Identifying Your Idols (NANC Conference 2010)

 Last week, I attended NANC's Annual Conference in LaFayette, Indiana. As many of you may know, NANC stands for the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors and is the certifying/supervisory organization for biblical counselors in the United States and about a dozen other countries. This conference was extremely edifying and useful to me for several reasons. I was able to meet and talk with Martha Peace, Dr. Mark Shaw, and Jocelyn Wallace - who have been extremely helpful in the process of publishing my book, and have offered endorsements. Secondly, the general session speakers, particularly Al Mohler (who I can only describe as "scary smart"), gave inspirational messages about counseling for the glory of God and helped me revive my own relationship with Christ. Lastly, and most germane to the reason for attending, several of the five workshops I attended directly dealt with counseling ladies with bulimia.

The first evening of the conference, I attended a session taught by Jocelyn Wallace, Executive Director at Vision of Hope - the long-term residential facility located on the campus of Faith Ministries (where the conference was being held - I later was able to tour the home). Jocelyn was and continues to be very helpful to me in writing "Redeemed from the Pit", and an interview she granted earlier this year provides much of the information on residential counseling for eating disordered ladies in chapter 9. Her workshop was entitled "Helping Addicts Learn to Identify Their Idols", and she opened with the bottom-line premise that each one of us needs to embrace: the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Someone with a life-dominating sin ("addiction") such as bulimia has learned to use tools to acheive a counterfeit satisfaction or happiness, rather than seeking God as the source of her joy and peace. The eating disordered individual, as is the case with other addicts, will use different means to acheive her goal - to avoid pain/confrontation; not be miserable; to be thin at all costs. Jeremiah 2 describes these "broken cisterns" as hopeless and futile; but when trapped in the bondage of addiction, this idolatrous pursuit turns into the downward spiral described in Romans chapter1. As the "worship" of this idol progresses, sinful actions ==> become sinful habits ==> become life-dominating (see Romans 7:14-25).

As Jocelyn pointed out, basic discipleship is necessary until a counselee understands and grasps the basic premise of the Gospel. (See my review of Elyse Fitzpatrick's "Because He Loves Me"). Trying to change behavior is futile until she really trusts in Christ as her Savior and has become broken. Brokenness means giving up the fight (for her own idol); not trying to win or acheive satisfaction apart from God anymore; yeilding in submission and humility to God's will. Once she embraces her true purpose - to glorify God and seek her satisfaction in Him - she is then in a position to choose the path of righteousness (1 Peter 2:9; 12; Psalm 23:6). Jocelyn cited an analogy from the book "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23" as useful for struggling counselees - the repentant bulimic (or other addict) is like the little lamb with the broken leg, being carried by the Good Shepherd. In her brokenness, she learns to trust the Good Shepherd and not leave His side. From this place of trust, she will learn to continue walking by His side, even blindfolded, with her hand in His.

Once the bulimic is able to begin examining the lies she believes, James 4:1-10 is useful to illustrate a simple progression: what I want in my heart ==> what I do; this controls how I feel. Repentance, defined as 'turning and walking in the opposite direction', means that one will no longer turn to idols anymore to serve one's self. God alone can be served froma  heart of joy and gratitude that is singular in purpose - to love and glorify God. Lies are replaced with the truth as the counselee researches what God says about the idols she realizes are present in her life. She is then taught how to build up walls of protection against temptation to return to that idol, and/or radical amputation of her access to the tools used to serve that idol.

For example, Stuart Scott described the following incident in his workshop, "Helping Counselees Mortify Sin in Their Lives". He and his wife were joint-counseling a young bulimic woman, who seemed to "talk a good talk". Something seemed a bit "off", and Scott's wife asked the young lady if they might go through her purse. Immediately uncomfortable, the counselee bristled but finally consented. Her purse was filled with laxatives, enemas and diet pills. "Radical amputation" (Matthew 5:30) in this case, of course, would include throwing away all of the "purge paraphanelia" one would use, as well as seeking accountability.

Throughout the counseling process, godly tools are introduced to take the place of wicked tools and the idols are compared to the One True God. Over and over, these idols are shown to be worthless.

Living each day to glorify God - with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength - is infinitely better than wallowing in the muck and mire of an eating disorder, ladies. Trust me: Jocelyn is right. These idols of self, thinness, avoidance of discomfort, vanity and attention are just not worth it. Do not forfeit true fellowship with Christ for the deceit of temporary, empty "satisfaction".

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for visiting! Please leave me a message, share your testimony, or feel free to ask questions. Anonymous comments are welcome. Or e-mail me privately at marie4thtimemom@yahoo.com.