It’s been two years since I wrote my first blog post for Estuaries, which reflected on challenges I had experienced nearly two years prior. Since then, quite a bit has happened in my life: I received my license as a clinical psychologist; I started my own business—twice; and my husband and I moved from Palo Alto to San Jose. An abundance of positive changes have happened for us.
In the midst of all this, this year has also been the hardest of my adult life. My last two posts nod to those difficulties, including a deep sin I became aware of a year ago and the “rot” I needed to prune from my soul. Even since my last post in February, more turmoil has come up in my personal life.
Image credit: Al Case / Flickr
In this season, I can sometimes be tempted to pray something like this to God: “Hey God, I see that you’re caring for me in the midst of this hard season. But it’s lasted awhile and I’m kind of done dealing with hard stuff, so could you please end it so I can learn my lesson and finally get my life back together?”
As a therapist I often work with individuals like me: people who “have it together” based on outward appearances, but maybe feel like things aren’t going so well. I often encourage people in this space to build a healthy support system and then allow themselves to “fall apart.” I advise them to lean into their supports as they fall—like those trust falls from childhood camp.
Time and again, I’ve seen that acknowledging we can’t do everything by ourselves and asking for help is one of the most difficult things for us to do as human beings. Part of the roadblock is the fear that if we fall apart there won’t be anyone to catch us. Most often, we don’t let ourselves fall apart until we feel we have absolutely no other options.
This past year, my personal life has been upturned so much that I feel like I’m constantly falling apart into my community. Except unlike a trust fall where I’m set firmly back on my feet after my friends catch me, it seems I’m getting propelled forward into a continuous trust fall. If anything, the experience feels more like crowd-surfing.
Crowd-surfing is usually seen as an adrenaline-packed experience of trust falling into a large crowd (often at a concert) and being passed along over people’s hands as though you’re surfing on an ocean of people.
The thing is, I feel like I’ve been crowd-surfing for a while, and I’m feeling ready to be set back down again. During this time of perpetually having to lean on community, I’m having trouble getting work done, especially when it comes to areas of ministry in which I need to be present to my own heart. The prayers of others have taken me deeper into grief over how messy things are right now.
And, of course, my close friends are repeatedly encouraging me to fall apart—to slow down, to take space, to be less productive, to let other people carry me. Somehow, letting my community speak these encouragements over me helps me feel safer and experience the joys that come with crowd-surfing. Rather than being afraid that someone might drop me, I am grateful for how long I’ve been carried along by my friends without being dropped.
One of my favorite parts about the crowd-surfing analogy is that, at a concert, people are generally propelled toward the stage, in the direction of what everyone in the crowd is there for. The person surfing the crowd has a high, upfront investment of trust falling into the crowd (or asking a friend for a boost over the crowd) but then can simply enjoy the ride while others propel them forward.
Similarly, this season of letting other people carry me is drawing me closer to God. I’m pretty sure I would otherwise be passively lying down by myself without moving. Or maybe I would be slowly trudging away from the concert, and away from the stage, on my own.
Though I imagine it would be much easier if I could have everything together and not need other people to move toward God, the challenging and uncomfortable journey of leaning into community has strengthened my relationships in a way that likely wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. I’m grateful for this season of community in the midst of needing to fall apart and letting others carry me for a time. It allows me to draw closer to God at a time when I don’t know how to do that by myself.
Marie Fang has attended The River since 2012 and serves as worship coordinator. Before moving to the Bay Area, Marie was involved in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and at Coast Vineyard Church in San Diego. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology, is a licensed clinical psychologist, and works part-time at a Christian practice.
Marie and her husband, Daniel, have been married since 2009. Marie is passionate about learning to love those who are frequently unloved and guiding others in their journey of developing a healthy sense of identity.