“My job is not to solve people’s problems or make them happy, but to help them see the grace operating in their lives.”
— Eugene H. Peterson
Therapy and the pastoral process can seem to be purposed in healing people through addressing their issues, but that is both the right and wrong motive and outcome. It’s right if that’s the goal. But it’s wrong if that’s the method.
If we acknowledge that God’s Spirit is the healer, and the person who receives healing is simply a vessel for which God’s grace is to be poured, we will get out of the way. Yes, the pastoral therapist is nimble enough to get out of the way of God’s Spirit.
We will step gently with the person in the exploration of their issues with them, asking poignant questions at the right times to highlight their life as a mirror before them.
Because we have no idea what the Holy Spirit is doing, we have to develop such a respectful acuity for how to hold the moment. Such a process is contingent on trust. Every step and moment requires constant patient trust – it’s about being continually mindful, which can severely stretch the resources of our concentration.
The process of mindful concentration is helped if we see each moment as eternal.
As a person isn’t ‘fixed’ and as we refuse to mollify them – to not make them happy as if they even know what they want (most people have no idea what therapy can do for them) – we have the opportunity to take people deeper into their experience of being and their concept of themselves.
When a person can see grace operating in their life, they see God’s perfect fingerprints all over the work of art that is their life.
Such a revelation makes anyone feel special, unique, honoured, and privileged. Why would a person settle for being ‘fixed’ – to walk out with “Do A, B, C, then D” – when they could walk out with the key to their own soul?
Pastors and therapists can give the people they help so much more than good advice. They offer a unique relationship where God’s safe grace invites vulnerability; where courage can emerge, trust is implicit, and healing truths can be pondered and held in the mind’s eye.
The pastoral heart has a warmer, bolder, truer vision for the person receiving ministry than that person presently has for themselves. Therapy is a gift of God’s revelation, personally discovered and meaningful, facilitated by the pastoral therapist. And revelation is all about grace.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.