Sitting in the Tension

Judy Cintron - Director of Restoration | Real Life Ministries Texas, Tomball, TX

Becky and her husband had been looking for a church home. They stopped going to church during Covid and their combined anxiety and her history of addiction made them leery of being judged by church people. They knew Jesus and knew they needed to be in church, but it was hard to start over at a new church home.

I chatted with her after church and offered to meet with her that next week. As she unpacked her story, she cried after every few sentences. She was anxious, depressed, and lonely.

As I listened to her and asked her some follow-up questions. I wanted her to feel heard. She had a lot to say, and she had lived a very hard life. I couldn’t change the past, or make it go away, but I could listen, look her in the eyes and be present. I could see some of the weight that she had been carrying lifted as she continued to talk, and I continued to listen. Near the end of our conversation, I asked her the simple question, what are the good things in your life? It took her a bit of time to come up with a few good things, but as she listed them you could she more weight lifted. They were simple, small things, but she identified that there was some good in her life.

We have been meeting weekly for a month now, she smiles more, and she cries less. We continue to list the good things…and that list is growing. There are still a lot of hard things to process together. I have hurt for her, cried with her, sat in silence with her…I don’t ever try to “fix” her with scripture or common sense. I wait till she asks me “what do I think.” I confirm that she really wants to know what I think, and I give her a practical, non-judgmental answer about how God has worked in my life and how he can do the same for her. Together we come up with a next step that is realistic and attainable for the week. We don’t get too far ahead; we want the goal or behavior change to be attainable for the week.

The next meeting, we go through the daily devotional book I gave her, ask her how she is doing and discuss the goal she set the week before, and we end with the question, “What is good in your life?” Sometimes she can celebrate the goal that was accomplished; sometimes we talk about why the goal was not met and what happened to cause her to not be able to accomplish it. I encourage her, listen to her, and together we make a plan to try again.

The only way for this to be sustainable is for her to see that her new behaviors can replace old ones. The most important part of this process is that she makes the goal or change in behavior, not me. It is her goal not mine. If I give it to her, I would be “fixing.” I prefer to let the Holy Spirit work in her life. He does a far better job than I could.

She thanks me every time we finish our 45-minute time together. I marvel at how good God is and how little I did or said, and how powerful our time together was. God also amazes me when we are willing to just sit in the tension with others.

by Judy Cintron – Director of Restoration
Real Life Ministries Texas
Tomball, TX