A former professor of mine who had a great influence on me, Dr. Don Hebbard, has released a new book that I am currently reading. The book is titled Healing Hurting Churches: The Economou Process, and in one chapter Dr. Hebbard shares the following story about one of his counseling patients who had an interesting response to the healing process that he proposed to her:
Debbie listened quietly, and when I had finished, she said something most of my clients never say: “Yeah, I’m not going to do any of that.” With a calm voice, she looked me in the eye and said, “Look, I’m not going to waste your time because none of that is ever going to happen. I’m just not going to do it.”
I was slightly shocked at her forthrightness and somewhat surprised by her candor. I told her that most of my clients listen politely, and, if they are not interested in therapy, I never heard from them again. They rarely tell me this to my face. Would she mind telling me why she was so sure she would not do the work?
Debbie spoke quickly and firmly: “Dr. Don, you need to understand something. My life is a swamp. I live in a swamp, and there are alligators that attack me regularly. You are asking me to risk leaving the swamp I know for a swamp I don’t know. At least in my swamp I know where all the alligators live.” With that she stood up and returned to her swamp. I was left to consider the question why some people embrace help and others give in to fear.
Matthew’s Gospel describes a conversation between Jesus and a rich young man. The young man inquired, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” He then quoted his “spiritual resume” to the Master. Jesus replied, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
The prescription Jesus offered addressed the heart of the man’s problem. He did many good things, but his life had an ongoing pattern that needed interrupting. He loved his wealth. The rich young man left Jesus disappointed: “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Like my client Debbie, the rich young man returned to his familiar swamp. He was unwilling to risk the process of change to experience eternal life.
What about you?
Are you embracing the help you want and need or are you giving in to fear?