Katherine Bigmans enters Dr. Switzer’s office with a problem.
Dr. Switzer: Tell me about the problem you wish to address.
Katherine: Oh, okay. Well, I have this fear of being buried alive in a box. I just start thinking about being buried alive, and I begin to panic.
After determining the issue is claustrophobia, Dr. Switzer issues his counsel.
Dr. Switzer: All right. Well, let’s go, Katherine. I’m going to say two words to you right now. I want you to listen to them very, very carefully. Then I want you to take them out of the office with you and incorporate them into your life.
Katherine: Shall I write them down?
Dr. Switzer: No. If it makes you comfortable. It’s just two words. We find most people can remember them.
Dr. Switzer: You ready?
Dr. Switzer: Okay. Here they are. Stop it!
Katherine: I’m sorry?
Dr. Switzer: Stop it!
Many of you will recognize this side-splitting skit from Mad TV. Dr. Switzer goes on to address the other various issues in the woman’s life with this same, hilarious advice: Stop it! The doctor doesn’t ever go too deep. He only goes deep enough to hear a problem, and then he issues his advice: Stop it! After Katherine gets flustered, the Dr. slows things down.
Dr. Switzer: All right. Then let me give you ten words that I think will clear everything up for you. You want to get a pad and a pencil for this one?
Katherine: All right.
Dr. Switzer: Are you ready?
Dr. Switzer: All right. Here are the ten words: Stop it, or I’ll bury you alive in a box!
This skit is unbelievably funny, but it is also indicative of how we “help” others in their own struggle with sin. What do I mean?
1. We don’t want to get too deep. I’m usually fine with hearing an issue or two. But when the chair becomes noticeably harder, when the “fidgets” set in, my mind is prone to go to mean and nasty places: Alright. Alright. Yeah. Yeah. When can I get out of here. You’re messed up…I get it. I don’t naturally want to ask tougher questions, and I usually don’t want to engage. Scuba diving into a person’s life doesn’t sound very appealing when I’m focused on the hundreds of things I could be doing or the thousands of things I would rather be doing.
2. We often issue a “stop it” and call it a day. First, we often have canned answers. “God is sovereign. Everything will turn out for your good. I’ll pray for that.” These are great helps, but we often say them without much thought. We often say them without trying to understand our Christian sibling. We often use these lines in lieu of deeper, more thought-provoking responses such as, “How does that make you feel? What has that experience been like for you?” Why settle for the Christian one-liners? If not, we run the risk of another 30 minutes at Starbucks at 4:30pm. You know what I mean. We’re glancing at the clock and thinking, If I get out of here right now, I’ll miss the traffic. If I ask these thought-provoking questions, I’m gonna be stuck in the middle of a purgatorial state amongst the thousands of other crazies that are trying to creep home. So we give the canned answers, the answers that all Christians have in their back pockets for times such as these. They’re not bad responses, but they are incomplete. Second, our canned answers usually give law and not Christ. Here’s where the “stop it” comes in. I think all of us men out there are natural “heroes”, or at least we want to be. We really do suffer from a collective hero complex. We want to be the saviors (see the last post), so we like to fix things. The problem is, most issues in life are not fixed by a single meeting or by a simple answer (my wife has been patiently teaching me this for some time). Still, our responses often fall on the side of “that’s bad for you. you really need to quit.” I’ve been on both sides of this. I’ve given responses to the effect of, “Dude, you really need to stop this. Just man up and quit!” I’ve also been given such responses. Neither are life-giving. They are only helpful in pointing out the obvious. Chances are, the person who has divulged his or her life to you already knows they shouldn’t be doing what they are doing, but we often miss the fact that there are underlying desires, beliefs, and fears that are swimming underneath the surface. To leave them uncovered is to put a Band-aid on the cancer. What will truly help is a steady hand of a brother or sister who consistently brings me back to Christ, who consistently loves me, challenges me, scuba dives with me, and demonstrates Gospel love to me by sitting with me for hours at Starbucks or on the phone.
Real discipleship and sanctification take time and care. Let’s get deep, and let’s start by asking thoughtful questions. Let’s disregard the clock, embrace the 5 o’clock traffic, and love our brothers and sisters patiently, grace-fully, and lovingly. After all, we’re just imaging what our Great God has done for us. So, to all of us who issue the canned responses, who are afraid of going deeper, and who are constantly eyeing the clock (myself included), I want to say two words to you in friendly Christian jest. Ready? Don’t worry about writing them down.
[insert winking emoticon]