You’ll often hear me say “Everyone needs counseling.” That may sound strange; it may sound unbiblical; it may sound extreme. But I’m convinced.
One of my favorite movies is Lars and the Real Girl. Have you seen it? It’s a strange premise, and you may feel really uncomfortable as the movie starts out. But I assure you, nothing bad happens. Trust me. Lars introduces his new girlfriend – who is actually a mannequin. His family and community now have to deal with this crazy behavior, and they’re not sure how to handle it. What’s going on with Lars? Why won’t he just be normal? Why is he doing this?
We all have a story to tell – just like Lars. However, I’ve found that most of us have difficult knowing, understanding, appreciating and working through that story. Our stories are covered up with our own sins and failures, things we’ve done and done to us. We protect people. We try to survive, to make sense of the world as best we can.
The Bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure – who can understand it? The heart is mysterious and deep. Yet we often treat our lives and hearts so simply. Stop sinning. Stop that bad behavior. Believe differently. Develop good habits. It’s a truth and behavior matrix, and one that I think ultimately harms people because that’s not really the way people work and it’s not how they work things out.
So what’s the deal with counseling?
Really counseling is just talking to someone. The deal with counseling is that one person is doing most of the listening. It’s not a shared conversation, at least not like you usually think of one. We don’t trade back and forth. I’m there to talk about me. I know that and you know that, and that’s the bulk of the time. So I have to talk.
A great counselor listens well. He or she asks questions that help me understand myself. They help me make connections that had been previously hidden. They help me understand my story and how eventually perhaps by God’s grace how that story can be found in God’s forgiveness, or reconciliation, or rest or his providence or moving into fear and risk with him beside me.
Some people are natural counselors without that title. Some pastors do it well. Some friends are great insightful listeners. But others dismiss too easily, or prescribe too readily, or love behavior modification too devotedly.
Eventually Lars’ girlfriend Bianca has to go. He doesn’t need her any more. He was loved well. He was cared for. He understood his story in a new way, and he had far more hope and joy than when we first met him at the beginning. Everyone needs counseling. I did. I do. You do. You have a story to tell that you don’t fully understand and someone needs to listen to you so you can unravel it for us.