Have you had the experience of looking at a picture of yourself from several years back and being shocked by how young you looked?
I look at pictures of me and my friends from our college years now and think, “look at those little freshmen babies... I feel old now”.
I said last week that counseling can act like a mirror that helps you to see yourself more clearly. I talked about how pointing out relational blind spots is one way that can be true, but that's not the only way. The helpful insights from counseling aren't always about ways you didn't realize you were messed up. Sometimes, they're about ways you didn't realize you were growing!
Though you may look at pictures from years ago and feel old, you don't notice the incremental changes happening as you look in the mirror day after day. For the most part it still just looks like you. This is why parents mark their kids' height on a wall, so the child can see evidence that they are in fact growing up little by little.
In the same way we can often miss the ways that we are growing, not just physically but relationally, emotionally and spiritually. In a lot of important areas of personal growth, it can feel like we end up going in circles and are constantly finding ourselves struggling with the same thing or learning the same lesson.
For example, I often struggle to trust God to provide while still being faithful in my responsibilities. I tend to get worrisome and controlling and take emotional responsibility for things that are outside my control. I've learned many times that my worrying is not necessary and that it doesn't help anyone, but I still struggle with it. I'm sure you can think of things like this in your own life as well. If that was the whole picture, things could feel pretty futile and discouraging.
But that's not the whole picture! Even though I'm not yet where I desire to be, I'm no longer where I was. I bet the same is true for you. Sometimes we need somebody to highlight the ways that we've grown. And that can give us energy to keep going, making the small daily changes that add up to long-term growth.
When you're struggling with depression, just getting out of bed and checking a couple things off your to-do list is a huge step forward. When you're struggling in your marriage, every little moment of connection and understanding is something worth celebrating because it took work to set aside the hostility. But the struggles make it easy to overlook those things, which is why you need an ally to remind you what's true and keep cheering you on.