GUARDING YOUR SOUL
“This is to wish you a Merry Christmas, and to again thank you for sticking with me through all my crises.” My psychotherapist wife gets these kinds of messages, not only at Christmas, but throughout the year. This particular writer went on to add a refrain familiar to my wife: “Often, and to my regret, I did not always follow your advice, but never did you abandon me. And I made it. Thanks again.”
Such typical messages could also be sent to the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete means all of the following: One Who Comes in Along Side of, a Comforter, a Counselor, an Advocate. That is good stuff!
This obviously means that if we are giving off the aroma of the Holy Spirit when we are advising people, we too should receive those nice letters. Unfortunately, however, Christians do not always have the type of reputation we would hope for.
The well-known author of The Purpose Driven Life often observes that we have been “a body without arms and legs; just a big mouth--telling others what to do and what we are against.”
As psychotherapists, my wife and I see the heartbreaking damage that judgement and condemnation inflict.
Jesus describes a characteristic of a damaging religious person as follows: Mat 23:4 “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”
Can you tell the difference when you are being approached by “One Who Comes in Along Side,” a Comforter, an Advocate on the one hand and when you are receiving heavy burdens, too grievous to be borne?
I wish everyone knew that they do not have to stay around someone who is laying heavy burdens on them. All they need to do is to remember that the word Gospel means “good news” and if they are not hearing “good news,” they are not hearing the Gospel! They should run for their spiritual lives!
Now please indulge me for a brief psychology lesson. My purpose is to help you understand what it is that creates burdens too grievous to be borne.
This will just be a quick picture of the human personality. The following is not original with me, but I often describe the personality as being made up of tiny slivers; for the sake of a mental picture, think of them as metal slivers.
Have you ever seen tiny metal slivers on a piece of paper with a magnet beneath? If you have not, what happens is that the tiny slivers arrange themselves into a pattern–every sliver in relationship to every other sliver. If you intrude at any point, the entire mass rearranges itself; each staying related to all the others.
It is helpful to think of personality that way. Every experience staying in relationship to every other experience you have or have had. Every experience arranging and rearranging itself in relationship to all the other experiences throughout the day.
The good news is that you can go to bed at night and not be afraid you will come unraveled in your sleep. The bad news is that during the day, every time you are required to change, everything else in your personality has to rearrange itself. (By the way, that is what your dreams are doing for you in the night–trying to put everything in order with everything else.)
Hopefully, most of the changes require minor tinkering.
There is always resistance to change, which is good. Suppose your personality was so fragile that every time a demand was put on it, you came unglued?
We have many statements about what the ungluing process can feel like: We even say “I feel I am coming unglued.” Or, “I’m having a break down.” “I’m losing it.” “I’m cracking up.” Feel free to jump in and add your own favorite expression. Anyway, you know what it feels like to start coming apart under stress.
Therefore, we have to be thankful to God that He did not make our personality so brittle it flies into pieces. Nevertheless, when someone comes at us hard, threatening that we will either lose their love and approval if we don’t change, stress is experienced throughout the entire personality system. If they claim to come in the name of the Lord, now that is real stress.
On the other hand, being with people who operate as the Paraclete does, that is, who recognize our difficulty, come in along side of the parts undergoing change, comforting us with such words as “you can do it.” Then gentle change is possible. With the proper help, there can even be what the Bible calls a metanoia, that is a sudden positive upheaval and rearrangement of the personality over a short period of time.
Fortunately, Jesus gives us permission to dodge the dangerous people when he says: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” Mat 7:6.
Just remember the next time you feel psychologically attacked by someone in the church, run for your spiritual life! Just don’t forget though, JESUS LOVES YOU, HE REALLY DOES! And it was the religious judgmental ones who killed Him.
Friday, December 29, 2006
GUARDING YOUR SOUL