Listening to Scripture as a Therapist



Therapists listen.

Week in and week out – they listen.

Their days are divided into uncompromising 50 minute segments.

50 minute segments of listening.

Therapists listen to people weaving together the tapestry of their lives … threading words into patterns of meaning … hoping that the newly woven meaning will hold … will be a home to nest in … yet seldom do the first number of attempts satisfy. Each to be torn apart before attempting another – sometimes torn apart in a weaver-bird-like-tantrum.

Yet through it all the therapist is listening.

Listening through the endless repeats.

Listening for who or what is always mentioned and for who or what is never mentioned.

Listening for who is blamed and who is defended.

Listening for the words spoken with cement-like-certainty and for the words of doubt … knowing that they may be a proxy for each other.

Therapists perhaps especially listen for the contradictions or even the slightest variations within our stories. Not with the purpose to correct, catch out or even point out, and certainly not to accuse or condemn … but with curious hopefulness that here – where our story is inconsistent or simply uneven – that here there may be a potential “in” … a possible entry – like a picture or bookcase against a wall, that just needs to be touched in a certain way – for it to slowly swivel open – revealing a dusty web-strewn corridor … leading to a distant room filled with light.

Ironically and most thankfully, the words we most fear to speak, for fear of being judged and rejected, are often the words that move therapists to awe. Awe not for the content of the words but for the courage it took to speak them. Therapists, like poets know that “too much truth is hard to bear” and so they know how we must have wrestled with ourselves to finally speak it out … overcoming our fears, our guilt, our shame and our defensive denials. They know we fear the truth as much as we long for it. They know we defend ourselves from the truth even while we seek it. They know – and so regardless of what horrors our words reveal – the therapist takes an inward bow to the brave one sitting opposite them.

Now imagine you are a therapist. You are listening to the Scriptures as if they were a recording of the many sessions you have had with each of the characters in the text … in this case – the first three chapters of 1 Samuel.

What do we hear? What do we learn?

This is the introduction for our reflection tomorrow morning. I invite you to read 1 Samuel 1-3:20 in preparation.

In grace, Alan

If you would like to zoom link for the Sunday Service – please email And if you would like to be sent the link each week – ask to be put on the CMM WhatsApp group.

Pray the Scriptures

This coming week I invite you to be deliberate in carving out time to pray the Scriptures. We don’t need to know the Bible backwards to do this — so all of us can give it a go.

First we carve out a quiet moment of solitude — acknowledging our desire to connect with God through the Scriptures. After an initial prayer for openness to God “who is at work in you” (Phil. 2:13), we read a passage from the Gospels, perhaps the Gospel lesson from the Lectionary readings (see next week’s Scripture readings — Esther 7: 1-6; 9-10; 9: 20-22; Psalm 124; James 5: 13-20; Mark 9: 38-50).

Then, as Wendy Miller suggests: Read the passage slowly, lingering over the phrases and words, as you would enjoy and linger over a good meal. As a word or a sentence catches your attention (even slightly), pause and stay with those words.

Meditate/reflect on the word or phrase; turning it over in your mind and heart. Listen deeply to the meaning, allowing the word to enter all the rooms of your life. Respond to God in prayer about what you are discovering as God uses the word from Scripture to read your life. Be still, and rest in the spacious and gracious presence of God. Following the times when you embark on this inner journey, you may want to pause and notice how the journey was for you: How has God’s presence surprised you through praying the Scripture? What feelings or attitudes did you carry with you as you began? What change in feeling/attitude has occurred in you? Where is this shift taking you? In what way are you more aware of what is within your heart? Gently remember, that God invites us to turn to him with all of our heart.

Fast and Pray

The Presiding Bishop, Rev. Zipho Siwe has called on the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to fast and pray during September to “push the frontiers of evil back, especially in the area of education” and violence in our land. There are many different ways to fast. Here are some options for us to consider. With each option we would have to decide how long we would implement the fast for — a day or month.

• A complete fast, going without food and drink
• A liquid fast
• A fruit-only fast, or raw food only
• A sunrise to sunset fast
• A one-meal-a-day-fast
• A fast from certain foods and drink.

Substitute the time for eating with a time for prayer as well as an extra generosity in sharing with others.