As I say in the Behavioral Observation unit this past week, I began to have something arise in my heart that I hadn’t felt in years. I began to have a passion for an idea and purpose that I hadn’t felt in a long time, but that will take some discernment over the next few weeks.
For the first few days I was relatively quiet and to myself, but I observed the other patients and watched how they acted and interacted with others. However, I eventually began to open up and engaged them in conversation, listening to their stories. I began to see and hear stories of heartache, of mental illness, or feelings like one is at the end of their resources. Amidst it, I heard many of them talk about Jesus and how He was guiding them.
To that end, I began to feel a passion begin to burn within me. I have a therapist’s heart, as I longed to help these people see the route towards a more whole life as they follow Jesus. Now, it may not seem like it if you know people personally, as I can come across as a bit like an analytical and somewhat socially reserved, but the stories of people’s struggles and hope to have a better life touch me in a way that many of the other life stories that I hear from others do not grab me at the heart. Perhaps its touches me because of my own life with its struggles, while at the same time having a mother as a psychiatrist who taught me about dealing with the struggles of life.
This therapist’s heart has been buried deep within my heart that had been plastered over with analysis and dissociation from the pains in my heart. Yet, when I think about analytic philosophy, I think of it like therapy for the heart, helping people to see the important things that they have missed. When I think about Jesus I think of a Great Therapist who healed with a power far beyond anything available to humans. When I think about Paul’s letters, I see a man who amidst the worship of Christ through the Spirit striving to help people to realize the right way to life one’s life before God that would reap therapeutic benefits in people’s lives. Even though Jesus and Paul were not therapists in the modern sense where introspection and talk therapy are the two key cornerstones, their lives and teaching exhibited a therapeutic telos, seeking to free people from the burdens they live under the oppressive religious teachings and autocratic political control.
For me, then, it seems to me that therapy is the passion of my heart. Not necessarily to simply be a therapist in the traditional sense of the term today, but rather a fresh bringing of the Gospel and the Christian message to the way we seek personal healing through the worship of the Triune God. My studies in exegesis and theology have taught me that many of the traditions we have presented about living the Christian life doesn’t always square away with a close reading of Jesus, Paul, etc., and that my understanding of psychology has helped me to see that many of these traditions may in some cases cause more harm than good when the traditions are taken as the firm knowledge we have about following Jesus rather than signposts that help us to make sense of the Scriptures. My therapeutic heart wants to help people become free from the burdensome aspects of these religious traditions and to show them the simple way of Jesus, even as the way of following Jesus can be difficult at times.
I say this autobiographically as I am convinced that part of the reason that my healing from my trauma was delayed was the way I used my religious understanding to try to fix the problems. Insofar as religion was a system that I thought mastery of would help to repair me rather than a way of life lived by faith, my religion got in the way more than it helped. In many ways, these past few years have been a pulling the veil of religiosity back. Seeing that even as Jesus is the source of life and true religion that is concerned about those is needy is life-giving, religion often has a way of messing things up psychologically and spiritually.
So, my heart, my vision, my hopes for the future are becoming fixated on bringing a vision for Christian therapy and healing that is in line with my refined reading of the New Testament from the past few years. This vision puts more education back on the table, but at the same time, it also takes me towards the part of being a pastor that I increasingly found joy in over time: helping people in their own struggles to find the pathway that God has set before them. I want to help the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek come to have a fresh desire for righteousness, to find the place or mercy in their lives, to seek to come to a place of purity of heart, and to become the peacemakers that God calls us to become.
So, we’ll see, God willing, what comes of this. I have much discern over the coming days, weeks, and months and I would covet your prayers as I do this.