As a Biblical counselor I am regularly inviting the people with whom I am working to change. They are coming to me for help in dealing with situations in their lives where they recognize the need for growth and change.
In many cases the changes that are in focus are difficult. They are more than my clients believe they can handle alone, which explains why they have sought me out.
I have recently been blessed by going through changes in my own life that were well beyond my capacity to accomplish alone. The blessing I have experienced in this process is that I have a much clearer realization that God uses the community in which He has placed me to accomplish the changes He is calling me to make.
My pastor challenged me a couple of months ago with evaluating where I was going with my life. I have been adjusting to my wife’s death and the way that has shaped my life. We had moved away from a previous ministry and the home where we had lived for 21 years. We were well established in Maryland and we uprooted the family to move closer to extended family and to launch a new counseling ministry. We also were transitioning a dog breeding business from Maryland to Oregon. We bought a beautiful piece of property where we could begin to establish our family, our breeding business, and the counseling ministry of Impact Biblical Counseling. The opportunities were huge and Ann and I could envision a future where we would enjoy God’s blessings fully.
When Ann died, I knew what a personal blow losing her was for me, and for my kids. I have not thought a lot about how losing her changed our/my dreams and plans. My pastor was a good friend and asked me to think through how being alone shaped the dreams Ann and I had shared. He had watched as my sons and I had tried to maintain what Ann and I had built. He wisely asked me if I thought that the lifestyle we were living was wise or even sustainable. That was the first way the body was helping me to change.
As a result of his question I talked things over with my sons and we realized that we should put our property on the market and plan on finding a smaller home with a more easily maintained yard. If we kept the property where we were living I would not be able to keep it up by myself.
In fact, I was not able to get it into shape to put it on the market alone. The very idea was so overwhelming that I wanted to avoid thinking about making the changes that I knew I needed to make. I think many of my clients are in the same place as they consider the changes God calls them to make. I did not want to even pray about what my pastor had raised because I had little confidence that I could accomplish what I knew I would have to do if we were going to move forward with building a sustainable future.
My pastor then told me what I so often tell my clients. “You are part of a body. We will help you to do what you need to do in order to accomplish the changes God is calling you to make.”
In my case this involved making big changes to the house and the property. If we were going to list the house we needed to get the yard in shape. I am not a gardener. There are some amazing gardeners in my church and they have spent weeks beautifying the property. I now have a show garden. We also had to take care of painting and cleaning my house. Again, there are expert painters in my church who have spent untold hours remaking my house. The work they have completed is breathtaking. Others have helped us to de-clutter. The house is now listed and I am proud for people to see what God has given us and to invite someone to buy this property because I know that it will be a retreat for whoever God has prepared to enjoy it next.
As I reflect on my experience I know that God has placed all of us in the body and we all need to receive the care that the body is created to give, as well as to give that care to others. I am receiving this care from my brothers and sisters so that I can in turn give care to others. I need to move away from where I am living so that my time is spent in using my gifts in ministry instead of being forced to spend time managing a beautiful property that needs someone whose calling and gifting is managing a garden and a home.
As you grow in grace, think about how God has placed you in His body and how He plans to use the body to help you grow, and to use you to help others in the body to grow. My inclination is to go it alone. After this experience with my church I have a greater confidence that community is safe, and absolutely necessary. My counseling will focus even more on how God’s gift of others is a glorious part of how we grow.