Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Pastor and Trauma - Seriously?

I help run an organization that works closely with girls rescued from human trafficking.  We are trying to do the hard work of providing long-term solutions for them including ministry and spiritual support.  In this world of working with girls 'in the system' and who come to us with a lot of complicated and life-altering issues, there is a lot of counseling and therapy for everyone involved.  Our training, for instance, has tried to prepare our workers for the realities of working with minors with all kinds of baggage by providing crisis management techniques, intervention rules, and tools for self-care.

But I have also learned that we can neither neglect nor under-emphasize the role of pastor in the lives of our girls and our workers.  With all the work we have done with the state, child placement agencies, and county human services, it is easy to rely too heavily on the techniques provided for us that have nothing to do with the state of their souls.  I do not want to ignore the importance of counseling either, but we live in a social atmosphere that tends to neglect the role of spiritual care in favor of the more scientifically driven therapeutic care.  After all, do we really know what a pastor does in a situation that involves serious trauma, the kind of trauma most would think needs medication?

An appointed counselor is a periodic support and dispenser of self-regulation advice (among many other things).  Very often they are a tremendous and practical help with extraordinary conditions and situations where most of us simply do not have the experience or the tools to deal with people and emotions well.  We ought not to ignore what that kind of expertise and input can do for people.

But where is the pastor?  Where do we think spiritual support fits into some of the most complicated and long-term problems of life?  I would argue that we rank that kind of support somewhere between a good bowl of ice cream and a long nap.  We might say - literally say with our mouths - that we believe spiritual wisdom and suppo
rt to be very important, but where do we spend our time and our money?  Probably, therapist first, ice cream second, pastor third.

If, however, the Christian is serious about how their worldview orders reality they need to learn to pay more attention to the states of their souls.  After all, we are embodied souls, eternal spirits who will one day be reunited with a resurrected body.  We are everlasting beings whose souls have the opportunity to be renewed day by day while our earthly bodies decay.  A soul is a terrible thing to ignore, but we do it all the time.  To make a horrible turn of phrase, we are practical soul-neglectors.  We believe they exist, but we act as if they do not.

Is good counseling helpful in traumatic and complicated situations? Of course it can be.  Will you thrive in the long-run as a follower of Jesus Christ if you use that as a substitute for the care of your soul? I really don't think so.

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