Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Princess, Two Parables, and a Modern Day Psychologist

As some of you know, I am pursuing a master’s degree in Human Services with an emphasis in Marriage and Family. Basically that means I am taking a bunch of counseling courses but not enough to get my license...but my reasons behind choosing such a seemingly silly degree is a whole 'nother rant. No, the reason I bring this up is because currently I am reading a book for class titled Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality by Dr. Mark McMinn (sounds impressive, eh?). It's actually a super interesting book, and I am really enjoying it. But what I am surprised by most, is how God is using it to teach me. He is slamming me with stuff every chapter, and none of it has to do with how to be a better counselor! Well, not directly anyway. Rather, He is using this book to teach me about needing Him, and how this simple concept has EVERYTHING in the world to do with salvation and life in Christ.

It has been blowing. my. MIND. So I thought I would share!

Let me start with a basic statement: the ideal goal of counseling is for the client to experience healing. So, it follows that a counselor should desire for their relationship with their client to a "healing relationship"...obviously. Congrats by the way, you have read in two lines, what it has taken some professors and entire graduate level course to say...No, I'm kidding, but sometimes it feels that way, haha. ANYWAY- that's the basic premise of Dr. Mark McMinn's counseling model.

Dr. McMinn states though, that in order for a "Healing Relationship" to be achieved, the client must be brought to a place where they have two things: 1. a healthy sense of self and 2. a healthy sense of need. Once the client is able to see themselves in a healthy light, and is to a point where they can say, "I need help!" they are in a position to actually progress towards healing!

Where God made this model relevant to me, was when Dr. McMinn pointed out that the model stated above is the same model needed to enter into a "Healing Relationship" with Christ! Before I can accept the healing love, forgiveness and salvation from Christ I have to first, have a healthy sense of who I am (a fallen child of God, loved by God but separated from Him), and second, have a healthy sense of my need for salvation (I can do nothing on my own to save myself and restore myself to Him, I desperately need Christ to bridge that gap)!

It's so simple, but it literally blew my mind. The moment God slapped me with this, I shut my book (a little too dramatically) and looked over to T.J. and said "YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT I JUST LEARNED!"...I then proceeded to babble for 20 minutes before TJ had a chance to say, "umm... cool! You should write that down."

It's not that I never thought of this before, but suddenly, it was personal. See, when I tell my testimony, I always bring up the parable of the Prodigal Son, not because I identify with the Prodigal son, but because I identify with his brother. If you remember, the father in the story had two sons, and he gave them both an early inheritance. One son, the Prodigal...we'll call him Pete for fun, Pete decides to go to Vegas and spend his inheritance on strippers and McDonalds. The brother, Steve, decides to stay and work for the father. Steve never leaves the father's land. As we all know, Pete comes back, and the father runs to hug him and then throws a huge party for his long lost son. Steve's only line in the whole story is, "I've been with you (the father) this whole time, I've done everything you asked and never disobeyed you and you never so much as roasted a lamb in my honor...but now, Pete McShady comes back and you throw him the party of the year?!"....

I am ashamed to admit that I identified with Steve. I was always a little resentful of the kids who spent years doing drugs and having sex and all those fun things and then came back to God and experienced a closer relationship with Him than me! Me, who had never done anything wrong and always tried to do what was right, and yet never felt as connected to God as those other kids seemed to. This week was the first time I truly understood why that was. Those kids, the Pete's of the world, come back to Christ with a healthy sense of their need for Him. They hit rock bottom, or just stop in their tracks, and realize how far they have gone and how vital it is they come back. They desperately need Christ in a very visible way.

I, on the other hand, had never really had a reason to acknowledge my desperate need for Christ to save and forgive me. My sins are less visible than abusing drugs, and while I do sin (ALL THE TIME) I can pretend I don't. So...I can pretend I don't need Christ as much as the falling down drunk does. This would be FALSE, of course. But, my point is, what was keeping me from truly entering into a close, intimate relationship with Christ, despite years of bible study and "being good" was that I had never really acknowledged my desperate need for Him.

I know this sounds weird, but Christ alluded to this when He told the parable of  of the Rich Man. Jesus said that famous line, "I tell you it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mathew 19:24). Prior to this, I had always thought the reason Christ said it was difficult for rich people to get into heaven was because they would never be able to love Christ more than they love their possessions. I thought it was their obsessive materialism that kept them out. But, I don't think that's it. I think the reason it is difficult for rich people to enter the kingdom of heaven is because they are so comfortable they don't think they NEED a savior and so, will never ask to be saved. Why fix it if it ain't broke?

So what does that mean for those of us who are rich? And I don't just mean monetarily rich, I mean, richly blessed. I am richly blessed. I have been blessed beyond reason with a loving family, a loving husband, and no real instances of lasting pain- I am truly, richly blessed, though I deserve none of it. But, if I'm not careful, I could go my whole life comfortable but not ever truly entering into a "healing" intimate relationship with Christ. I believe the trick to avoiding this can be found in one of my favorite fairy tales: The Princess and the Pea.

The prince in the story was for a True Princess to marry. To test all of the "princesses" that came to apply for the job, the prince stacked a hundred mattresses on top of each other and placed a small pea in between two of the mattresses. The prince knew that only a true princess would feel the pea despite all the luxurious mattresses she was laying on. He was right, and eventually found his true princess. The End. *Hooray!*

We need to be those kinds of princesses. Let's face it, living in middle class America, we may never know what it is to go hungry, or be cold or worse, to have our joy stolen. However, we need to be able to recognize that despite the rich comfort of our lives, something is wrong in us and we desperately need Christ to save us. Without that sense of need, we lose out on the greatest comfort of all: intimacy with our King.