[Dr. Todd Hardin serves as Grace Baptist Church’s Minister of Care and Counseling where he directs the Charis in Action Counseling Center. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in Biblical Counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is also a PhD. student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Todd lives with his wife Brenda and their two boys in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is our blogger for the month of May and this is his fourth post.]
I hope that thus far, our interaction with the narrative of David and Mephibosheth (2 Sam 9) has helped you think Christianly about the connection between early childhood experiences and adult psychiatric problems. In part one of this article, I discussed what it meant to observe this subject revelationally. In part two, I examined how one could interpret this subject theologically. In this final section of the article I will explain how one can apply conclusions concerning this subject incarnationally. With that stated, lets return to the David and Mephibosheth story and ascertain how we can make its implicit lessons explicit in our therapeutic interactions with the Mephibosheths in our practices.
By taking the traumatic events of Mephibosheth’s life into consideration (see part 2), it seems inevitable that he would see himself in a self-abasing way. From this perspective, it seems that Mephebosheth’s self-abasing pride flowed from his heart through the channel of these early childhood experiences until it poured into a cesspool of self-pity.
Subsequently, Mephibosheth bathed in this cesspool until he washed away his true self, identified with the stench in the cesspool, and assumed the identity of the dead dog of which he so staunchly smelled. Although Mephibosheth’s early childhood experiences did not force him to sin, they did help him find his swimming hole.
For his part, David incarnated the grace of Christ by drawing near to Mephibosheth (“do not fear”) (2 Sam 9:7), disputed his cognitive distortions concerning his true identity by paradoxically proclaiming a permanent place at the king’s table for this dead dog (“you shall eat at my table always”) (2 Sam 9:7), and helped Mephibosheth consolidate his new self-identity by making this invitation a continual experiential reality (“he ate always at the king’s table”) (2 Sam 9:13). David’s actions introduced Mephibosheth to the first step in genuine repentance; that is, David helped Mephibosheth “see his sin.” This helped Mephibosheth become aware of where his heart needed to change.
Thinking Christianly about the connection between early childhood experiences and adult psychiatric problems helps Christian psychologists conceptualize the struggles of counselees from a biblical perspective. This perspective brings light into the darkness of the human struggle and helps the Mephibosheths in their clinical practices take the first steps to “eating at the king’s table always.”
Join the Conversation
As you think about David’s approach to Mephibosheth’s struggle, what are some additional ways that you could help counselees struggling with this “identity crisis” come to experience their true identities in Christ?
 By self-abasing pride, I am not referring to outright arrogance. Instead, I am speaking of the kind of pride that one exhibits when he denies the efficacy of Jesus’ work on the cross on his behalf. In other words, “Lord I am so bad, that you could redeem everyone’s sin but mine!”
 Puritan writer Thomas Watson articulated six ingredients necessary for true repentance. These ingredients were: 1) Sight of sin; 2) Sorrow for sin; 3) Confession of sin; 4) Shame for sin; 5) Hatred of sin; and 6) Turning from sin. For more information, see Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance (Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth, 1668), 18-58.