie along, to seeing the vibrancy of life all around us. You began to wonder what it might mean if the future is being written day-by-day, moment-by-moment, by numerous factors (“Pick up the pen”). And I still remember the million-dollar question you raised—“If God, like my grandma says, makes everything happen, why should I even care what I do?” Slowly but surely, I watched you unplug from the notion that God is the ultimate gamer—pressing buttons, calling all the shots, while kicking back controlling every character (“He’s sippin’ a Red Bull and has me on single-player campaign mode”). I think it’s (using your words) “badass” that you began to consider the possibility (and logic) that if God is ultimately love, and love is uncontrolling, then the world isn’t a game at all. You said it’s more like improv in high school. That’s a good way to put it.
Choice by choice, you began to break down some unhealthy habits (e.g. isolating yourself from your family and friends). You wrestled with whether certain attractions or distractions gave you traction towards building the person you want to become (“Get a grip!”). You discovered the power you possess in lining up choices and habits with the goal of growing up. And you dug in. Day by day, you began to slow down and consider the future-changing impact of your words, attitude, and actions. Like after that math test on fractions, you realized that “integers are where it’s at!” Wholeness or integrity is the goal. Why settle for being a fraction of the person you have the potential to become?
2. “This is, for real (for real), bigger than me.”
Of the many things I celebrate, Jade, is how you came to realize the connection between everything. You pushed past the idea that “everything happens for a reason.” And there was the “aha” moment when you helped break down the nerdy statement, “Transformation is personal but not privatized.” Seriously, you’ve helped in my own process of becoming, as we’re all under construction in so many ways. And considering our connection with everything around us, you explored why things have affected you as they did. We’re hardwired for love; and giving and receiving love (whether “healthy” or “sick” love, as you referenced) shapes our character and that of the world. In the big picture, it transforms reality as we know it—all the way around.
There’s a powerful freedom in realizing that the world (and everything existing) is in a constant vibrancy of becoming. It reminds me of our first session of looking at therapy as “journeying from fragmentation towards wholeness.” I’m so thankful you helped me understand how to explain this differently. My mantra was a tad bit outdated and somewhat confusing. But your take on the preposition was spot on. If I used the word “to,” it seems to imply a “jump,” while “towards” sounds like a journey. And this journey is a dancelike experience of developing healthier relationships. If we’re to become more and more our best self, it’s in the context of who we are with others and the world around us (“I am because you are”).
In so many ways, Jade, I think this is at the heart of you “growing up” in which love becomes your guiding compass every day. It’s that ever-so-gentle nudge for you to choose the most loving choice possible, moment-by-moment. It surely has a ripple effect in the world. You’ve taken the pen in hand and realized the story is yet unfinished. Put in a different way, like when you brought the guitar to session, you’re playing a new song. It’s one that’s beautiful, creative, and needs to be heard by your family and friends.
3. “I’ve learned that I can change after all, and the future can be better.”
Here’s the kicker. You’re no longer “stuck” in the past as if it defines you. Cycles of behaviors can be broken and healthier ways of navigating the world are at your fingertips in living a life of love. You’ve made so much progress in this area. Jade, this is a gamechanger—knowing that there’s not one set of tracks for each of us, as if we’re limited to one direction with a predetermined stop ahead.
When we first met, you viewed the future as being rather hopeless. Happiness seemed more like a mirage and healing from past pains more like wishful thinking. However, I’ve witnessed you blossom in your faith, hope and love. There’s been an incredible shift in your openness to a future that can look better than what you’ve been through.
Now, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be challenges, hardships, or loss. Those “dark nights of the soul” are common to us all at times. Yet, you’re no longer driven by your impulses or reactionary. The power to choose love in each situation you may face opens new chapters of creativity, shares goodness with the world and radiates to others the beautiful person you’re becoming. As I’ve told you in every session, I believe in you…and Love does too.
Shannon Davy Mimbs serves as a therapist at a counseling agency. He earned his MDiv and MACMHC from Pentecostal Theological Seminary. He is pursuing doctoral work in Open and Relational Theology at Northwind Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Allison, live in Georgia and prize their three children as their greatest treasure.
To purchase the book from which this essay comes, see Love Does Not Control: Therapists, Psychologists, and Counselors Explore Uncontrolling Love