by Sarah Colyn
Many of you write to us because you are seeking a local partner or supporter for the healing work God has begun in your soul through Leanne’s books or an MPC school. While we would hope every seeker could find a Christian counselor who is familiar with Leanne’s writings, there are of course many communities without such a person. Leanne often spoke of the value of good pastoral care, Christian counseling and the importance of prayer partners. But she also acknowledged that this needed support may not just arrive at your doorstep. The way she described it is that we need to “raise ’em up”―that our own moral effort will often help bring godly fellowship into being. I’d like to offer here some suggestions for how to “raise up“ a pastor, Christian counselor, or spiritual helper to partner with you as you seek the fulfillment of God’s promises in your soul. Here are some tips that others have found useful:
— Ask for referrals to a pastor, counselor, or lay minister who is considered wise and trustworthy. Your pastor, physician, mentors, and Christian friends are all likely to know who are considered to be excellent Christian counselors and helpers in your area. Asking for recommendations brings the added advantage of having these important people in your life know that you are taking active steps to pursue wholeness in Christ. If there are local churches who host programs such as Living Waters, Celebrate Recovery, or Stephens Ministry, the leaders of these programs will also be likely to know local resources. Specifically ask God to guide and direct this process.
— Interview the helper. If you’re going to work with a professional counselor, ask to talk with them over the phone or meet for an initial session. If you’re connecting with a pastor or lay minister, ask for a chance to talk with them about your needs so that the two of you can see if there’s a good fit. The main goal of this interview is to get a sense of whether you can imagine yourself coming to trust this person enough to work deeply and vulnerably together. By talking with the helper about the key issues you are working through, you will get a sense of how it feels to begin opening up, and you’ll get a sense of the sorts of questions or responses the person offers. Ask the helper if he or she thinks that the concerns you’re describing are something he or she feels confident in working with. Practice God’s presence before, during, and after this interview, listening for any guidance He gives.
— During the interview, ask if the helper would be willing to read Leanne’s book along with you. Once you’ve gotten a sense that you could fit well with this counselor relationally, you can explain that there’s a specific author and ministry that is facilitating your healing process. You can explain that, while you don’t need the helper to already be an expert in Leanne’s work, you’re wondering if he or she would be open to learning along with you. There may be a particular theme you know is important to you―confession of sin, introspection, balancing masculine and feminine, etc. If you’re working with a professional counselor, you can also ask if they are comfortable engaging in prayer during counseling sessions. You may want to ask a friend to intercede with you for the helper, that the Lord will open his or her heart to be fully responsive to Him through your invitation.
— Once you’ve started a pastoral care process, you come to the most important part of this effort: it is essential to continue to have honest dialog with your helper about how you’re experiencing your work together. Open discussion about your discomforts, doubts, desires, and anxieties is a key element of good pastoral care, perhaps most of all in regard to your relationship with Christ and how your helper is joining you in that relationship. By engaging in this way with your caregiver, you will grow and heal tremendously as you increase your capacity for dialog, and receive healing from the dialog even as it happens. I believe this process of iron sharpening iron in the work of pastoral care yields even more than if one could find a helper who was ideal and perfectly understood and ministered at every moment. Pray with your caregiver for your pastoral care relationship, and include your caregiver in your intercessory prayers during your daily time of listening prayer.
These same principles apply to other relationships that facilitate our maturing in Christ―prayer partners or small group, and church-based prayer ministry. Praise God that He engages us in the process of “raising up” the fellow pilgrims we need in this awesome journey of following Christ!