Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Our Prodigal Counselor

"So he returned home to his father.  And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming, and was filled with loving pity and ran and embraced him and kissed him." - Luke 15:20

I was sitting in the counselor's office, fidgeting and wishing I could end the session by jumping out the fourth story window to my left.  "This is not good," I was thinking, "Just breathe Phil, just breathe."

I experienced what I believe to be the "old school" counselor yesterday.  She was one that had me diagnosed as "Bi-Polar" even before I stepped in her office (due to their pre-screening question and answer) and looked at me as a problem and not a person.

If any of you have ever experienced this, I want to express my sincerest condolence.  It can be a really painful and is dehumanizing experience.

By the end of my appointment with her, I didn't even know her name, and I barely new mine.  She was so impersonal, and most of the time was spent either listening to her lecture, or watching her write my responses to her questions onto her big yellow notepad.  Her hand-writing was impossibly slow and neat, and made for really long and painful silences, in which I tried to slow my pulse.

I don't think counselors are supposed to make you mad.  I know they are to hold up a mirror and that can be a disturbing thing, especially as we looked at some of our sin struggles and baggage.  But I think counselors are supposed to build repore and trust, and seek to help in any way they can.

But this counselor had another perspective entirely.  I was in her office to do her bidding.  I was a mess that needed to be cleaned up.  I was problem late on a Tuesday afternoon that she needed to be done with before she went home.

She was from New York, and perhaps this had something to do with her blunt and confrontational approach.  And I know that I'm a pretty awful sinner, and don't deserve grace.  But this lady didn't have any.

By the end of my time with her, I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach, and a huge weight had been thrown onto my back.  On the way home, I called Melissa and said, "If ever there was a counselor who might tempt you to drive into a telephone pole after a session, this would be the one."

And I guess what this counselor tapped in me was my fear of exposure.  The fear that people would truly know me and despise me.  After all, she seemed to despise me.  She made me feel like a wretch.

I've been thinking a lot about our sin condition recently, especially when I tuck little David into bed at night and whisper the words that "I love you and am so proud of you.  You are a strong and very good boy David."

I often question the "very good" part of our mantra.  But last night it came together a bit more for me.  God does pronounce us "very good."  He died so that we could be reconciled to him, because he saw something very good in us that he wanted to redeem.

Sure we have nothing morally good to add to our salvation.  That's where we often go askew.  But when God tucks us in at night, he whispers how good we are.  How we are made in his good image.  How we are furiously loved and delighted in.  He whispers that he is proud.  And he's lavish in his praise.

That's what I don't get about the parable of the prodigal son.  The father is filled with loving pity, runs out to meet him, embraces him and kisses him.  He shows the son radical physical acceptance.  Tangible stuff that rather than exposes, covers.

The way of the world is the way of my current counselor (I'm going to be looking for another one).  But the way of God is one of steadfast love and mercy.  I for one am very, very thankful.  Because I don't want to jump out of any fourth story windows.