Integrating…

I feel like I just haven’t had the energy to say anything lately. That’s pretty obvious by the sporadic postings I have made. I wish I had something more to say, but maybe I am to learn something in this somewhat time of silence. As a college pastor I make my living by words. My identity in a sense is determined by my ability to be able to speak words when I preach each week; when I pray with others; when I offer counsel and advice. Words. Words. Words. Sometimes I wonder if I even know what I am saying sometimes. When I finished my Master of Divinity program I was equipped to be able to speak and preach and talk and pray. But now that I am half way through the Master of Science in Marital and Family Therapy program I am being equipped in a different way. To listen. Though a therapist speaks, the primary job is to listen and to discern what is being said. So though I might have considred myself to be a good listener before, I have never had to listen like this.

This is part of the reason I have been so exhausted and have had little to say. Because for so long all I have done is speak. That is what I am trained to do. That is what is expected of me. And though some of the best listeners I know are pastors, I wonder how much we really listen that carefully and feel no impulse to not speak at all. Pastors have answers to every situation and that is what people expect. But to sit in a room across from a person, and to just listen, and sometimes sit in complete silence with another human being is a complete gift. There is temptation to speak because silence is unbearable for a lot of us. But to resist the temptation and to just listen and be has been truly freeing for me.

It is in this stage of my life that I am beginning to understand the integrative nature of my training in theology and psychology. For me, for my life, the two are completely compatible and necessary. This is true for me. The two disciplines have helped me balance my life. M. Div. work and theology was very intellectually stimulating for me and I often used it to anazlyze and objectify things, such as my relationship with God. Through words and theories and doctrine I was able to speak on things with many words without having to necessarily enter into a relationship with any of it. Words are safe at times. MFT work and psychology is very relational for me and theories and words mean little if one can not be in relationship with someone and enter into the pain and joy of another person. Silence is crucial. This is my experience and not all share it…but that’s why it is my journey. Theology and psychology provide a necessary tension that keeps me from drifting too far in one direction.

Theology is my anchor that provides the Truth for my life and psychology has given me tools and skills that I never learned in theological education. It has given me tools to be in places and discern how to apply and use Truth in other’s lives. Many circles of Christianity and evangelicalism are skeptical of psychology, or it least some types of psychology. But I cannot say enough about how transforming this experience has been for me and will continue to be.

Integration is the buzzword in our program and that is what we all strive for. It is a new word for me in the context of theology and psychology. But it is the fruition of what I knew Henri Nouwen was doing when I first began to read him in the late 90’s. Nouwen had his Ph.D. in both theology and psychology and he used it to minister to the world in some amazing ways. He used it to bring both the head (intellectualism) and heart (emotions) together in a way that is very profound, and that has been very lifegiving to me and many others. I am not the type of guy who can or wants to do two Ph.D.’s….make it one for that fact. But I am hoping that with a master’s in theology and in therapy, that they will prepare me to one day do the work that brings both the head and heart together in a powerful way, whether that is through preaching or counseling or both.

The Greatest Commandment
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'[b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'[c]There is no commandment greater than these.”

3 Comments

  1. by Wayne Bowerman on June 3, 2006  12:31 am Reply

    I really likedwhat you have to say about the integration of psychology and theology - very insightful. I sometimes feel I don't listen well enough. I recognize that feeling in me when someone else is speaking and I am thinking of what I'll say next - I hate that so much when I notice it in myself. I sometimes get the same feeling and a similar disgust with myself when I'm reading other's blogs and I find myself skimming the longer post and I think of how when I poor my heart into something I write I hope for others to really read it. I want to be a much better listener and just generally more receptive of others.
    Shalom,
    Wayne

  2. by Wayne Bowerman on June 3, 2006  12:31 am Reply

    I really likedwhat you have to say about the integration of psychology and theology - very insightful. I sometimes feel I don't listen well enough. I recognize that feeling in me when someone else is speaking and I am thinking of what I'll say next - I hate that so much when I notice it in myself. I sometimes get the same feeling and a similar disgust with myself when I'm reading other's blogs and I find myself skimming the longer post and I think of how when I poor my heart into something I write I hope for others to really read it. I want to be a much better listener and just generally more receptive of others.
    Shalom,
    Wayne

  3. by Sydney on June 4, 2006  6:04 pm Reply

    Hi Rhett,
    I regularly read you blog and thought this one is great. I don't always know what to say, but I did want you to know that I am listening.

    :)
    Sydney

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