Many times clients have said to me, “What is the ultimate purpose of counseling anyway?” Their question is excellent because it grows out of their sense that healing alone is not enough. Deep down, we all intuitively know that we are made for more than healing and even made for more than freedom. There is an ultimate goal. There is a reason for digging into your story. It may be bigger than you think.
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Healing is beautiful, but if that’s the only reason you’re engaging your story, if that’s the only reason you’re in therapy, then you are missing the ultimate point of all story engagement and all therapy.
So, what is the purpose of counseling? It is to discover the kingdom that has been conferred on you and to step into a robust ruling over your kingdom.
Now, I imagine this language may be new to some of you. Your kingdom. What is that? So, bear with me… b/c I’m going to explain what I mean over the course of this episode.
As we begin to experience healing and freedom (not when it’s complete, but as we begin to experience healing and freedom), we are meant to begin identifying our kingdom and ruling over it.
The purpose of counseling, IOW, is to identify and own your kingdom more fully.
Okay, what do I mean by “your kingdom”?
A kingdom is simply the realm over which a sovereign rules.
Jesus is a king and he has a kingdom. It is called the Kingdom of God—the Kingdom of God is the realm over which Jesus the king rules.
Now, here’s the thing: in Luke 22, Jesus says “I have conferred on you a kingdom.”
Speaking to his disciples, he says the following beginning with v. 28:
28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Let me repeat that: I confer on you a kingdom just as my Father conferred one on me.
When we talk about your kingdom, we are talking about your participation in the ascension of Christ.
It is common to think that the resurrection marks the culmination of Christ’s work on our behalf. Not so. The culmination of the work of Christ is his ascension.
Christ is ascended. He sits at the right hand of the Father.
In other words, he reigns as a king. And he is in the process of bringing all things into submission to himself.
The power of the ascension gives us the power to take authority over the forces of darkness arrayed against us.
The principle is that of our union with Christ.
Since Christ has ascended to his place of authority over all evil powers, and since we are united with Christ and participate in his ascension, we likewise have authority over evil.
Paul puts it quite succinctly in Ephesians 2:6 — God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms.
Q: Now, what does it mean to be seated with Jesus in the heavenly realms?
If you read the book of Hebrews, the author repeatedly says that Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the Father.” For example, in Hebrews 1, 8, 10, 12 — four times— it says that after Jesus was resurrected, he sat down at the right hand of God.
This doesn’t mean that Jesus pulled up a chair and saddled up next to the Father.
The language of “sitting down at the right hand of God” is another way of saying, “Jesus has been established as an authority over the Creation just like God.”
To sit at the right hand of God is a biblical metaphor for ruling with authority over the Creation.
So, with that as backdrop, let’s read Ephesians 2 again—b/c it’s an insane claim. Paul says that God has raised you and I up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms.
Q: Do you see it?
By saying that we are seated with Christ “in the heavenly realms” Paul is making a statement about our authority.
You are seated with Christ in a position of authority.
But authority over what? Authority over evil.
We are united with Christ, and Christ is seated in the heavenlies above the powers and principalities that war against us.
Because we are united with Christ, we have ascended to the heavenlies just as Jesus has. This means that we are no longer under the dominion of Satan. This is how Christ’s ascension benefits us.
You have been given a kingdom. It’s your kingdom, and it’s nobody else’s.
You have a role to play in the drama that is taking place right now all over planet earth.
What are you meant to do on behalf of the K of G? If J rose from the dead, then death (dead things) don’t have the final word.
So how would you like to bring the K of God to the world?
Put another way, how do you, as your unique self that God has wrought through your lifetime of experiences, bring yourself to the world and participate in Jesus’ transformation of dead things?
The question is, “How are you using the power that comes with being seated in the heavenlies with Christ?”
Pondering this is what it means to ponder the question, What is my kingdom?
What are you doing with your power and your authority?
Now, let’s talk about, “How do I know what my kingdom is?”
Okay, Jesus has conferred on me a kingdom. So what is my kingdom? How do I know what it is?
You identify your kingdom by asking three questions. It was Dan Allender who first posed these three questions to me and I have found them to be a very helpful compass as I have begun to identify my kingdom.
And the three questions are:
What do I hate?
What do I love? and
How has evil assaulted me?
Let’s look at each in turn.
First, what do you hate?
Hatred is incredibly under-rated in Christian circles. The Scripture says that to fear the Lord is to hate what is evil.
Q: What do you hate?
And the question has to be asked in two ways. What do you hate? But of equal importance, what do you hate?
I’m not fond of cancer, but I don’t hate it with the same ferocity as my wife does. Which is why I’m not an oncology PA like she is.
I’m not fond of the fact that right now corporate structures are utterly destroying our environment to increase their bottom line. But I don’t hate it with the same ferocity as people who are called to expose corporate greed and bring restoration to the natural environment.
Asking what do you hate is another way of asking, “How do you want to stand against the kingdom of darkness.”
One of my seminary professors pointed out that only anger can fuel good scholarship.
I get most of the energy to do this podcast from anger. I get most of my energy to sustain doing therapy week in and week out from anger.
What keeps me sitting in a chair—relentlessly paying attention to every word and facial expression of my clients—is that I absolutely hate how evil has capitalized on trauma to take them down and torment them.
So, it’s very important for you to get clear about what you hate.
Second question, What do you love?
When you ask yourself, “What do I love?” you are really asking, “What is the song of my heart? What makes my heart sing?”
The question is not so much, “What are my gifts?” The question is “What makes me come alive?” [pause]
What gives you a sense of delight when you do it?
The way to identify your kingdom is to get to know the contours of your heart. Which is to say, “Get to know what makes you come alive.”
Q: What labor do you engage in and after it is complete, you have a deep sense of rest?
I mean there are times after a particular counseling session where I will say to God, “I can die now… because I just did what I was put here to do.”
It’s a sense of “my heart is so full from what I was just privileged to participate in that I can go now.” IOW, I’m at rest.
The great Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis wrote a beautiful piece of music called A Love Supreme.
And apparently after a particularly inspired live performance of A Love Supreme, Miles Davis put his horn down and the people on the front row heard him say, Nunc Demittis.
Nunc Demittis is the Latin translation of Simeon’s prayer in Luke 2 when Simeon finally holds the baby Jesus… he’s been waiting his whole life for this moment and when it comes, he says Nunc Demittis which translates as “Now you can dismiss your servant.”
He’s saying, “I can go now.” I’ve done the thing that I was put on earth to do.
Q: What makes you say “nunc demittis”? What makes you say, “Okay, I just did that… I can go now. I can depart. I’ve done the work that I was put on this earth to do.”
What is the nature of your heart? How would someone who knows you well name your heart?
Look, let me put it this way.
Q: Do you know that God has a white stone waiting for you? On that stone is written a name—and that name is known only between you and God.
Revelation 2:17 — To him or her who overcomes, I will give them a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
That name is your essence. The name on that white stone describes whatever is most true of your heart.
I hope it’s clear: If you want to identify your kingdom, it’s far more important to reflect on the desires of your heart than it is to reflect on your strengths.
In most discussions about kingdom or calling, the emphasis is on identifying your strengths and skill sets and gifting.
I’m all for naming your gifts, but your kingdom is about the passion of your heart far more than it is about your strengths and gifts. Your strengths and gifts are designed to be used in service of fulfilling the passion of your heart.
No one puts it better than the prophet Jeremiah in Jer 20:9 —
But if I say, “I will not mention God or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
What is in your heart like a fire? What is in your heart like a fire shut up in your bones—what is inside your heart that it is impossible for you to hold in?
Pondering that question will lead you much closer to identifying your kingdom than reflecting on your strengths.
Your kingdom is not synonymous with “the work you get paid for.”
Whatever your job is… that’s not synonymous with your kingdom.
Your kingdom is much bigger than your job. To begin with, at the end of the day you stop your job; but you never stop ruling over your kingdom.
But please hear the next sentence: let your paid labor be part of your kingdom if it’s possible.
I mean, if you are fortunate enough to live in a time and place where you can actually get paid for doing work that is consistent with your kingdom, then why not do it?
There are scores of people in this world who are so economically enslaved and oppressed that doing the work that is their kingdom as their profession is not an option for them.
But if that’s not you, then you have to ask the question: What is holding you back?
Part of the demonic structure of modern America is that we separate our paid work day from the rest of our life.
It’s like we have our work life and then we have the rest of our life and they are two separate entities.
Do you not hear the split and disintegration inherent in that way of living?
Your kingdom is far more than your paid labor.
What you choose to do with that portion of your life that is not spent at your paid job is a huge part of your kingdom.
However, having said that, “Are you enjoying your paid work?” Because if you’re not enjoying your paid work, that is a very good indication that you’re not living in your kingdom.
So you need to be asking yourself, “What brings your heart joy and delight?”
Another way of asking “What do I love?” is simply asking, “How does your kingdom grow glory?” Again, Dan Allender was the first person to introduce me to this notion of growing glory in the world.
Glory is the resplendent beauty of the goodness of God. Anything that is resplendently good and true and beautiful bears a measure of glory.
How is the way that you are presently living your life filling the earth with more things that are good and true and beautiful?
If you want to identify your kingdom, you have to begin to ponder what kind of glory do you want to grow?
And this has to be done with particularity. The more granular the better.
Part of my kingdom is doing therapy. Great. But what kind of therapy? Therapy with who?
I don’t work with kids. Why not? Is it because I don’t like kids? Is it because I don’t have strengths and gifting in working with kids?
No, it’s because working with children is not my weaponry. It’s not where my heart sings.
Here’s the point: Part of my kingdom is doing therapy. But it’s not therapy with everyone.
It’s therapy with people who are tormented by the things that I hate and who are passionate about the things that I love.
IOW, it’s therapy with people whose hearts sing a similar song to mine… or at least long to sing a similar song.
Now, the third question to ask to help you identify your kingdom is…
Q: Where have you been wounded?
Identifying your wounds will give you very helpful clues about what might be the contours of your kingdom.
Why? Because Evil hates glory—the driving motivation of the kingdom of darkness is the destruction of the glory of God inherent in God’s creatures.
And so evil’s primary area of assault is always in those areas where you most reflect the glory of God.
And the areas that you most reflect the glory of God tell you what your kingdom is to be about.
To ask, “where have you been wounded” is simply another way of asking, “what is your story?”
Again, this is why reflection on strengths and gifting is not sufficient. You can’t identify your kingdom without knowing your story.
This can actually be really fun.
Here’s how Dan Allender puts it: “By harming you, evil unwittingly prepared you to rule your kingdom better than if you had not been abused.” Let me say that again. Repeat.
Isn’t that cool? Don’t you just love reversals?
Have you ever heard a story in which evil assaulted someone and then God took that very assault and used it to help the traumatized person actually rule his kingdom better than he could have if the assault had never taken place?
That is the Joseph story in the book of Genesis. That is meant to be your story.
To look at your story is to look at the ways God took the war that evil brought against you and used it to equip you to rule your kingdom.
Now, last section, How Do I Step More Fully Into My Kingdom
There is an unlikely tale about the brilliant Renaissance artist Michelangelo.
The tale goes like this: Michelangelo was asked about the difficulties that he must have encountered in sculpting his masterpiece statue of David.
And he replied by saying, “You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David.”
You’re likely already doing something which is consistent with your kingdom, but it might only be 1% of your day right now.
You are likely doing 100 other things that are not part of your kingdom.
So “How do you step more fully into owning your kingdom?” By getting rid of all the good stuff in your life that you’re probably really good at but that is not actually part of your kingdom.
Again, this can be really fun. Why? Because you are meant to play in your kingdom.
There is nothing more serious than you taking ownership of what God has put you here to do, but seriousness is not be equated with constant struggle, burden, and tedium.
Q: How do you decide what pieces of stone need to be cut out of your life so that your kingdom can emerge?
Q: Simple: what are you doing that is burdensome and tedious… and, especially, what are you doing that does not bring you a sense of honor when it is completed?
By honor I mean you have the sense that the task is worthy of your time, your life, your heart, your energy.
By the way, just as an aside, if you are really resonating with or intrigued by all of this, you might want to check out the Certificate Program at the Allender Center because the entire fourth week of that program is focused on coming to own your kingdom more fully. You can read more about the Certificate Program at “TheAllenderCenter.org.”
Most labor will include struggle and turmoil. You can’t rule a kingdom without struggle and effort. But you are not meant to rule your kingdom without playfulness and rest.
If playfulness and rest are not just as present as effort and exertion, then that’s a good indication that you are not ruling your kingdom but rather participating in someone else’s.
So, all work will bear some measure of burden and turmoil, but is the struggle and turmoil that marks your labor right now… is that struggle and turmoil in service of creating delight?
When the burdensome task is done, do you have a sense of joy? A sense of Yes, that was worthy of my time. Or, do you merely feel relief that it’s over.
“Relief that it’s over” is a good barometer that you are not living playfully and freely in your kingdom.
Now, here’s the catch: there are likely really good reasons that you are expending lots of energy accomplishing things that are not worthy of your heart and that are not part of your kingdom.
And those reasons are found in your story.
Continuing day in and day out to spend your precious life in striving and burden- bearing is proof of re-enacting something in your story.
People don’t spend 40 years at a job they hate because they’re stupid.
And, by and large, most people don’t spend 40 years at a job they hate because they are trapped.
Of course, none of this applies to millions and millions of people who are trapped in unjust and oppressive economic structures that are functional modern day slave states.
But if that’s not you… if you live in the so-called “first world” you have to ask yourself why am I spending my life doing something that doesn’t make my heart sing?
Perhaps it’s because you are bound by accusations and agreement that have roots in your story.
If your labor is marked more by burden and striving than by playfulness and rest, what is the fear that compels you to remain where you are? What lies do you agree with that create the sense of being trapped there?
You define the borders of your kingdom by what you say No to and what you say Yes to.
How do you determine what you say No to and what you say Yes to?
When someone asks something of you, is your first inclination to look at your calendar to see if you have time? Why not let your first inclination be to ask, “Does that endeavor lie at the heart of my kingdom?”
If it doesn’t, if it’s kind of related but not really, then… why… do… it?
Doing nothing is far more productive than doing something that is not worthy of your heart. Repeat.
Why? Because in the nothingness, there is space for you to begin to get to know your heart and then you get much more clear about the contours of your kingdom.
As soon as you begin to think about your kingdom is in terms of jobs that currently exist in some organization, you have capitulated to the structures of evil, and you’re in hell.
I mean as soon as you begin to think, “Okay, here are all the jobs that are out there, which of them do I have the skill set for, which would I enjoy the most, which make the most money?”
If those kinds of questions are the starting point, then you can’t possibly identify your kingdom.
The starting point has to be the passions of your heart—what do I hate, what do I love, how have I been assaulted, what brings me delight and rest and a sense of “I can die now because I just did that.”
So, let’s return to the opening question, “What’s the purpose of counseling? What’s the purpose of engaging my story more deeply?”
It’s all directed toward one end: stepping into a robust ruling over the kingdom that Jesus has conferred on you.
You have to realize that what’s happening here on earth is simply this: you are being trained to reign.
Life is training for reigning.
The purpose of counseling is to become increasingly free so that you can increasingly take charge over your kingdom.
Freedom for freedom’s sake is not worthy of your heart. God honors you too much for that. You were made for more than that. You were made to rule over a particular domain.
The purpose of your healing and your freedom is so that you can resume your place of authority over that portion of God’s kingdom that he has honored you with.