by Shane Fookes, MA LPC Intern
How Christian Counselors Influenced Me
Christian counselors have played a major role in my spiritual, relational, and emotional maturity. The care I’ve received from them is a significant reason I’m a counselor today. I didn’t start out pursuing a career as a counselor. Far from it. I started as an aerospace engineer! That’s a long story for another blog post, but I share it to highlight that Christian counseling was so vital for me I became one so I could share what I received with others.
My Negative Experiences with Christian Counselors
Interestingly, my first couple of interactions with Christian counselors were not positive. When I was in college, I sought out a counselor at my church after receiving news my parents were divorcing. I walked in with my emotions scrambled and my sense of stability shattered. The only thing I remember from the encounter was being given a sheet with some Scripture verses to memorize. As well-intentioned as that might have been, it was not helpful at all.
My second encounter with Christian counseling came a year into my marriage. I felt confused and overwhelmed by the emotional dynamics of the relationship, so I asked my wife if she would join me in seeing a Christian counselor. When she declined, I went by myself. In retrospect, I was mostly interested in someone agreeing with me about how right I was and how wrong she was. I don’t remember much of what we discussed and I quit after a few sessions because I felt dissatisfied…which I blamed on the counselor, of course!
The Christian Counselor that Affected me the Most
My next encounter with Christian counseling altered the entire course of my life. My pastor referred me to the counselor after I shared with him the struggles my wife and I were experiencing after 10 years of marriage and having 4 kids in 5 years. I was a Type-A, self-reliant, get-er-done person used to maintaining control in my life. Yet my life had completely unraveled. Long suppressed emotions and seemingly impossible life demands provoked a deep depression and a series of panic attacks.
When I walked into the counseling office I met Gray. Gray was a kind, gentle, wise man who exuded humble confidence that quickly put me at ease. Just being in his presence gave me hope that he could help us navigate the internal and relational conflict that dominated our lives. I still remained convinced that my wife was most of the problem in our relationship. Sure, I knew I wasn’t perfect. But I would quickly turn my attention from my generically acknowledged issues to focus on the many specific problems I saw in her. It didn’t take long to realize that Gray wasn’t buying into my perspective.
Christian Marriage Counseling
A turning point came during one particular session I vividly remember to this day. My wife and I entered the office completely locked up in emotional conflict. I sat down on the sofa next to her but felt miles away. Anger simmered just below the surface, yet my pride and self-righteousness kept it hidden…or so I thought. Aimee began talking first, which was usually the case. She launched into an angry diatribe that, from my perspective, put her problems and flaws on full display. I felt elated! Now Gray would see her for who she really was and he could begin the necessary work to fix her!
When she finished her story, I waited eagerly for him to point out her errors. But Gray did not respond to her. Instead, he turned toward me, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “Wow, Shane. You married a passionate woman.” And rather than addressing her and her behavior, he moved on and introduced a topic he wanted us to discuss and work on. I sat there in stunned, angry silence.
Taking time to Understand my Christian Counselor’s Lessons
It took a while for me to see past my pride and understand what Gray did. In that small exchange, he brought attention to my wife’s glory whereas all I could see was her shame and failure. Through that interaction and many others, Gray gently exposed my self-righteousness and my critical, condemning spirit. He modeled acceptance and invited us to accept each other as good gifts from a gracious God. He invited us to see each other, and our marriage, through the lens of God’s generous, faithful work in growing our capacity to love another human being. Gracefully and skillfully, he drew attention to how deep, long-standing fears were provoking hurtful responses. He taught us how to soothe our own hurts so we could empathize with the hurts of the other.
Care, Wisdom, and Grace from Christian Counselors
I entered Gray’s office with all the “correct” Christian answers. I knew my Bible well and had been actively involved in churches for years. Yet, unbeknownst to me, my ability and capacity to love were wholly deficient. Gray’s office became a kind of confessional – a safe place to admit my sins and failings and receive unconditional grace and deep wisdom.
In conclusion, that encounter with a Christian counselor transformed my life. And it wasn’t the last time I needed such wisdom, guidance, and support. I’ve reached the end of my ability to navigate the internal and external challenges in my life a few more times. Christian counselors have helped me face the dark, neglected corners in my heart and the sinful life patterns I developed to cope with those dark corners. Each time, I learned new knowledge and skills. But the greatest and most helpful gift each counselor gave me was their loving, wise, caring presence. In other words, they embodied the Good News of God’s grace, mercy, and love available in Jesus.
Consider Online Therapy in Oregon with a Christian Counselor
Our Clackamas and Hillsboro-based counselors are excited to work with you, wherever you are in Oregon. Your relationships can thrive again. We can help you get back on track in a way that aligns with your faith and values. When you are ready to start online Christian counseling in Oregon, follow these simple steps:
- Learn about our therapy team in Hillsboro and our caring counselors in Clackamas
- Schedule an appointment with your preferred therapist, or contact us with questions
- Feel more connected to the important people in your life
Other Mental Health Services at Life Discovery Counseling in Oregon
If you are in Clackamas, Happy Valley, Damascus, or Hillsboro, we can help you in person at one of our comfortable therapy clinics. Christian counseling is the cornerstone of our approach to therapy. Not only do we see adults, but children in counseling too. We also work with depression treatment, anxiety therapy, trauma therapy and PTSD treatment, relationship issues, marriage problems, and postpartum counseling. No matter where you are in the state, we can provide the support you need with online therapy in Oregon. Once you’re ready to start, we’re ready to meet you. Let’s connect!
About the Author
Shane Fookes is a graduate of Western Seminary’s Counseling program and a Licensed Professional Counseling Intern. He was previously a pastor and is still involved in churches, and writes about marriage and relationship issues, anxiety, depression, and spiritual development.