During this past winter my young daughter proudly brought me a piece of paper on which she had written a recipe. I have transcribed it below exactly as she submitted it to me:
|Sauce Rolls by Chef Keziah||another food from Yummy|
Here are the facts: Keziah has obviously been around cooks or chefs and has gleaned fragments of the baking process. She seems to know that she needs the base of flour, salt and eggs in some combination. She also knows there is some obligatory mixing and baking involved. But what are the appropriate ingredient proportions? How much milk does she need? Will a teaspoon of garlic salt on each roll be a little overpowering? Did the recipe ever mention actually forming and shaping the rolls? And I suspect that 5 minutes at 350° will deliver undercooked bread. I did not try the recipe as submitted. Why? Because I bake bread weekly and I know better! I would get a bread product (provided I used flour and not flower) but perhaps not what Keziah is expecting or imagining.
I have counselees enter sessions with spiritual ‘recipes’ very similar to the one penned above, especially the younger generation. They’ve been around the Christian faith just long enough to understand the basic ingredients of ‘God is love’, and that the Bible has formulas for how to produce some desirable life outcomes. For example, “I pray and God gives me things.” “I’m supposed to love and be loved in return.” “I attend church some Sundays and give money and God will take care of me.” There’s some praying, worship and serving in there too. But what are the appropriate proportions and how do these disciplines actually help them shape life? Exactly how long does this concoction have to brew or bake before it delivers the desired delight? It doesn’t take very many sessions to see why their ‘recipe’ isn’t going to work.
When I saw Keziah’s recipe for sauce rolls I snickered and thought to myself, “I need to take her to the kitchen and not simply demonstrate the process, but talk to her about the equipment, ingredients and process until she has a thorough understanding from start to finish. Her simple observation is not enough. I need to say something, model something and have her practice in my parental (wakeful) presence.”
We must have a similar paradigm for our counselees, save the snickering. We must help counselees think past simply the facts of the Christian faith and their casual observations. The method must be gentle, timely and patient but nevertheless firmly employed. There are pertinent components that are missing and the interaction of the various disciplines must be understood and practiced. Their exposure to the Word, the explanation of its application and the employment of examples to work on during the week must all integrate and become normalized. Then we will see the desired, beautiful God-honoring fruit. Here are just a few examples:
As mentioned above, a basic ingredient for many counselees is that God is love, but what’s the “explanation and employment” (takeaway) from that? This truth should not simply give me a warm fuzzy feeling of Him having eyes only for me. It should remind me of a cross on a hill that was meant for me but occupied by a gift that was bursting with genuine love. Therefore this basic ingredient of loves compels me to respond with my life and full devotion to whatever He says.
Another basic bit of exposure I hear is that God answers prayers, but what are the takeaways from that? His faithful response is more than granting my Christmas wish list. God’s answer to my prayer is intricately tied to His glory and my good, simultaneously. Prayer should remind me that He is always with me and that it is a privilege to establish continued daily dependence on Him.
In sequence with the basics above, counselees will say that the Bible is an intriguing, sacred work with interesting stories, but what are the takeaways from that? Certainly it is not so delicate and sacred that it cannot be employed! The Bible has some “bite” to it, if you will. It’s radiant, rigorous and riveting. The Word of God is alive, inspiring, commanding and refreshing. I should approach it and read it differently than I read other texts! God forbid that I should approach it with such a mild attitude. I should come to it exclaiming “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things in your word” (Psalm 119:18).
It takes quite an investment to bring the basic truths out of the sky and give them true feet in the lives of counselees. I’d like to share one last story with you as an example of moving truth from levitation to ambulation:
Some years ago, one of my other daughters came to my room to ask me if I could put a night light in her bedroom. Since she’d been sleeping just fine without one for 10 years this piqued my curiosity. I had to press the issue. On the previous night, she had a bad dream that really disturbed her and made her afraid of the dark. How suddenly our fear can overtake us! My mind quickly started pacing. More than anything I wanted her to know how to find solace in the Lord. Exposure, Explanation, Employment. How could I use her everyday struggles to help her rely on her Lord and Savior more? How could I use this opportunity to show her that God has indeed ‘given us everything we need for life’ and it’s not just a nice saying to quip? My reliable Lord brought back a verse to my memory; I used the same one as a teenager when I couldn’t sleep, Psalm 4:8:
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord make me dwell in safety
We read it together and made special note of how it says God alone makes me lie down in safety – not God and the night light. Just to clarify, I don’t think plugging in the night light is sin; I just wanted to bring attention to her faithful God so that I could teach her more about biblical application. It was exhilarating. At first she didn’t buy it! I had to bring in some more Scripture like Psalm 23 to help her see how He leads, nourishes and protects us. She softened and said “OK, I’ll try God but if it doesn’t work, can I try the night light tomorrow night?” We both prayed concerning her dreams and fear of the dark. I encouraged her to cry out to the God who loves us. I pleaded with her to choose Christ first and she did. God beat the night light! It took more time from my personal agenda that night, but it was a delight to teach her about God’s faithfulness this way.
The drive to move counselees from exposure and explanation to employment doesn’t always work out that smoothly. Sometimes the counselee does not soften, and sometimes I cannot think of the perfect clincher verse. I believe what God is looking for, though, is the counselor to be open to examining recipes—first their own, then the counselee’s. Let’s look for more opportunities to refine our own recipes and teach others about the true application of God’s Word and His character.