Self (on Romans 7:21-24)

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” Rom 7:21-24

I remember back in seminary that there was some debate as to how much one should put him or herself “in the way” of the message on is presenting.  The more idealistic of us wanted to get themselves as much “out of the way” as possible, the idea being that our selves are essentially bad filters of the Word.  We tend to put our own spin on things and see things through our own sin-colored lenses, thus distorting the gospel.  The best sermon is one where the presenter sets aside their own agendas, stories, and beliefs and seeks only to speak as led by the Spirit.

The counterargument stood that one simply can’t do that.  All communication is mediated by both the presenter and the listener, and in the same way that a listener can’t hear a message without filtering it through their own accumulated experience, the presenter cannot step out of the way of the message.  Apart from a theophany, every message will be touched by our own particular influence.  Rather than see this as a “tainting” of the message, this side chose to recognize the self as part of the message.  Rather than try to hard to remove yourself (because you can’t), throw yourself in.

I’ve seen this in my own practice of spiritual counseling as well, and I see how dual-minded I am.  I have held to the notion that I cannot remove myself from my message, and yet I have tried so hard to do that in my counseling.  Not that I have tried to remove myself completely.  I have interjected my own stories about life, death, and so on.  However those have really only touched at who I am. 

I think that this duality, if I can call it that, in part came across from my own training in Rogerian and other person-centered methods of counseling.  Here, the focus of counseling is strictly on the other – personal judgements, concerns, and narratives are out of bounds if you want to follow a strict framework of this view.  Interactions tend to revolve around reflecting and reframing, which involve turning the other’s narrative around in different ways and then showing it back to them.  Sometimes an interpretation is given, but if so only to clarify.  The goal is to make the other feel and be heard by the counselor, who provides unconditional positive regard and tries to, in a sense, “get out of the way” of the listener’s hearing themselves.

Sounds cryptic.

The problem I’m seeing, and experiencing, is that in doing this am I really engaging with this person, or are they engaging with themselves?  And if they are engaging with themselves, where am I?

Perhaps this has led to my own sense of disconnectedness at times, as well as my own frustration with not feeling heard, appreciated, and downright angry.  I’m trying to negate myself from the equation, which is impossible, and end up frustrated and angry – not with the client, but at myself because I can’t say what I want or even feel what I want.

More to come on this I expect…

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