If God and I went to counseling…

“Theology is simply what we think about God and then living that truth out in our right now lives.”
-Sarah Bessey

My “right now life.” I’ll be honest, my day-to-day existence hardly feels like a theology. 8am on Monday morning, you’ll find me flying around my loft, dress mostly buttoned and coffee sloshing out of my mug while I apply mascara and recite to myself, “Tomorrow, you’re going to start waking up at 7, so your mornings feel less rushed.”

However, Sarah’s words carry wisdom. The integrity of any theology always reveals itself in day-to-day practices.

So I’ve been pondering—what truths stitch my life together? What beliefs about God don’t just show up in a prayer, but in my daily conversations and choices?

A couple years ago, I could have written an extensive treatise on my theology. It would have had verse references and footnotes. It would have explored the original Greek and had some G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis quotes. Richard Rohr and Henri Nouwen. A dash of Karl Barth. I probably would have thrown some Rob Bell and Lauren Winner in there too so people got a little bit offended, but not too offended.

There isn’t any treatise today. If I describe my relationship with God right now, I picture it taking place with a therapist in the room and a set of couple’s counseling chairs sitting right next to each other, because our relationship is tense enough that sharing a couch sounds dangerous.

“How do you feel, Katy?” The counselor would ask.

“I don’t trust him.”

“It’s important to speak to God right now, not about him.”

“Fine.” I turn my head and my eyes sear into his, “I don’t trust you.”

And then God would say something gentle, non-defensive, and unnerving like, “I’m sorry.”

He would hold my eyes until someone’s started to water, and I would look away, steadying my breath. He would reengage with something like—“Your tattoo is so striking. Will you tell me the story?”

Of course. The mark on my arm would be easy for him to spot. χαίρειν it reads, beginning near the outside of my wrist …obvious each time I cross my arms in self-protection.

With his divine intuition, we both would know he picked the perfect question.

I have wanted a tattoo in ancient Greek ever since I first started learning the language: it’s poetic and precise, so intentional and rhythmic that even the word order matters. However, I’ve never felt settled in a mark that completely fit me: something I’d be willing to wear even when my skin gets stretched and wrinkly.

Still, the longing has lingered.

As a junior in college, I decided to release my dream of medical school and chase a new, unknown path. My choice completely terrified me, but the courses I had been taking and the internships I was completing were sucking the life right out me. I couldn’t keep performing and striving for a profession that brought me so little joy. So I left, and for the first time in a decade, I wondered what exactly made me worthy if not my achievement and drive.

That year I was still thick in my Greek studies and I would enter class each day flooded, depressed, and questioning. Professor Jansen always welcomed me with a standard greeting from the times of Thucydides and Paul— “χαίρειν, Katy.”

“χαίρειν, Professor Jansen.”

Never once did I stop to ponder the phrase in our daily exchange. In fact, I would not reflect on Professor Jansen’s routine until writing the scene again for my book this last year.

χαίρειν comes from the word χαρα, or joy. You could translate it to mean “Rejoice!”

But there’s more going on with this word than joy. In Greek, the antithesis of joy was not necessarily grief, but condemnation. So χαίρειν, more than extending well wishes, is bestowing blessing and acceptance. I translate it as a declaration: “You are welcome and good.”

χαίρειν means you belong here.

It means your heart is seen and delighted in.

It means you are wanted, exactly as you are.

As I flip through the scenes in my story, it isn’t hard to find the theme: my life is all about this word—receiving and extending it. So for my birthday I had it inked onto my arm.

God would know all of that if he asked about my tattoo in the therapist’s office, which means he would be hoping I would share a more tender part of the truth. Sitting across from him, I would look long and hard at his face before I spoke; he would see the vulnerability pooling in my eyes as the words bunched at my throat.

Then I would answer, “This is why I’m here, holding this relationship with you. You’ve been telling me my whole life that I am welcome and good…and I finally believe you. The message has seeped into my very bones, shaping how I love and making me wonder if I’m a little crazy. I’m disappointed in what you’ve allowed. I long for you to intervene. But whatever happens, you’ve marked me forever, and when it comes to my heart, you’ll always be welcome and good.”

For this season, that’s my day-to-day theology.

DSC_0429Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world.  She’s a 27 year old, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart.  Her favorite creative project right now is called The Someday Writings, and someday, she may let those writings see the light of day.  For now, she shares her thoughts here.