I first heard of Helen Keller when I was a child, maybe 7 years old. My school would pass out order forms for books to purchase from Scholastic and I was able to get a book about her and her relationship with her teacher, Annie Sullivan. In the back of the book was a diagram of the Manual Alphabet and I remember laying in bed with my night light on practicing the finger signs until I was fluent and could spell many words accurately and quickly.
I was slightly older when I saw on television (on what was then called The Late Show) the movie about Helen Keller that starred Patty Duke as the uncontrollable Helen as a child. I will never forget the end of the movie where she and Annie are at the hand pump in the yard; Annie pumping water over Helen’s hand as she spells and says, “W-A-T-E-R spells water” over and over for what must have been the hundredth time. The face of “Helen” as she makes the connection that what is being spelled into her hand is what is flowing over her hand is nothing short of remarkable. As she runs about the yard touching everything and making those connections that all these things have names…well, thinking about it still brings me to tears today.
I remind you of this story because for me, this is a lot of what biblical counseling is like. I spend many hours teaching my counselee’s about the importance of heart change, the critical understanding of living by grace through faith, and the how Scripture is enough to address the problems of life.
Very often, they are much like Helen before that fateful day at the water pump. They have all the tools; they know that w-a-t-e-r spells something or is something, but they do not make the connection as to what it is. Their paradigm remains the same. They live enslaved to their sinful thoughts, beliefs, and desires, and are sometimes hostage to their emotions. Their heart idolizes “self” and while they have all the tools or know their letters, it has not clicked that it means something to them that will be life changing.
Sometimes God allows me to witness the “click,” that moment when things lock in place and suddenly w-a-t-e-r means that wet stuff that is flowing over their hand. I called this the paradigm shift and it is the crucial part of any true change.
When the paradigm shifts, all the teaching and imperatives that have been poured into them suddenly mean something and in that moment everything changes. Biblical concepts and paradigms I have been teaching them about grace and truth come pouring forth with understanding from the heart. Performance orientation now is meaningless, and is replaced by obedience because they understand He loves them! Desires change from wanting what I want to desiring God and His glory! Thoughts change from manipulative and scheming to those that are honorable, just and true. It is a glorious and holy moment to be a part of, and I never cease to praise God when I am privileged to participate in these events.
The glory of God is on display and yes, there are always tears. Watching someone who has lived as a slave to sin understand that their imprisonment has been self-imposed and that they have been free in Christ since salvation is truly an amazing thing. To borrow from that contemporary song by Chris Tomlin, their chains are gone and they’ve been set free!
This is so fresh in my mind because I recently had this privilege not once, but twice. These are incredibly encouraging times for me and the Lord is so very good to allow me to witness His working in the hearts of His people. I imagine the Apostles felt the same way as they preached the cross to the people they witnessed to in Jerusalem.
This is why I do what I do. Yes, the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God! (1 Cor. 1:18 NASB)