The care and guidance of souls
A Christian counsellor offers a glimpse of God’s grace and mercy in the life of a young man emerging from a crisis: Guiding Gideon chronicles the encounters between Gideon, a young man in his 30s in the midst of crisis, and his spiritual guide, Julian. By Christopher Brown
Gideon, a 34-year-old man, and representative of many of the pilgrims who knock at my study door, sought me out for guidance following what he referred to as his “crisis”.
To say that he sought me out might sound strange when I confess that Gideon is a fictional character.
Instead of coming through my study door, he entered via the doorway of my active and believing imagination to become almost as real as the many pilgrims who have sought me out for guidance on matters of life and faith.
As Gideon’s story unfolded I began to respond to him as I would to a real life pilgrim. Taking time to prayerfully reflect on these encounters I discerned different purposes in his “seeking me out”.
One had to do with my ministry of guidance and my training and formation of guides. God calls mentors, pastoral elders, pastoral carers, spiritual counsellors and spiritual directors to engage with the Holy Spirit in the care and guidance of souls.
To encourage people in this divine calling requires firsthand accounts of these ministries in action. Gospel stories are invaluable for this purpose as they are deeply human and transformative. The challenge in finding contemporary accounts is that the stories pilgrims share with their guides are to be held in strict confidence and sacred trust.
As Gideon’s story was not bound by such confidentiality it could be made readily available for teaching purposes. As deep and multifaceted as stories of other pilgrims that I had guided, I have already used it extensively in my teaching and formation work. It only required that I make public my heartfelt and prayerful responses to him.
I did step aside a little to allow Julian, Gideon’s fictitious guide, to take my place in order that I could narrate the story.
Gideon’s story offered me great hope for these ministries. The painful realities of his conflicted and wounded heart were soon eclipsed by God’s ever abundant mercy and Christ’s willingness to redeem, transform and reconcile him.
This great mercy is remarkable especially as Gideon arrived in a crisis that felt more like an ending, even a death, rather than a new and life enhancing beginning. His metaphor, which came through a recurring dream, was of a buck being pursued and eventually cornered by a pack of wolves. This was an accurate representation of his inner world which he experienced as falling apart.
Accompanied by the Holy Spirit and Julian, as his two trustworthy guides, Gideon found the courage to face the inner darkness that had threatened to overwhelm him and to acknowledge his deep poverty of spirit (Matthew 5:3). A doorway opened that enabled the redeeming, transforming and reconciling light of the Holy Spirit to shine into these inner places of darkness and wounding.
For Gideon, a real adventure had begun. In this brief video clip Julian reflects on the transformation that has occurred in Gideon’s life. Overseas on a sabbatical, he is responding to letters he has received from Gideon, letters he carefully places alongside Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
When I was able to look back over Gideon’s story, as Julian does in his letter, I realised I was being offered clearer glimpses of the Divine wooing that was occurring in the very midst of his human experience.
He was being gently and graciously drawn into the unity of the faith and knowledge of Christ to mature into the “measure of the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). Right in front of me was the exquisite and beautiful work of our Creator God in transforming a receptive and surrendered soul. This brought into sharper focus something I had been witnessing more obliquely in other pilgrims as they experienced Divine touches on their lives.
Through Gideon’s gradual awakening to the deeper rhythms and flows of life and faith I could see more clearly how the image of our Creator God is implanted in the human heart and could observe the Holy Spirit gently calling him forth to be freed, formed and shaped into the likeness of Christ.
I was in awe of Gideon’s openness, for with these glimpses of Divine touch came the painful reminder that, while exquisite and beautiful beyond my imagining, God’s freely offered, noble and life giving graces often encounter hearts which are inwardly conflicted, not fully receptive or surrendered.
And yet, even with this sobering caveat I could rejoice that through the gift of Gideon’s story so much was being revealed of God’s grace and mercy in the care and guidance of souls such as his. My hope is that Guiding Gideon: Awakening to Life and Faith will offer readers glimpses of the amazing work of our Creator God in transforming and breathing new life into the human soul.
Richard Rohr says of Guiding Gideon: "Today we need very practical, but wise guidance for our journey of faith and love; and not more rarefied theology. Well, here you have just that—and from someone who is walking the journey himself—maybe a few steps ahead of you! Spiritual direction like this is surely one of the best ways that the Spirit will mature Christianity in our time."
Christopher Brown taught social work at the University of Queensland, Australia, and counselling/spiritual companioning Christian at Heritage College. He now offers spiritual direction and is a formator of spiritual directors. He is the author of Reflected Love: Companioning in the Way of Jesus (2012) and Guiding Gideon: Awakening to Life and Faith (2015).
His website, www.faithcompanions.com, aims to encourage and freely resource people engaged in the wonderfully diverse spectrum of interpersonal ministries. He and his wife Marilyn attend the Windsor Road Baptist Church in Brisbane, Australia.
More details of his faith journey: http://www.faithcompanions.com/about-christopher-journey/