Larry Crabb wrote, Understanding People, that helped me create categories and lenses through which I viewed people early in my ministry life. This post is not a rejection of Crabb’s ideas. Rather, it is an addition to them.
I want to get a tattoo of a “&” somewhere yet to be determined. During one of my first “reading groups” at seminary, I realized that “and” needed to achieve a place of prominence in my thinking as I pondered life. I knew I served the God of “the and,” but didn’t know why it mattered. My philosophy crush, Dr.Esther Meek helped me understand why it’s important to posit that God is “the God of the &,” Nothing has been more life-giving, and door opening for my mind than Dr Meek’s thinking about thought. It shifted, not only my relationship with the written Word of God but the entirety of my relationship with the God who gave the Word to us. Additionally, her epistemology helps me explore souls. Dr. Meek created and then flung doors open so I could explore worlds previously unknown, in ways I never considered; enjoying a growing relational knowledge that morphs when love requires it.
While I realize why Crabb’s publishers came up with the title for his book, the idea of “understanding people” is a hindrance to love. If I am merely trying to understand you, I am not free to love you or enter into a relationship with you. Borrowing from Martin Buber, attempting to understand you means that I am objectifying you. Though it may seem like I am straining at gnats. And, I might be doing exactly that, I need to do it because, as a pastor, I objectified people for much too long. This does not mean that I don’t want to have ways to think about people. I need categories and lenses to help me make sense of things and love people, but I will never “master” people, as the term “understanding” suggests.
I am a synthesizer of information and I’ve never synthesized more than during the past three years of study. I told my Psychopathology professor and mentor, Dr. O’Donnell Day — who holds a more detailed blueprint for the human mind in her heart than I could hope to learn in the 25 years of the ministry work life I have left — that I didn’t understand much of what she taught from September until February in “Psychopathology.” Suddenly, though, the dime dropped, and it started to make sense. My process of “Making sense of it,” is very Meekian and it is still happening.
In a phone call with O’Donnell, I stumbled badly while talking about the mind’s structure and how I want to work with it. Shame rose quickly in my breast. What does my mentor think about my inability to think about this after three years of hard work? And so, I sat down with my Evernote and began jotting down thoughts about people, their minds, their brokenness, and healing. Since Evernote is with me on my laptop, and my cell phone, as I have thoughts, I keep adding them. My ideas address not only how a human mind is constructed but also where and how it shifts to embrace unhealthy and damaging patterns, and how I want to work with souls seeking care. That “Evernote” is still in process. As I take in new information, I work to synthesize it, seeing where it fits in the overall picture I am creating. I hope I never quit adding to that sketch. May I never think it complete.
One of the last classes I took at The Seattle School was entitled, “The Battle for Shame.” Dr. Steve Call assigned two books for the class: The Soul of Shame (easily digestible by anyone, whether a psychologist, a student or an interested party) and Understanding and treating chronic shame: A relational/neurobiological approach (a much headier book for practitioners and students of relational psychoanalytic psychotherapy). As I absorbed the latter book, the last two years of training started to fit. Professors who approached counseling from different perspectives, beginning from different positions all of a sudden could peacefully co-exist. Theories began to build on one another rather than competing for neural bandwidth. Though I do not think it was his intent, Dr. Call’s assigned reading was a fitting capstone to three years of grad school.
Reading through the Gospels, I am struck by Jesus use of metaphor to create pictures that people could hold as they considered such issues as The Kingdom of God, grace, faith, money, position in society, and love. As any biblical scholar worth her salt will explain, Jesus’ parables were never meant to be complete theological treatises. Because of this, it ‘s hard to build doctrine around them. We can attempt to stack his pictures, but systematizing the parables is like trying to stack Jenga blocks — eventually they all fall, and they are never stable. The parables are windows that allow Jesus’ listener or reader to catch particular views or perspectives of truth.
I want to communicate like Jesus, creating windows or parables that help people glance behind the curtain of the mind; helping us think and love God, ourselves, and our fellows in new and freeing ways. Because “What we are seeking isn’t insight, but freedom to be different than we were.” (DeYoung, 2015,159).
So in the coming weeks, I’m going to create pictures that point at ideas about how humans might be seen, loved, and changed. I’m intrigued and curious about how we might be different if we allow the Spirit to work through whatever means He chooses. Who knows, it might include a Trinitarian therapist.
For a glimpse of my theoretical orientation click here