Sunday, February 6, 2011

Our mechanic who art in heaven...

I came across this picture on CNN's belief blog and had to chuckle after our class discussion on conceptualizations of the counseling process.

One metaphor often used to describe the role of the counselor is that of a mechanic. Dr. Corsini described the counselor-mechanic as a specialist who assesses the "car" (in this case, the client) in order to diagnose and fix the problem in exchange for money.

Simplistic, yes, but many clients view their counselor as an expert who posesses the power to magically make them better. "Tell me what's wrong! Fix me!" they say in so many words. In this role, the counselor takes on the bulk of the responsibility of change. The mechanic-counselor takes out the broken and dsyfunctional parts, replaces them, and "test-drives" the client before putting him or her on the road again.

In Scripture, God describes himself as our Wonderful Counselor. What does this mean? The church sign above assumes a "God as fixer" conceptualization. God finds the broken pieces in your life, takes them out, puts new pieces in so that you are functional, and sends you on your merry way. Is this the Gospel?

Far from it. All metaphors fall short in some way in describing spiritual truths, but "God as mechanic" seems particularly poor in my opinion. God is not content with his children merely being "functional."

Scripture reveals God's goal as transformation. Redemption. Wholeness. Not just coping. Not just "closure" or resolution of past "unfinished business."

"Healing is not the resolution of our past; it is the use of our past to
draw us into deeper relationship with God and his purpose for our lives."

-Dan Allender

God is not just a fixer. He is a transformer. He doesn't just make the car "run," he rebuilds it from the ground up, one piece at a time. We as Christian counselors must be attentive to misconceptions our clients may have about God's role in the healing process.

Without doubt, our God is fully capable of miraculous healings...not just of the body, but of the heart and mind. But, more often than not, God works over time, and in the context of healthy relationships, including the therapeutic alliance between a counselor and client. Many people come to Jesus (or to a Christian counselor) for a "quick fix," failing to realize that the process of healing and transformation is not "magic." Change is hard. It may exhaust us physically, emotionally, and mentally. It may hurt.

Christianity doesn't free us from life's struggles. Far from it! Scripture tells us that "in this world you will have troubles..." (John 16:33) and Jesus himself experienced being "overcome with sorrow" (Mark 14:34). But the Gospel does give us hope, because we know that change, healing, and wholeness are not just a matter of re-programming our thinking or building positive habits.

I say we leave mechanics and "fixing" for the repair shop. And embrace a model of more than functionality: "I am the Lord, your healer" (Exodus 15:26).

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