A Fly on the Wall at the Areopagis
Psychological disillusionment occurs when a belief central to one’s identity appears to be false. It is the painful feeling that arises from a discovery that something is not what it was anticipated to be. Encountering disillusionment in our life or the world around us is inevitable. How we respond to disillusionment is pivotal.
The story of Paul at the Areopagus is a model for professionals, ministers, and lay people seeking to bring God's light to their field of practice and metron (Acts 17). The scripture begins by telling us that Paul temporarily stopped in Athens to await his companions who were to join him on the rest of his journey. Like the current zietgeist, upon arrival to the scene spirituality is all the buzz. Paul discovers that this learned city is filled with idols and his “spirit is stirred in him” (vs.16). When he sees the idol dedicated "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD" Paul's initial discouragement is quickly replaced with recognition of the Athenians' hunger and active search for spiritual things.
Psychological disillusionment in my life and practice has become a valued signal. When we encounter it in ourselves, those we serve, or the world around us often therein lies a hunger for more. With that hunger for more is the seed of an underlying faith that “the more” is possible. Disillusionment when understood and interpreted in this light is a gift! It is the gift that provokes us to enter into the consummate dialogue with the unknown God. As we encounter those aspects of Him that were previously unknown to us we grow in intimacy with the God who has more for us.
“Disillusionment is the gift that provokes us to enter into the consummate dialogue with the unknown God.”
Paul is stirred in his spirit and abandons the next leg of his journey to stay in Athens and join the dialogue. Like Paul, instead of being fearful, paralyzed, or even frustrated by what we see around us, let us be provoked. If left unprovoked, then the fear of darkness may cause us to become nearsighted, farsighted, or completely blinded to what God is doing. Instead, we can partner with Him to support the atmosphere needed to germinate these seeds of faith in ourselves, in others, and in the field of psychology.
Daniel is another biblical example for us. Daniel was called to serve a king who was looking for God in all the wrong places. He looked to sorcery and witchcraft and yet Daniel humbly loved and served His king. God gave Daniel everything he needed to be raised up to influence in the midst of this kingdom. The Lord supernaturally downloaded “knowledge, understanding, all types of learning and of literature” to Daniel as he used him to influence the influential of that day (Daniel 1:17). God even gave Daniel the ability to interpret the king’s God-given dreams. Like the apostle Paul, Daniel did not focus on the darkness. Instead he choose to bring the light.
Jeremiah, another prophet replied to the spiritual questions of his day with this, "This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls" (Jeremiah 6:16).
So let us stand and start looking. Let’s start asking and walking. Then with a New Testament eye towards the future, let’s start proclaiming as Paul did.