The Problem is Not the Problem

So I watched a lot of the Discovery Channel this past weekend due to the fact that (a) I don’t have TV at home and (b) I had some time to kill with the in-laws while my husband was with his brother and the rest of the wedding party.

side-note: my husband totally makes fun of me, because when we argue I list out my points like I did above; ie, “Here is why you’re wrong, A, …. B, …, etc”

A couple of the shows we watched were cop type shows (is there a correct term for these?), and they were after specific crimes like illegally being in the US or poaching. While I watched I got a very familiar feeling. I eventually realized this familiarity was coming from the fact that there was always more than what they were looking for in a bust- they would find a man with a warrant out for his arrest as they issued him tickets for using improper barbs on his fish hook (did you know in Monterrey Bay it’s illegal to use barbed fish hooks to catch Salmon, because if they’re not barbed you can still throw them back unharmed when the fish are too small?) or in a poacher’s home they would also find several loaded guns and some meth.

This is all too familiar to my work. A woman comes in for depression and I find that she has a history of sexual abuse and PTSD symptoms from a traumatic childhood. A man comes in for anxiety and I find that he was passed between foster homes as a kid and never knew his father. A couple comes in for help with communication and I find that they have struggled with a miscarriage and infidelity in their past. (fyi, these are composite examples, I’m not using exact, real client histories)

It reminds me of the mother of Family Systems, Virginia Satir, and her famous quote, “The problem is not the problem.”

The problem is not the problem, because all “problems” come from something. Our struggles and pain have a root cause, which means both that we should have grace for others and that that’s where our own work needs to happen.

Makes me wonder which of my “real problems” I am blind to and how they impact others in my life. I guess the benefit of my job is that I’m constantly confronted with mirrors- I do see what I don’t want to happen in my clients sometimes, but I also see myself in my clients sometimes.

I hope I am always searching my heart for that place where I am not giving and receiving love as I should be. Or grace, as Christ has shown me.

And this, of course, leads us to God’s grace. I cannot be fully loving and gracious without receiving the unmerited and unfathomable love and grace that Christ has shown me.

Robert Capon says this about it:
“The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellarful of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred-proof grace–of bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us singe-handedly. The word of the gospel–after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps–suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started…Grace has to be drunk straight: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, nor the flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case.”


And now back to my tub of chocolate-chip cookie dough and gallon of milk.


7 thoughts on “The Problem is Not the Problem

  1. I have been thinking about “When the problem is not the problem”. The sweet statement of “being home before they started” gave me courage to examine my problematic morning somewhat deeper.

    This morning my husband borrowed my truck to take his 65# dog to the vet ….

    When the problem seems to be; Fred lets his big, dirty dog ride on the front seat of MY vehicle, but wouldn’t dream of letting her ride on the front seat of his …
    Could the problem be:
    o Boundaries require constant maintenance and I simply need to s s share my feelings

    When the problem seems to be; Fred insists I go to family celebrations & we all seem to struggle with my presence there …
    Could the problem be:
    o My feelings, not theirs’
    o Their feelings are none of my business
    o There are dynamics here that I SO am not aware of!

    When the problem seems to be: I have to go back to work and have to put my dream of writing back on the back burner … or maybe even … off the stove …
    Could the problem be:
    • I have to let go of my dream of supporting myself by my writing f for now.
    • No one wants to read it anyway
    Could the problem be:
    • I have to learn to tell my story different, find a “voice” that is e easier to listen to?
    • There is more to writing than writing?

    When the problem seems to be; I am mad about Fred moving me out here in the middle of the Wet Mts. (with mt roads & switchbacks), the closest town is 16 mi away, and now he wants me to get a job. (I’d hoped we were moving into town. I told him that if we moved out here, I would not do a daily drive to work.)
    Could the problem be:
    • My “no” is still broke (at least – unheard)
    • I’m really mad that I’m such a people pleaser & continue to s strive to get him to “like” me …
    Could the problem be I’m lazy?!
    o Working might be good for me, tho inconvenient?
    o Get me out of the house
    o Allow me to meet new friends
    o Give me someone to talk to on a regular basis,
     Even if it is just “weather talk”

    When I feel like I need to be invisible so that I don’t annoy people
    Could the problem be:
    • I struggle with people pleasing instead of a God pleasing?
    • That I do not trust myself?
    • That I do not believe God is able to lead me in the way I should go?
    • That I am not trusting myself in knowing who God created me to be?
    o Whether it be a writer
    o Or a cook
    o Or a teacher
    o Or … whatever

    How sweet it is to know, that in all I do – there is grace and hope that helps me to persevere. Could the problem be:
    • That I am born to struggle
    • That struggle fits me for Heaven
    • And that God is with me through it all

    That … maybe I am already home. I am so glad for mercy and divine grace; for help in looking below what the initial irritation to see deeper. I have discovered that the REAL problem is usually something I can work on … because it’s MY problem.

    This was an excellent exercise, Krista. Thank you….

    1. Diane! I love hearing your thoughts and your honesty! You bring up so many daily situations where we all struggle and where I could certainly learn to try to change my perspective as you do above. Thank you so much for your thoughts!!

      1. I really appreciated a place to just think out loud. Thank you for listening, but mostly, thank you for asking the hard questions. You are very good at that! I love that about you.

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