Michelle Hollomon, author of a newly released book titled God Unwrapped: God Is Love...but Not the Kind You Are Used to (www.godunwrappedbook.com), spoke in her interview with the Christian Telegraph about our view of God, her counseling experiences and the biggest challenges for Christianity today.
Michelle is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Washington and Texas, and a certified professional coach. Michelle has a private practice near Seattle, WA, that helps people realize personal significance, manage anxiety and achieve relational health.
Michelle believes deeply in God’s desire to heal and transform the human heart. Each person she encounters has various life experiences, some good and some painful. These experiences color the way people see God and how they see themselves. Michelle communicates time-tested biblical principles that help re-frame their points of view and equip people with simple tools for greater spiritual health.
You wrote the book on such an interesting subject as our view of God. Why did you choose this subject?
I had about ten years of counseling experience and, as I talked with other clients of mine, it seemed that their thoughts about who they were as people and who God was directly affected their mood, their success in life, their relationships with other people, their marriages, and their kids. And so I thought that it was an important topic to start addressing.
Was your book written only for Christians, or will it be interesting for nonbelievers to read it too?
I didn’t write it for Christians. I do have some nonbelievers, who read it, and they say that it was very helpful to them.
I notice, that the book was written as a tutorial. Why did you choose to form the book in this way?
I thought that it would be the easiest to understand for readers if I were to give life examples. And then people can always get together and do a Bible study, or they can talk about the topics and consult questions and some Scripture at the end of each chapter to help the conversation and the discussion the well. Right now, I am having a Bible study in my home on the book and so I am testing it out right now. It’s been very great. The ladies - it’s a women’s Biblical study - the questions that have been released are provoking, but not so intense to make discussion stop. Yes, it’s working very well.
Could you please tell us the main message of the book in several words?
God’s love is better than you think.
Do you plan to publish book in some other languages?
I would love to have this book published in other languages. I have a friend with a Campus Crusade for Christ in Estonia right now, and we have talked about getting it published in a couple of other languages for Eastern Europe, but we just have to decide when right time is.
This is wonderful, because it will be very useful for people in Eastern Europe to study God’s love.
Yes. And how God’s love and our perception of God’s love gets painted or warped, or changed based on our past experiences growing up. We have to relearn who God really is, and He is much better than our past experiences let us to believe.
What role does our family play in forming our view of God?
I think that our family is the first imprint of what a care-giver and who a god-figure or an authoritarian-figure is. So, God is all of those things. He takes care of us, He also is an authority over us, but He is also a care-giver, He takes care and nurtures us. My parents are just a first imprint so that we can understand better as we grow who a God is. So if those roles, our parents roles, have broken down and they were not able to take care of us the way that was a loving way, or they use anger and control or manipulation in parenting us, or neglect, then it gives us an idea of who God is and that just really isn’t true.
What advice can you give parents for them to form a correct view of God in their children?
I have two daughters, and I found that the more filled with grace that I am in the contest of the relationship that I have with God, then the better parent I am. So instead of trying to be a really good parent or learning new parenting technique, I found that the closer I draw into Jesus, the more naturally I am able to show my kids the kind of love they need.
You consult people. Is it hard for you to combine work with family and how do you restore yourself after listening to somebody else's problems?
Usually, I take an hour when I don’t talk to my kids or my clients. And usually, I can come home and be ok and fine. But every once in a while, a client’s story will affect me so deeply that my kids will ask ‘what was wrong in your day?’ and I would say, ‘Oh, I am just sad; somebody told me something that was so sad.’ And after they ask, I say ‘Ok’ to myself ‘well, I’d better pull it together and be good mom, and figure out what their day was like.’
What has been the most memorable case in your consulting? Maybe, the most miraculous changes that God did in someone’s life, some testimonies.
I first have to talk about myself and the freedom and the grace that I’ve experienced over my lifetime. And what a stark difference it is between knowing God and how He really is, and accepting the kind of grace and love He has for me compared to when I thought that I had to try very hard to get Him to approve of me. It is such a difference. When I see clients today who have similar difficulties, when they just never feel like they are good enough, as they really transform their thoughts, when God transforms their thoughts about who they are, and who God is, it is like a veil, that is lifted over their heads, like a cloud that just turns into sunshine. The truth will set us free and, when they accept how true and unconditional God’s love is, then they are finally free to be human. And when they accept themselves as human - accept that they can’t do any better than be just an a human - then they get superhuman-like power from God that helps them to overcome things, that they never could overcome in the past.
Can you give some advice to Church consultants? To what should they pay their attention while consulting people?
I think it is important to recognize their automatic thoughts. When we are talking with someone, who is maybe asking for our advice, those automatic thoughts will come up. I call it maybe the inner critic. Maybe those thoughts are ‘oh, you’ve done it again’ or ‘you never get it right’ or ‘did you see how she looked at you, she must not like you at all.’ Those thoughts that stop us from achieving all that we have the potential to achieve, and all the things that God has for us. So I would first start taking apart what your thoughts are and really finding out if they are true or if they just sabotaging.
And what is one to do with disappointed ministers? How is one to help them if they, for example, are disappointed in God or in Church, or in family members?
They have a really difficult situation because they think they need to look like they have all together all the time. Since they are the leaders of the church, they feel a lot of pressure to be perfect. When I do work with pastors, the first thing we do is look at self-acceptance and help them understand that they don’t have to be the perfect person that they think they ought to be. Accepting themselves first is really the first key to growth. Accept yourself how you are, give yourself plenty of grace and love, and then say ‘Ok, God. Now, what can you do with me?’ Every time we feel like we have to hide the bad parts of ourselves or the sinful parts of ourselves, it creates a lot of shame, and then that shame splits us from God. Remember Adam and Eve who had to hide in the bushes because they were so ashamed. So it makes us hide our real selves from God and from other people. So when pastors in particular maybe feel that they have to live a perfect life, or they cannot show their humanity to other people, then it just causes them to split off from God or they cannot be authentic with God and with others.
The last and the most global question - what do you think is the biggest challenge for Christianity today?
I think it is being who God wants us to be; our authentic Jesus-self in a face of unpopular opinion.