Are We Afraid of Authenticity?
I love the Psalms because the writers are often authentic with their thoughts and feelings. For instance, in Psalm 22 (NIV), the writer writes, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent." The writer begins in despair but finishes in hope. I believe that people usually cannot get to hope without feelings of some form of sadness or unfortunate circumstances. The problem is that we are all uncomfortable with anything perceived as a negative feeling.
As pastors, ministers, or other helping professionals, we try to rescue them from their despair. The other day, I saw a social media post that stated the writer was tired. A response from someone was that Jesus was tired on the cross. That might have been true; who would not be exhausted if they were hanging on the cross! However, the response was like slapping someone in the face, telling them they were not allowed to feel tired because Jesus was on the cross for us.
I do not know the writer's motivation for the response. I will assume it was supposed to encourage the tired writer. I thought about how we sometimes come across saying things that do not affirm the other person and, in fact, shame them or guilt them for being authentic. It is ok to be tired, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It is ok to experience a broad range of feelings because it makes us human. The most significant examples for us in the bible are the Psalm writers. The most important model for us was Jesus himself when he cried out, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabach-thani?" - Which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" See Matthew 27: 46, NIV. Yes, the Psalm writer had penned the Psalm many years before Christ was on this earth. I encourage pastors, ministers, and counselors to allow the parishioner or client to express their feelings. Walk with them in their journey, and be empathetic to them.
There is a time for crying!
The other day I tearfully processed grief or despair in my life. At least, that is the only reason I could think of why I was crying. Yes, Mikey, men do cry, and it is ok. It was an incredible cleansing for me to be able to shed tears in anguish. Solomon said there is a time to weep and laugh, notice how they are opposites. Ironically, after my emotional process, I realized something significant.
It has been a rough three (3) years. Approximately three years ago, I left the VA system as a Chaplain, doing well actually-financially speaking, just graduating with a second Masters's degree. I know, for some of you that may not mean anything. It does to me, reflecting my following God's purpose for my life. By the way, I am so grateful for a wonderful, supportive wife.
I can't imagine what life would be without her. She has found a purpose here in Clarksville, Tennessee, as a private school teacher of Spanish. It was a miracle how she got the job. She went in for an interview, and they hired her right away. She does not teach one grade, but all students, Pre-K to 6th grade (adding the 7th grade next year). Anyway, Maribel is a wonderful wife, mother, and grandmother.
Since I retired from the Army in 2013, we have moved four times to land here in Clarksville. We moved from NC to minister for three years in Medford, Oregon, as Pastors. We moved to Dallas, and I worked at the VA Hospital in Dallas for three years, during which I completed a MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I knew there was something else and I had more to offer in life. So I prayerfully applied to a few Ph.D. programs. I landed at Trevecca Nazarene University, of which I am about halfway to completion. I have to complete an Internship in counseling and a dissertation.
So we moved from Dallas to Nashville, landing in an apartment. We went from a lovely large brick home to an apartment. (Did I say I have a wonderful wife)! We lived in Nashville for almost a year before purchasing the house we live in now. I reflect on the people I have met and what has transpired, the classes, discussions, papers, the professors' feedback, and the two years of counseling I have conducted. The unexpected loss of a family member. I reflect on how I am in this change cycle every three years, and to top it off, I had some significant things happen that impacted my experience in the counseling field. It is nothing terrible, just a bump in the road on this journey towards licensure.
I just realized I am making significant changes (at the three-year mark) in my journey in life and towards licensure. The changes are positive and sound and will result in getting licensed and a job in academia. However, we are beginning to make another change, perhaps a change in how Maribel and I will live out our faith journey or our ministry to others. I am not sure, but I know it has to come with loving and care towards the pastoral couple we have met and joined their house church. They are considered friends who we met 32 years ago. So, I think my tears were from exhaustion and grief, and the body/brain is telling me it is expecting change (because it has experienced it every three years). There is a time for everything.
The Philippian's Good Work
Many preachers use Philippians 1:6 out of context, "being confident of this, that he that began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." The preacher usually encourages someone to continue what they do, whether in career or ministry, quoting the scripture. However, to fully understand and appreciate the scripture's context, we have to start reading from verse 3 through to the end of verse 5. "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." What a great pastoral response to Philippi from Paul.
Paul's relationship with the church at Philippi began on Paul's second missionary journey, which you can read in Acts 16. Paul's time at Philippi is marked by gospel preaching, persecution, deliverance, and miracles. At Philippi, Paul meets Lydia, a local businesswoman, and she converts to Christ. Paul (and Silas) also meet the Philippian jailor and his family, which all become converts to Christ. In Philippian 1 introduction, we begin to understand at least two themes: Joy and Partnership.
We can feel Paul's joy for the believers at Philippi because of their love and partnership between them and Paul. It is a partnership of ministry and they have supported Paul in his ministry. One author, David Demchuk (Full Life Bible Commentary to the New Testament), refers to "good work" as kindness, reflecting God's work of grace and salvation in the Philippian church. Paul's pronouncement in verse 6 refers to God's salvation work in the Philippian church. Why do we refer to Philippians 1:6 when we, ministers, feel the need to show support to a member or members of our congregation; or a friend in need of encouragement? Our encouragement, using Philippian 1:6 should be in regards to salvation, but not in terms of career, positions, job, etc.
In many ways, we do not know how to respond to the ambiguity of life, specifically coming from another person to whom we perceive some spiritual authority over. In some cases, a parishioner may ask for prayer for a career decision, and our immediate response may be Philippians 1:6, which does not meet the immediate need because the scripture applies only to salvation. The best thing to do is listen, then pray. No scripture encouragement is necessary. If it does seem necessary, use the appropriate scripture. Moreover, what is the appropriate scripture? I do not know because it is specific to the need at hand (and the Holy Spirit will guide, but I do not think the Spirit of God will give a scripture out of context).
Dan is in a second career, that of Counselor, but he is a pastor at heart. He desires to present the Word of God in its context and then challenge the reader in its application to our lives. It is the Word of God that brings revival to our souls. The psalmist writes, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.
Dan and Maribel Kinjorski
Dan and Maribel are Bible Teachers. They love to expound on the Word of God. Maribel has been involved in Church since an early age. A graduate of the University of San German, Puerto Rico, in Business Administration and Economy. Dan is a graduate of East Coast Bible College (now shuttered) and the Pentecostal Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity (1999) , Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (2019), and now working on a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology: Counseling Education and Supervision.