By: Ann L. Coker
Sitting before me in the counseling room is a young girl whose life is “sitting on empty.” She just endures life. For her, life may not have been kind or just. She wants only to make it through another day and without this pressing problem of pregnancy. She has come to me. That’s the unique opportunity at a pregnancy help center. They come to us. We do not have to go get them.
In her book, Just Give Me Jesus, Anne Graham Lotz has a chapter titled “Jesus Makes Happiness Attainable for the Outcast.” Content of this chapter connects some great biblical truths with the needs of our clients. Let’s look with Anne Lotz at John’s Gospel, chapter four.
Jesus had a need, a reason, to go through Samaria. He rested by the side of a well while the disciples went into town for food. A woman approached and Jesus initiated a conversation, even asking her for a drink of water. Jesus knew this woman – her unwholesome past, her troubled present, and her uncertain future. He saw in her the evidence of emptiness as Anne Lotz labels them: dissatisfaction, distortion, discouragement, and disillusionment. Jesus also knew the solution that would bring her happiness. Jesus and this woman are in the right place at the right time, together. It was clearly a divine intervention planned for her that day.
A counselor and her client have also come together at the right time to connect needs with solutions only Jesus offers. Ours is a divinely coordinated meeting between a need (the client) and a resource (the counselor) that can only be completed through Christ. Counselors start with a question, as Jesus did. The reasons for her emptiness often spill out. She has doubts, wondering what to do. She wants to be free of what’s troubling her, to put her burden down and leave it with us.
The woman at the well showed curiosity about Jesus, for as a Jew He was talking with a woman of Samaria. As counselors, most of our curiosity is satisfied with the interview. But our clients are curious about us, so we give them a chance to ask questions. I’ve often told a client how long I’ve been married. Surprised by my response, they sometimes asked, “To the same man?” It’s their curiosity that then gives me opportunity to share the importance of sacred vows.
Jesus did not call the Samaritan woman to Him. She came to where He was. Throughout His ministry, Jesus did not seek people out. Her reason for coming to the well was to get water. She needed it. His primary reason to be at the well was to give her “living water” (John 4:10). Jesus knew what she really needed.
Our clients exhibit the same symptoms of emptiness that Jesus saw in the Samaritan woman. Dissatisfied with their freedom, they are thirsty spiritually but don’t know how to quench that longing for satisfaction. We meet clients whose lives have gone wrong and they sense we know what’s right. They may be looking for someone they can confide in, someone who will listen, someone who doesn’t judge when they cry.
Jesus treated the Samaritan woman with respect while He “pierced her protective shield” (Lotz). With some of our clients we need to face our deep-seated prejudices that might surface because of race, culture (Asian view of abortion), socio-economic level (“in the system”), or their educational background.
The woman at our well
One of my clients was too pretty for such ugly words to be sputtering from her mouth as she spoke about the father of the baby. She clutched her coat and looked over at her mom who told her to be honest with me. That she was, revealing her sexual history and habit of smoking pot. I asked how long that had been going on. Without hesitation she said, “Seven years,” and added, “since my brother died.” She cried. I waited, then gave my testimony wrapped around the plan of salvation. Her brown eyes held their watch on me until the very end when I prayed out loud for her. Her pregnancy test was negative.
Jesus drank the water the woman gave Him. When He “sharpened her focus and . . . increased her thirst” (Lotz), He offered her living water. That’s what we do. Many connectors surface in our client’s life story and answers to questions. What connectors have we missed because we are distracted in our focus? We get preoccupied with ourselves, thinking ahead about responsibilities, knowing other clients are waiting. In preparation for our time at the center, we must first sit at Jesus’ feet to drink deeply from His well so we have living water to share with our clients.
One thing stood in the way of the Samaritan woman receiving the living water. Her sin. We can present the Gospel message, convince a person what sin is, and even confront her about her sin. But remember: the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts. We can’t do His job. But we can present Jesus, the one who heals and gives hope.
Sometimes our client puts up resistance about religion. She brings up bad experiences, such as a Christian’s hypocritical lifestyle. Or she may have been shunned at church, thus concluding that Christianity is not worth pursuing. The Samaritan woman resisted religion. Jesus’ response was not about religion but relationship: “True worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (John 4:23). Religion is not our clients’ primary need.
For her need the answer is clearly Jesus. Anne Lotz asserts, “Jesus didn’t back down, not even a little, in the face of her defensive challenge. Nor did He get caught up in secondary issues.” Jesus kept her focus on Him. What then did she do? She went to tell others. So filled with joy, she left her water jar behind. Like the Samaritan woman, our clients tell others about their good experience at the center. They send others, and we introduce these to Jesus also.
A client phoned the center to announce that her baby boy arrived on Valentine’s Day. Happy about her decision to carry and parent, she said the father gave their son his last name and a promise of support. She expressed thanks for all the center had done – counseling for both of them, a new crib, and a diaper bag full of new items. They did their part, and without that we could not have done our part.
Ann L. Coker began as a volunteer at the Crisis Pregnancy Center of the Wabash Valley, located in Terre Haute, Indiana. After ten years she went on staff as Client Services Director, first at the main center and then at one in Brazil, IN. She retired in 2008 but continues pro-life work as a board member of the Wabash Valley Right to Life.
Ideas and excerpts have been taken from Just Give Me Jesus by Anne Graham Lotz Copyright © 2000, 2009 by Anne Graham Lotz. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.