In this process I have been joined by a blog reader who does her own writing, research and ruminating on similar subjects. This week she shared some powerful words from Larry Crabb's book, Soul Talk. :
Every person who relates with people - whether as coach, counselor, spiritual director, therapist, pastor, elder, caregiver, spouse, parent, friend or mentor - needs to speak Soul Talk. And that means we must stop talking so quickly out of what we think we know and learn to lead with our ears...If we learn the discipline of silence as we engage in conversation and think passion as we quietly listen, perhaps we'll spend less energy figuring out what to do as experts and more energy allowing the powerful life of Christ to surface within us and be released in the words we speak. We'll leave behind the sandy foundation of expert knowledge and savvy wisdom and build instead on the solid rock of divine energy, on the foundation of life with the Trinity.
Crabb's message is the key to this process is to experience and function out of our own brokenness. We don't need to become superhuman and expert, we just need to come alongside and be human and listening to the hearts of others, and sharing as we are led once we have permission to look in on their stories.
I recall a similar message in one of our texts for the foundational course in Christian counselling, William Kirwan's Biblical Concepts for Christian Counseling. He bemoaned the lack of empathy, genuineness and warmth in much Christian counselling, the prevalence of Job's counsellors who label people's issues and say "There you are!" instead of asking, like God in the garden asked Adam and Eve, "Where are you?". He urged us to ask the right questions and listen for the true answers about where people are, allow them to speak for themselves and be part of the process of solving their own problems:
Good listening helps to keep the counselor's responses close to the counselee's feelings and experiences, permitting corrections of any misunderstanding the counselor may have. The active listener is open to being corrected. When answering the counselor's question, "Where are you?" the counselee must have the freedom to correct any misapprehensions by saying, "No, not there; I am over here." Often such freedom is not allowed in Christian counseling. The counselee's problems are forced into preconceived molds or categories. The theological points made by the counselor may be accurate, precise, and even profound, but they still may not fit the counselee's problems. If the counselor is to know the right doctrine to apply (as Jesus always did), it is essential to understand exactly where the counselee is. (p. 140)
Furthermore, as my blog reader friend Magda said so well, we need our wounds to help us become better healers and helpers: "The wounded heart listens differently than the person who has never experienced pain, either in reality or through denial."
We do not need to be afraid of suffering, of wounds, or of not having the answers for others. We just need to come to others in our own brokenness, with our wounded hearts and Christ's open wounded hands, and open our ears before we open our mouths.