Sunday, 22 March 2009

Counselling: Spiritually Irresponsible?

Another post with a link to another blog post .

I would like to continue the discussion there, but I think the comments section of a post that is now a few posts old might mean fewer readers.

In response to the last comment by Clairebo , I think I need to clarify the question I am asking. I am not saying that everyone needs to have 'Evangelist' as their full job title - of course I am recognising that there are many necessary and noble roles in a society (and a Kingdom). It's also true that most of those still leave room for evangelism among colleagues etc. so a surgeon is not muted from verbal proclaimation of the gospel.

I suppose I am thinking more precisely about the fact that as a counsellor, those verbal opportunities are not there - in fact to take an opportunity in that way would have me listed in the back pages of the BACP journal for professional misconduct. Counselling is also often an isolated role, particularly in private practice where I may not have any other colleagues with whom to verbally proclaim. It's this aspect of the work that I am wrestling with, rather than the nature of the role itself.

If that makes any sense at all, I'd appreciate others' thoughts...


Clairebo said...

Work should not be the *only* place you rely on to meet new people with whom you can share the gospel. Make it your business to befriend all kinds of folks outside of your Christian bubble. Since when is your workplace the only hope to share the gospel with others? I don't know you so am not passing any judgment whatsoever (in fact, I am defending you from yourself here!) but how much time are you taking to get to know your neighbours, the people who work in your local shop etc.?

You are doing good and important work. If you believe that God loves the people you care for, then you need to let go of their spiritual well-being to him. You are not the only Christian that these people will ever meet, and if you are, that is not your responsibility in the context of your work.

Perhaps taking time to pray for each client on a regular basis will give you some peace. Prayer is active kingdom is counselling.

If you are really tortured, work as a counsellor for a church. But frankly it is my belief that the secular world of counselling badly needs Christians right in the heart of it.

OddBabble said...

Thanks Clairebo, this is really helpful.

You're right, work should not be the only place I share the gospel, and for me, that is by no means the case. The idea of being in a Christian bubble makes me feel a bit sick...

I'm aware that my feelings about my vocation are skewed at the moment from a misplaced burden of guilt that I have put on myself. I'm aware it's misplaced, and I want to release myself from it. I just need a bit of help to understand the reality of the situation as opposed to my distorted one. You have helped with this a lot - especially in saying that their spiritual well-being is not my responsibility. I suffer a lot from feeling (wrongly, I know) that the spiritual well-being of everyone I meet is my responsibility. As I write that, I know how bonkers that sounds, but it's one of those annoyingly tenacious feelings that seem to stick around even once you recognise them as wrong. Of course, you are right in saying that prayer is the bridge between the small part of that burden that is right and godly, and the part of it that is ridiculously self-centred and God-shrinking.

I'll be sticking with being a counsellor in the secular world, and you've helped me to feel free to enjoy the fact that God has called me there, gifted me for it, and is the kind of God who wants me to enjoy that instead of feeling guilty for not being a missionary in Kazakhstan, which he knows as well as I do, I would hate and be crap at.

Thanks. I like the Hargadens. :)

Clairebo said...

Your reply is amazing. I am so delighted that you feel encouraged to follow the calling that you have been given. We Christians have a tendency to over-spiritualise these issues, or inversely, under-spiritualise, forgetting that the Spirit is at work in the hearts of those who don't know God. (How else then did we become believers?)

I am sure you are familiar with the well worn hymn "In Christ Alone" and the lyric:

No guilt in life
No fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me

That is my anthem. Your guilt is coming from the deceiver, possibly nurtured by a Christian culture that prays for "missionaries" but forgets that we are all missionaries, even though we work as secretaries, Tesco shop assistants or secular counsellors. Life is a missionfield and we respond to that by the incarnational love of those we meet. I bet, because of your burden of guilt, that you expend quite a lot of energy loving people.

But (and I am preaching to myself) we've got to draw from the living springs of water in order to have something to pour out, otherwise we become totally drained and weighed down.

From The Message:

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

I am trying to have this message implanted in my heart. Sounds like you need it too!

And by the way...I kept my name. I'm a Guider, not a Hargaden. :)

PS Your clients are lucky.