“What’s life like for you now? If you had a choice, how would you prefer your life to be different in the future?”
These two questions used to form the structure of my first visit with individuals, couples & families I served as a Clinical Social Worker over my 40 years in practice. I place them at the top of today’s blog post because I think they also form the structure for what Christians traditionally call the season of Advent. Advent is life now. Christmas is the preferred life to come, assuming that what we want is different from what we now have in today’s world.
It’s safe to say that most folks coming for counseling want something to be different in the future. Yet, what most have yet to learn is that they actually have a choice in such matters.
So the take-away from visit #1 to my counseling office would be just this: “You do have a choice.” Your future can be better than your present if you’re willing to make some new choices in life and then act on them.
We all are prone to two things in life. Wanting the future to be better than the present. And doubting that we have a choice in such matters. Such doubt is what brings about our own anxiety and depression.
Counseling goal #1: a better future is ours to choose.
It’s not a matter of “if” we have a choice, but “when” we make our choice for a preferred future. Deciding when can be our most important choice to make. Working our mental muscles is hard exercise for all who doubt our own free-will, so deciding when to decide when is sometimes how we must begin our counseling therapy.
God has free-will, too. And for Christians it is understood that the day we call Christmas is when God decided to do things differently from before. God claimed His power to choose. God chose to come to earth in human form. In the person of Jesus. The body who would grow up to speak God’s own mind concerning God’s own preferred future. God wanted his human family to be better in the future than it was in the present.
Advent is God’s way of saying what it is like now for this human family in the home we call earth. It’s not good! We’re worried or angry! We’re conflicted or divided! We’re tired or exhausted! We’re ashamed or guilty! Our human family is in trouble at all levels. We’re dysfunctional. That’s what it is like to be living in this family now.
And we can do better.
That is the take-away message from Advent. We all have a choice. Going forward into the Christmas season is akin to going into family counseling alongside our God. Living into a preferred future relationship. Understanding that it’s darkest before the dawn, the present darkness can end, we can see the light and see things differently then, we can make new choices, take new actions. God wants our family to all get along. To reconcile. To have peace and tranquility.
God wants our Christmas future to be better than the Advent present.
Advent itself represents the “if” we decide upon. If we aren’t satisfied with our human family in relation to God’s powerfully loving influence among us, then we have entered into Advent.
Christmas represents the “when” God has decided upon. If we join God in choosing to have a more functional and loving family with God through the help of our wonderful counselor, Jesus Christ, then we will enter into Christmas.
“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
-- Isaiah 9:6