Excerpted with permission from Coaching the Coach: Stories and Practical Tips for Transforming lives, by renowned author and life coach Georgia Shaffer. Want to read more? Click here to purchase!
Katie Brazelton, Ph.D., M.Div., M.A.
Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you!
Ezekiel 18:30 NLT
Over the past several decades as a Life Purpose Coach® and Life Plan Facilitator, I’ve heard more sad stories from clients than my heart can bear sometimes. I’ve grieved, for example, with a woman who accidentally backed a car over her toddler sister years earlier. I’ve helped others whose homes and church had flooded, whose spouse had cheated, whose childhood was ripped away by sexual abuse, whose parents had moved thirty-two times, whose businesses and ministries had failed, whose brother had hanged himself, and whose child was terminally ill.
From these types of intense coaching sessions, I’ve come to understand that God can take any life story and turn it into a soul-winning testimony for his glory. In fact, my all-time favorite client is a 56-year-old woman whose most frequently-used words and expressions were the likes of, “I, me, my, mine, princess, queen bee, daddy’s girl, it’s all about me, and it’s my way or the highway.” When her pattern of pride became obvious to her in our conversations, she wept like a baby, thanked God for revealing the truth to her, and immediately asked him for forgiveness.
But no client has ever caused me more consternation than a woman whom I’ll call Sandy. I first met this married, ministry leader over the phone when she called me upon her pastor’s recommendation. He suggested she talk to me about enlarging her ministry role at church, based on my perception of God’s unique plan for her life. I was impressed by Sandy’s servant’s heart in my pre-screening interview and felt honored to accept her as a client.
The big day arrived for our first appointment, which I decided would be at my home to make the experience as lovely as possible for her. I had huge sunflowers smiling on the entryway table, an eclectic array of china preset on the dining-room table for tea and biscotti, and the drapes opened wide to capture the lake view. I was prayed up and had prayer partners covering us.
The doorbell rang, and as I met Sandy on the front porch, she said, “I’m so glad I’m here.” We were off to a great start in my doorway, until she blurted out, “I want to talk to you, because my daughter married beneath herself.” I was stunned. Where was the sweet Sandy? I braced myself for a tough session and once again asked God to guide me.
As she signed my guest book in the entryway, she made this announcement: “I just came from lunch at the yacht club.”
Okay, no big deal. She was probably just trying to make small talk, based on getting a glimpse of the lake outside my windows, but I did make a mental note to watch for signs of Better-Than-You Syndrome and Pay-Attention-to-Me Disease.
Off we went to the dining room table. I hadn’t even finished doctoring up my tea; we hadn’t even opened our coaching session in prayer, when out of the blue, Sandy shared with a grin, “I’m in love with a married dentist.”
Oh, man, what was I supposed to do with that?
Let me spare you the gory details about her intentions to have an affair with the dentist, with whom she’d just had lunch at the club; I’ll even spare you the two sermonettes I gave her about adultery. I used every probing question, listening skill, intercessory prayer, and exhortation I could think of, to no avail. Sandy was not budging from her stubborn disregard for God’s commandments, yet she had come seeking his will for her life. So, I did what I had to do. I moved her to the living room for a change of scenery, tempo, and tone, mainly so I wouldn’t be tempted to “guilt trip” her or to give up before God released me from the coaching session.
I was convinced that my new strategy would work. All I had to do was get her talking about God’s call on her life; then I could circle back around and calmly ask her how an affair and ensuing ministry scandal would affect God’s magnificent plans for her. I didn’t let on about my mastermind intentions, and she didn’t suspect a thing in my stealth approach. Boy, did she light up like a Christmas tree, when we discussed her One Big Thing that God called her to do. When I realized that her primary motives for wanting to know her “thing” were to satisfy her curiosity and for bragging rights, not follow- through, my intuition told me to redirect the session toward character formation. But I felt like I had her just where I wanted her with the repentance deed being all but done; soon she’d be sobbing tears of remorse in my arms–so I resolved to stay the current course.
My plan of circling back around to her affair was foiled; she never did bend, break, weep, or show any sign of concern about her emotional affair. At that point, my spirit was so grieved that I could barely contain my sorrow. I heard God asking me to stop the sham, and he called to mind the words of my personal Life Plan Facilitator, Tom Paterson, who’d written Living the Life You’re Meant to Live. Tom’s voice in my head was saying, Stop. Don’t participate in the mockery she’s making of God’s will. If she’s unwilling to walk away from her sin, she’s unwilling, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Make no apologies for ending the session now.
Oh Lordy Mercy, I didn’t know if I had the wherewithal to be a tough-love coach. Thoughts rushed through my mind like a raging river: Where did I go wrong as a coach? What will she tell her pastor? How will I ever explain this difficult situation to the coaches I train? She’s paid me quite handsomely! Do I owe her a refund?
I watched myself stand up tall and I heard myself say to her calmly, “Sandy, we need to end our session now. I’d be happy to suggest the name of a Christian therapist, who can help you see the spiritual danger you’re in, but I can’t help you anymore. I strongly urge you to pull yourself out of ministry immediately. If you’re willing to be honest with your pastor, I’ll help you prepare for that meeting. (Pause. Inhale. Exhale.) Let me walk you to the door.”
We parted cordially, and I never heard from her again. I’ve replayed that coaching session hundreds of times in my mind, looking for what I could have done differently, but I’m still stymied.
I pray that you’ll find countless ways to help countless clients turn their lives around for God, and I pray that you’ll have the wisdom and courage to walk away from those who are unrepentant and even unwilling to discuss truth.
Coaching the Coach Tip:
Strive to be a humble, non-judgmental, Luke 15 coach for straying sheep–a coach who cares deeply about sinners and remembers, “…there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents” (Luke 15:10 NLT). But here’s a good rule to memorize: When a client shows no remorse for sin and is unwilling to even consider the truth, don’t continue throwing pearls to swine (Matthew 7:6 NASB). When God says, “Enough of that stubborn pride!”–refer the person to a counselor, who can take a more clinical approach about underlying causes for the client’s ungodly, rebellious behavior. And don’t let a bad experience sour you. Keep doing excellent work for the Lord with those who desire biblically-based coaching.
Katie Brazelton, Ph.D., M.Div., M.A., is an ICCA Board Member and Rockbridge Seminary Board Member. She is Founder of Life Purpose Coaching Centers International®, a coach-training provider approved by ICF, CCE-BCC, and IACET to offer continuing education units. Katie is a sought-after coach, 2-Day Life Plan Facilitator, and speaker worldwide, as well as a bestselling author with eight books and three DVD coaching curricula about life purpose. (www.LifePurposeCoachingCenters.com)
Georgia Shaffer, M.A., is a professional speaker, certified Life Coach and the author of four books including Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches. She is is a regular columnist for Christian Coaching Today and a board member of the International Christian Coaches Association (ICCA). Georgia is on the teaching team of AACC’s Professional Life Coaching Training. She specializes in coaching coaches, women and communicators To find out more, visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.