Years ago I had the privilege of meeting a bright, engaging, and confused young man who was thinking about that perennial question of the college-aged: What am I to do with my life? The question was particularly vexing to this 21 year old because the door to the first choice for a career had been slammed in his face. He wanted to be a doctor. He was a good student of the sciences, but not an excellent one. When it came to chemistry, he struggled to get just an average grade. After applying to and visiting a half dozen medical schools he was kindly but firmly informed that he wouldn’t be accepted.
After working his through the first feelings of rejection and getting back up on his feet, my young friend, prayerfully and thoughtfully, looked at other options. Someone suggested a career in physical therapy, a field that was becoming increasingly helpful for millions of Americans. But my friend said, “No.” Why? Because doctors were the real heroes of healing in his mind. “They receive a patient, diagnose what is wrong with him or her, then they fix it. Some surgery, a medication—BINGO—a healing! Physical therapists lived a less exciting and rewarding life. They had to patiently, pain-stakingly work with a person as she or he recovered from surgery or an injury. It took too long to see results. Physical therapy? “Boring!” was the response.
I’ve begun to view my role as a pastor as something like a physical therapist. Everyone I have met, including the guy who looks back at me in the mirror every morning, is, at some level, damaged goods. All of us are broken in spirit at some level. All of us are yearning, aching for something to “fix us.” All of us are looking for spiritual healing. All of us are looking for a deep, meaningful and lasting relationship with God.
For Christians, Jesus is the healer. Through Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Man, all who seek God find Him in the words, the parables, the presence, the miracles…. the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is the healer, the Great Physician.
But the healing relationship with Jesus is just the beginning. After our transformative encounter with Jesus, we are called to a life of discipleship. A life that is increasingly committed to and focused on what it means to be a healed, follower of Jesus. Discipleship is a life-long endeavor. It is slow work. We often take three steps forward then two steps back. We balk at some of the teachings. We rebel against the commitments. Sometimes, dare I say most of the time, the life of discipleship is slow, painstaking, not very exciting way of life. Sometimes it is just plain boring. I think of discipleship as “spiritual therapy.” I am a spiritual therapist. And each one of you, after a solid beginning in spiritual therapy can become therapists to your friends, family, and co-workers. I can assure you, it does take time, a lifetime as a matter of fact. Yet it is a very rewarding way of life.