I had delayed it long enough. I had pushed back with everything in me and tried to get out of it but could not wiggle my way out of this requirement of my grad school program: Six Months of Psychodynamic Therapy. Once a week for 45 minutes for six months I was required to meet with a therapist to look closely at my life and at the deep stuff of my heart. It wasn't that I was scared… That really wasn't it. It's just that I had this strong sense that I would be the most boring therapy client to ever exist.
In my mind, "My life was good, really good” (in a Nacho Libre voice). I couldn't even think of what I would talk to this woman about for one session, let alone for 25. I was happy, healthy, liked my marriage, liked my job with Young Life. I had two little kids that were two and three years old at the time, who could occasionally drive me to borderline insanity, but I felt like that was just normal and par for the course. I felt pretty content and didn't really want to ruffle my feathers with this therapy junk.
Little did I know that God would use this act of obedience (specifically to my seminary, honestly, more so than to Him) to rock my world. I wasn’t just starting therapy, I was starting the School of Jamie Thrash- Hello, who are you? Nice to meet you.
It wasn’t magical, what happened in that little office cottage every week, but my sweet ol’ therapist slowly began to peel back the layers of my heart and help me discover some things about myself to which I had never really paid much attention. We uncovered many gems, but the largest one was the reality that I didn't actually have a much of a self! I had always considered my easy, go-with-the-flow nature to be virtuous. I had been praised for it. So easy. So flexible. My whole life I had been welcomed with open arms into any circle of friends or relationship, because I am fun to be with, I show interest in others, and I make people feel good about themselves. I've always had tons of friends and gotten along with pretty much everyone. I never really had opinions. Nothing bothered me too deeply. It's not that I have been a pushover or a passive person, that’s not it at all. It’s just that I have always been willing to flex, don't care much for details and would rather have peace than have my way. Well Dr. E sure stirred that pot.
All through that season and even still now, I met regularly with my spiritual director. At one point she asked me what I really wanted in life. I told her about some of my dreams and she called me out- she said, “That actually sounds like what Mark wants in life.” Nailed it. She pointed that out and then asked me again what my dreams were for myself. After a long solid silence of what felt like minutes I said, “You know what, I actually don't really have any clue what I want.”
“Mmmm hmmm,” she said. She said that a lot. It drove me crazy. It meant that I had to talk more.
A couple of weeks into meeting with my shrink, she told me that she thought that I didn't really have a self. It was a little bit of a stab in my heart, mostly because it was so true. We began to unravel the reality that I had mostly lived my life as a mirror for everyone around me. It was not just completely reflecting them, but giving them what they wanted to see and what they needed. What everyone else needed. When it came to knowing who I was and what I wanted and how I felt, I had no idea about any of those things. Honestly, I had no idea. I couldn’t even make something up.
With this new awareness, I soon realized that I did not want to stay stuck in this reality forever. And so I began the journey of gaining a self. When I spent time with the Lord I knew that He was confirming these realities and I sensed His invitation to grow. This has been something I have been walking out now for several years since it all sparked in 2012.
The first stage of gaining a self was that I had to learn how to feel. I know that sounds silly, but previously, I just operated in a very numb or flexible state. I’d allow myself to be upset about something for a couple minutes and then it was time to move on. I never really had high highs or low lows, just even keel all the time. I invited God into this with me. “Lord, why can’t I feel?” I figured, if He designed me, I needed to look to him as the one who held the owner’s manual to this creation.
I had to learn to feel my feelings and to gain awareness of my desires apart from anyone else. As I asked the Lord to awaken my feelings, He showed up for me in big ways. That year was really hard. I miscarried two Thrash babies in the first six months of 2012 and then we were unable to get pregnant for another year. I had never felt pain or loss like I did over those two precious souls. My heart ached in ways that I hadn’t yet experienced. I was broken like I had never been before, and God graciously held me through that season. I remember giving myself permission to grieve, to be pissed, to be disappointed, and so very discouraged. I was allowed to feel. And I did. I wrestled with God. I can’t imagine what kind of torment I would have caused my soul if I had just continued my pattern of sweeping things under the rug or shrugging my shoulders and moving on. It was God’s grace that allowed me to be fully present to my own heart in that pain. Otherwise I would have stuffed it down deep and walked with a limp my whole life. Because that’s really what happens, isn’t it? Whatever I don’t deal with now does not go away, it just hitchhikes as a knot in my back or surfaces as a mini stab in my heart at a later time, again and again, until I will listen to it.
Over time, God began to awaken me. He began to draw to the surface the areas of my heart that were numb, covered, repressed. He showed me how and who He designed me to be. He is still definitely working on me. I’m learning to step into the things that make my heart leap and ache and weep and shout and celebrate. But I feel like God has brought me to life.
During this season, I was reading this book, Reclaiming Your Story by Merle R. Jordan, which proved to be extremely instrumental in my process of gaining a self. There was a question at the end of the book that suggested that the reader ask God to give her a name of her former way of life and then to give her a new name. Instantaneously, into my head popped my old name: Tiptoe. I got that. I had always walked a delicate line of balancing others’ needs and feelings. Tiptoe.
“Ok, Lord, so then who am I becoming?” In my heart I heard, “Jamie, your new name is Clang.” My response to God was something along the lines of, “Ha! Are you serious? I could never imagine myself a Clang. But I’ll take it! And I’ll lean in and see where this goes because, hey, sounds like a much better life than Tiptoe.”
So let’s stop for a moment to think about my lucky husband. Can you imagine if you married a ‘Tiptoe’ who told you, “Guess what, I'm about to turn into a Clang?!” If you know Mark at all, then of course you are not at all surprised by the way he responded, “YES! This is gonna be AWESOME!” He has been so gracious with me and patient as we have learned this new dance together. As I have become more aware of my needs and desires, there has been a major shift in our marriage. I often come at him hard because he is strong and his opinions are loud and solid. He usually laughs when I express myself in a passionate or feisty way, mostly because it brings him such joy to see me get fired up. He loves seeing me alive. Mark has been an encourager in the process and I wouldn't have grown or experienced this transformation without his partnership in it. God knew what He was doing when He brought us together. He gave me a teammate that can handle my clunky walking out of this new reality.
But beyond Mark’s praises, I really have loads of gratitude and praise for God's transformative work in my heart, mind, and soul. Along this journey, He has taught me how to pay attention when something rubs me the wrong way. He has taught me how to have righteous anger. He has taught me and allowed me to have opinions (even when they’re wrong), and then given me courage to express them. He has given me courage to talk to friends when they do something that upsets me, to call someone out when they cut in line (hate that), to ask for the things I want and need from people, and to offer my full presence when I am with others instead of holding back. I know I am still an infant in this, but with God's faithfulness I will continue to grow and be transformed. Look out world, here comes Clang! Glory be to God.
If this blog resonated with you, you can post a comment below. Jamie will be responding to those comments. Also, I figured some of you might want to dialogue with Jamie about her journey or your own. If so, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org