Receiving the Message Pastoral Counseling as Conduit
So, in my last blog, I sort of jogged around the idea of Pastoral Counseling being an avenue for God to work through the counselor and the client in ways that help both of them grow in faith and in health. I mean for this blog to be a continuation of that, but to highlight another avenue of how Pastoral Counseling calls the counselor to be closer to God through the vessel of the client’s experience’s. First, as you will find is typical of me, I will offer a real life example.
No too long ago, I went through a struggle of my own, involving much anxiety, doubt and the feeling of disconnection from and the feeling of being unloved by God Himself. (Important distinction. In my brain, I knew I wasn’t unloved by God, I just felt that way.) This was a particularly rough time for me, having to try and create my own feelings of love and situations in which I could receive tangible evidence that God and those in my life really truly loved me.
Fast forward a few months–a few, agonizing months–at which point I had tried basically everything I was comfortable trying to do in order to even feel consistently content with my own life. The sessions I held in those months with clients at work were helpful and therapeutic for sure, but I noticed a passive resistance to include faith or religion in treatment, mostly because I didn’t believe I was credible enough or capable of offering that kind of support, since I felt it lacking in myself in general. Months and months filled with prayers asking for any sort of recognition from God had gone by and I was literally aching for any small hint that would convince me my prayers weren’t in vain.
Not knowing how else to handle my anxiety, I finally reached out to a close friend, one whom I knew would be able to assuage my anxiety and affirm and evaluate the doubts I had been having about myself, and how loved I was. And she did, rather tactfully, provide me with validation, affirmation and peace of mind that what my anxiety had been telling me was wrong. Most importantly, she convinced me that I was loved by God and those whom I was close to.
This definitely improved my outlook on life, and removed my anxiety completely. However, something was still missing. I was feeling much better, but not complete.
Fast forward a month or so, which at this point was several days ago. I had one individual session scheduled for the day as the rest of my work schedule wouldn’t allow me to see anyone else. A young man I have been counseling for several months, who has been clean of drug use–his presenting problem–for over 4 months and making incremental strides in his recovery, and dealing with his own self doubt self esteem, came to my office and began telling me of his weekend, which involved a funeral for his uncle who had lived a whole year longer than he was told he would by his doctors.
Midway through his story, he stopped and said, “Oh, and I have some things for you!” He reached into his hoodie pocket and pulled out two things: A small wooden disk, with tree bark still around it, and a small corked bottle with a tiny seed in it. He explained to me that his uncle had been struggling with his own self doubt and particularly the feeling of being unloved by God.
Toward the end of his life he had supposedly found peace in God and came to really feel that love he always believed in but never felt. At his funeral, these two items–the slide of tree, which had the words “You are loved” handwritten in the center, and the seed, a small mustard seed in a bottle, were given out as a sign of remembrance for his uncle and as a reminder of what his uncle would have wanted to share with others.
My client finished his story by explaining that, although he wasn’t particularly religious, he believed those two things were something I should have, and that he had made sure to pick them up particularly for me, since he wanted me, personally, to have the message.
As I write this part, I admit I get the shivers thinking about how gripping this moment was. This young man had no idea how “religious” I am, or would like to be, and he certainly had no way of knowing my personal struggle with these exact problems–seriously, the exact same issues–and yet he felt the need to transfer this message to me personally.
If my point in this entry isn’t clear, I don’t know how to better explain it. The counseling I do is, for lack of better term, secular and not within a pastoral setting. However, God found me there, through a client who was reportedly not very much into “that kind of thing.” How much more easily, swiftly, and powerfully can God find someone, client or counselor, in Pastoral Counseling? I can’t imagine.