“You have never met a boring person. If you think you have, either you weren't listening or they were lying.”
This is a quote from one of my former counseling professors, and I believe it is a profoundly true statement. God is the ultimate storyteller. He tells His story not only in the pages of Scripture, but also in our lives. And God doesn't tell boring stories.
The themes of God's Big Story (and by that I mean the story of Scripture which tells us the true story of the whole world) are Creation, Fall, and Redemption.
Creation: God made everything good and made man and woman in His image as the pinnacle of His good world and as caretakers for it. God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden, a perfect place where they could enjoy perfect relationship with the world, with each other, and with God.
Fall: Adam and Eve chose to believe the serpent and to doubt God's goodness. Not content to serve in the glorious role as God's image-bearing stewards, they rebelled against God by disobeying His command and seeking to become like God themselves through the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Therefore sin entered the world and death through sin (Rom. 5:12), and all of creation was put under a curse.
Redemption: God was not content to leave things there. He chose a people for Himself, He made covenants with them, gave them His word, prepared them through the years and through the foreshadowing of the Law and of worship in the Temple for the ultimate fulfillment of His promises in Jesus. God's Son took on flesh, lived the perfect life we could not, died on the cross to pay the penalty we owed, and rose again to conquer death and the power of the Evil.
Those themes – Creation, Fall, Redemption – are also the themes of our stories, because God is the author of our stories and God is a redeeming God. That's what He does. Each of us, as people made in the image of God, bear incredible dignity and yet in our lives we experience the effects of the Fall. We don't experience the perfect relationships with God, creation and each other that we were meant for. In response to the pain of the Fall we choose along with Adam and Eve to try and manage things our own way and end up deepening our own brokenness and the brokenness around us with our sinful patterns. But God graciously steps into our lives as the Redeemer that He is and when we come to know Christ He begins to restore us.
God begins to restore us when we come to know Christ, but it's a process that continues from now until He returns. Too often when we tell our own stories we act like that's not true. Too often we tell our stories as, “I used to have problems but then I met Jesus and now I'm all better”. We don't share the areas where Redemption is still happening because Redemption happens in the broken places (and we don't like people to see that we're still broken in many ways). I'm afraid that sometimes when I talk about this people think I'm downplaying the importance and power of Salvation. May it never be! I'm saying that the Salvation that Christ offers is more than a “get out of hell free” card that you receive in exchange for saying the sinner's prayer – it is so important and so powerful that it transforms every part of you and it's a process that takes the rest of your life!
It's difficult to engage the broken places where Christ is still at work, but when we try to deny those places exist we rob ourselves and others of a beautiful glimpse of Redemption. When you edit your story (past and present) in order to try to blunt the reality of the Fall in your life, you end up cutting out the power and beauty of Redemption. You can't have the beauty of Redemption without the tragedy of the Fall (which is so tragic precisely because of how glorious things were meant to be in Creation).
Which brings me at last to the reason I love counseling. People don't come for counseling unless they are ready to face the ways they are experiencing the Fall in their life. I get the privilege of listening to people's stories. I get to hear the real story, not the boring version made up of sanitized image-management. And when people honestly engage their stories even in the most broken places, humbly asking for help not primarily from me but from God, He steps in and does the beautiful work of Redemption. And I get a front row seat.