“Cow Patty Counseling”
One evening as I was studying in my office, the phone rang. I spoke with a young woman I had taught during a Bible study some years before. I had counseled and guided her during her college years as she dealt with self-esteem issues and other normal issues of college life. She was calling because she had hit a rough patch and thought she needed to go deeper into the issues of her past. She thought she and I could dig up all the suppressed dysfunctions that she just knew must still be hidden in her psyche. These were, in her words, “obviously causing all my present-day social anxieties and problems.”
This discussion led me to employ a quirky, unorthodox response inspired by Michael Wells. I explained that I too believed her counseling needs were much bigger than we first imagined. In fact, I expressed to her that she probably needed dozens of hours of counseling. Unfortunately, that would be very expensive. I would have to charge her at least $70 an hour (which was not true in the least).
But I said I had a deal for her. I would reduce her rate if she would drive north of Nashville and find a beautiful, sprawling farm. Then I wanted her to go to a lovely pasture and locate a nice cow patty. Once she found it, she was to sit with it for several hours a day, and she was to study, dissect, and explore this cow patty. I explained that she should really “get in there” and feel it, smell it, squish it between her fingers . . . anything she could do to really explore the “complexity” of that cow poo!
After her initial reaction of shock, I asked her, “At the end of dozens of hours of studying this cow patty, what will you know?”
“Nothing!” she said.. “It’s just a cow patty!”
“Good answer!” I responded. “You will know nothing more about the cow patty than when you first sat down except that you will now smell like it!”
I shared with her that when I was growing up, my grandfather had a farm and I often played in the fields. It only took one experience of running barefoot in the pasture to understand, with complete clarity, the essence of a patty. I learned that first day what to do with a cow patty: step around it or let it dry up and kick it out of the way.
Yes, we could dig further into her past . . . again, but after years of digging and uncovering all the dirt she would find, it would still be just dirt! Then I explained a life-altering truth I’ve learned that guides me to this day: what gets your attention gets you! If she just focused on the “dirt” in her past, she could relive it, mourn it, and dissect it, but it might not accomplish much except to make her wallow in it until she smelled like it. Yes, it was good to embrace her wounded past and examine her life, but sooner than later, she must strive to move past it and focus on Christ and His life. Then true healing begins.