Ever paid attention to the end of the dictionary entry where it gives the word’s origin? One of my all-time favorites is courage. The root of courage is cor, Latin for “heart.” Your courage is in the light emanating from your most honest, unedited self: your heart. If you have courage – and you do, by the way – then you live from that raw heart place, everything else be damned. Courage tells you to persevere when others think it’s a wash, to say the true thing that’s begging to be said, to fight for the people who profoundly matter to you. Courage is the beautiful wildness thundering inside your chest. In my 30th year on Earth (yikes), I’ve finally started to trust it. A little.
Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I did, there was danger. My courage, my living-from-the-heart, demanded the curtain call of my public school career. French is lovely and important and necessary, and my study of it has shaped me in ways I’d refuse to give back even if I could. Teaching in the public school, also, has carved its initials in my heart. It is a magnificent mess of success and failure, healing and hope, that has changed me forever. However, teaching French is no longer home – a scary fact because it’s all I’m trained to do. But when I brought all this up to my counselor last summer, he said, “Amie, if you don’t love what you do, then you’re doing someone else’s job.” Ouch. True.
Then in June my husband accepted a new job, and we had to drastically alter our life. We prayed for hours and days and weeks about our individual callings. My feeling of being professionally ill fitted was growing, and I desperately needed the Lord’s direction. He took me on a journey that called deeply on my courage, through my wildness and heartbreak, straight to the profession I never thought I was “together” enough for: counseling. I’d flirted with counseling for years, but always pushed it away, believing I was queen of the non-ideal counselor candidates. I am full of wonderful advice I don’t take, a propensity toward depression, and a history riddled with mistakes. In my journal, I explained to Jesus I couldn’t serve him this way, but he was welcome to suggest something else, and I would take it under advisement.
In the way that he does, he wouldn’t give it a rest. So this, too, I mentioned to my counselor. He told me the only counselors doing helpful work are the ones who recognize their brokenness. If they don’t, he claimed, then they’re doing much more harm than good. Then, he said something that must have come straight from God’s heart to me because it seared me that powerfully. My counselor said if I became a therapist, I’d be a highly effective one because I have “the power of ‘me too’” – the power of “I understand,” and “it really will get better.” Most importantly: the power of “you aren’t alone.” I have always said I know there’s a reason for everything I’ve been through. It cast me into a person with intimate knowledge of God’s grace. That is reason enough. But it also allows me to empathize with so many people, having experienced an uncommon amount of pain myself in the condensed space of a decade. And now I firmly believe the words of the popular We As Human song: “We think we’re invincible, completely unbreakable, and maybe we are.”
That is, in fact, my testimony distilled into a sentence. So, following my own God-given story, I’ll be starting a master’s degree in January in marriage and family therapy with a concentration in sex therapy. I want to study female sexual dysfunction and learn how to bring hope to women who are mired in its pain like I was for so long. I want to study it from all angles – spiritual, emotional, and medical trauma; effects on the marriage; effects on fertility; connections to shame; etc. I want to help couples transform their emotional and physical intimacy into the unique, joyful gift of closeness God meant it to be.
And I’m just crazy enough to believe this will all come full circle, and God will have continued use for my French and my time in the classroom. It’s part of my adventure, a word whose Latin root venire means “to come.” Part of my coming to the world has been through the adventure of French, and teaching French. I wouldn’t trade that for anything, including a straight path leading from college directly into the field of psychology without the “detour” of language instruction (which is of course no detour at all). Still, living from the heart for me means I have to step away from the success I’ve known as a teacher and the complacency of well-known territory. I am not afraid: God created my heart with all the courage it would ever need, and for such a time as this. I have to adventure, to come, into an unknown world and believe God will be there, is already there, to guide me through.