To my Sister, I don’t even know your name.
I was introduced to you in the midst of a conversation last night with a friend, who told me that you were a young African American woman. There weren’t too many other details, but she told me that you took your own life.
To my Sister, I wish that I knew your name.
The conversation continued, but I mentally checked out and was overwhelmed by the questions that flooded my mind about you. Did anybody see signs? Were you able to reach out to anyone? What was the trigger? If you did reach out, what response did you or did you not receive? What could we have done as a community?
As an African American Christian woman, I am aware that I am a part of three communities that have not always been open to therapy and counseling. As African Americans, we have been through and still are experiencing trauma, but told that we have to stay strong. As women, we are called to reach out and care for everyone else, and some of us believe the impossible myth that we are superwomen ….. and that is not the life. Expectations can be crushing, whether they are self imposed or imposed by others. As Christians, some adhere to the theology that if you pray, it’s done … instantly. Pray about it, no need for counseling or therapy. But this notion sets up another scenario - what happens when you pray, and the turmoil remains?
My Sister, I wonder if you shared your story and someone told you to pray about it and then just left it at that. I think about those who have been told to "pray about it" and shamed into thinking that God loves them less if they pray and the turmoil remains. My grandmother also said that after we pray, we need to put legs on it by stepping out in the direction of what we prayed for. In other words, let the prayer guide us into seeking a professional who can help us navigate through it all. I’m sorry if someone failed to lift you up long enough to put legs on your prayers.
To my Sister, I wish that I knew you.
During orientation at seminary, a counselor shared about the importance and necessity of therapy and counseling for those in ministry. If we are dedicating our lives to ministering to others, it is crucial that we dedicate our lives to be ministered to through therapy and counseling. It is an opportunity to release, safe place for doubts, uncertainties and everything else. It is answered prayer.
To my Sister, I have literally stayed up all night crying, thinking and praying about you and others who are silently screaming out in pain. I think about those who have been told to pray about it and shamed into thinking that God loves them less if they pray and it remains.
"I pray for those who are overwhelmed and seeking peace. I pray for the release of the chains of unrealistic expectations that are self imposed and imposed by others. I pray that we can experience God's true grace and know that our God accepts us and loves us completely. "
So I will continue to be an advocate, share information, resources , encourage others and speak out.
Prayer and therapy are a powerful combination. We always say that God works in multiple and mysterious ways. It’s not mysterious that God can work through a therapist or counselor, who has taken the time to do the study and training. It’s not mysterious that God can work through someone who sees this as what God has called them to do.
“God’s grace isn’t confined to when the situation reaches a resolution and everything works out. God’s miracle is in those who have resolved to accompany you on the journey as you are working it out…however long it takes.”
I believe that God works through therapists and mental health professionals who can accompany us on the journey as we work things out. We're called to be blessings to each other, we are the Body of Christ and the body needs all of the parts to work together. We're called to care and encourage each other.
" Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. " Galations 6:2
To my Sister, I don’t know your name, but last night I cried and prayed for you. Writing this piece is a part of the response and putting legs on the prayer and continuing to be an advocate.
Sheila P. Spencer
Check out this powerful piece "I don't need to "Pray about it" I need to go to therapy."