More Patience

Discipleship Counseling takes patience (and big bladders!), because some freedom appointments may last hours. Just mentioning that causes some pastors to shy away from using our material. They reason, I don’t have enough time to do that! I beg to differ. I don’t think they have enough time not to do it this way if they want to resolve anything.

If I had the choice to offer an inquirer fifty minutes a week for six months, or five consecutive hours, I would choose the latter, and I would resolve a lot more in that time frame. Fifty minute sessions work okay for teaching, because we can only handle so much information and homework at a time. But you can’t resolve much in that time frame. Fifty minutes sessions never start the next week where you left off last week.

Suppose your doctor recommended exploratory surgery. He dug around for fifty minutes and said, Well, we have run out of time. You hang in there and we’ll dig around some more next week. With rare exceptions, surgeons don’t open wounds without closing them, and neither should we. People’s lives are too important to follow little scripts that suite our schedule. One pastor turned counselor asked for my help. He said, I have been able to help others, but I can’t seem to resolve my own issues. During the Steps he prayed and asked God to reveal to his mind the people he needed to forgive. Out came 40 names. He looked at the list and said, You don’t have enough time. I said, I’ll stay all night if it takes that long. He started to tear up and said, You are the first person who has ever said that to me.

Freedom appointments are not timed exercises. If God is bringing up painful memories, I must exercise the patience necessary to see it through. If I don’t, I may be sending people home to the worst week of their lives. I recommend scheduling half-day sessions for most, but whole-day sessions for difficult cases. Trained lay encouragers are willing to give up that amount of time in our churches, and they do so because they love to watch God set his children free.

Dr. Neil

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