Recently, I had the opportunity to teach on a variety of issues including anxiety, depression, psychoses, anger, suicide assessment, addictions and personality disorders. Sometimes, because I think about these issues quite a bit, I approach them in a detached way. As I plough through my material, I can forget that the people I am teaching and equipping might be strugglers as well as helpers. Imagine that--people in training may be in the process of seeing God’s redeeming work of change in their own lives.
Let me share two examples with you:
While teaching a seminary class on addictions, I mentioned the difference between substance addictions and lifestyle addictions. When most people hear the word “addiction” they immediately think alcohol, marijuana, or pain killers; the usual suspects. Yet, some people fail to see that issues like gambling, shopping, spending time on the internet, and pornography qualify as addictions, also. If you look at how either of these types of addictions affect the brain, you will notice clear similarities. Habituation and tolerance both arise as you indulge in the behavior. The person will experience similar withdrawal symptoms, too.
During the break, I was organizing my notes and a young woman approached me. I assumed she had a technical question about the syllabus or some assignment, but that was not why she wanted to talk. She discreetly and helpfully shared about her husband’s addiction to pornography and how it had impacted their marriage. While she was realistic, she was hopeful because of what God had been doing in their relationship. I was heartened and thankful that she was willing to share that with me. It changed the rest of my teaching on addiction that afternoon.
Another startling example happened when I was teaching on suicide and suicide assessment. Once again, I found myself working through the details of suicide statistics. 41,000 people will commit suicide in the United States this year. Most of them will be men even though women will try more often. Men are more “successful” because they use more violent means.
After teaching on helpful ways to assess whether someone is seriously committed to harming themselves, I casually opened it up for some Q & A. A few technical questions were asked, and then another young woman shared her story. She said that one year ago, she had her suicide all planned out. She had written a note, had the means to kill herself and was going to follow through as soon as she returned home from a Christian camp! She then said that God had worked powerfully over the week and she had become a Christian. She returned home a radically different person. I was humbled by her confession. There she was, sitting in the front row, taking notes for about 45 minutes, and then she shared her story.
Once again, I was awakened to the fact that real sufferers are always in my audience. The impact was almost like a reset button for me. When I am teaching, I am more than a “talking head” disseminating information. Rather, I am a servant speaking words of life to people who need grace. You really never know who is listening.
Copyright © 2015 Timothy S. Lane