Friday, April 22, 2011

the next step: part three

"For the sake of your name, lead me and guide me...
Psalm 31:3


A wise pastor once referred to the erroneous "fortune cookie" mentality we often have in seeking God's will for our lives. We are prone to look for signs and messages apart from His word or His Spirit in prayer. In that same message, he outlined what he called "markers on the road". When the Lord calls us to something in our lives, it begins with a prompting of the Spirit (the sense that God is leading us), which is followed by certain uncertainty (the questioning of if it is God's leading or our own), predictable resistance (fears/doubts/interference) and the final marker, uncommon clarity...

It was on a Wednesday evening that final marker came into view. We had a guest speaker in one of my classes who immediately reminded me of myself in some ways. She was there to share information about her profession and how technology has drastically changed the media industry in the last decade. But, more than that, she also managed to share her story - and her faith - in a way that struck a chord of inspiration in my heart. In college, through what she referred to as "divine intervention", God completely changed the direction of her studies. As she talked about that moment, I knew that I was experiencing the same thing. "I believe your passion pins you to your purpose", she said. It was amazing to see someone who knew that they were doing what God had designed them to and although she works in a secular environment, she has the ability to share her faith with everyone she comes into contact with - even speaking to a group of students, she shares her story and her faith in such a disarming and entertaining way that it is contagious . I want that.

That same night, I stopped at the bookstore on the way home and bought a study guide for the GRE... and prayed for confirmation. Oh Lord, help me.

The next morning is really where part one really began: in sweaty gym clothes in my bedroom floor. I had listened to an incredible message that morning at the gym while working out, about the Lord as our Shepherd - He leads us, He guides us, He protects us, and we follow Him. When I got home, I reluctantly took the pile of mail out of the front seat of my car. I very rarely check my mail and when I do, I thumb through it to make sure there are no personal items and trash the rest. I pay all of my bills online and never have time to peruse circulars or ads - I don't even open the envelope of coupons anymore. There just isn't time. I threw the stack on my bed to thumb through it and the paper (the little "Extra" that the Birmingham News sends out weekly) fell open on top. And let me make it clear that the odds of it having even made it in the house through the garage and past the garbage can are astronomical. That said, the title of the article on the front caught my eye: "A Bit of Grace in a Busy World"...in big bold letters. I glanced at the article. It was a story about... waitforit... counseling.

I picked it up and read a few lines of the beginning "the average burnout for counselors is a mere two years" (uh-oh, not encouraging) I kept reading: "but Jane's contagious, upbeat attitude and enthusiasm remains steadfast: she says, "It's encouraging because you see people get well, marriages get well, teenagers decide that their parents aren't evil and speak to them. I'm not close to burnout because that's how encouraging Christan counseling can be." (wow, that is encouraging).

I felt that old, familiar tinge of regret. You know, that sense that I wish I'd felt a calling or a direction sooner. I've always been envious of others who seemed to know or have a clear calling and direction in their lives. 'Oh Lord, it just feels so late. I feel so old. It will take so long.' I thought of the speaker who had been in my class the night before. She was close to my age and yet, pursuing another degree. I knew in my heart it wasn't too late. I looked at a picture of the woman in the article and wondered what her story was, how early she had known, if she always knew or if God had called her.

I turned the page: "But, she didn't start out her professional life as a counselor. She worked in Marketing before she felt the call to counseling and quit her job to go back to school. 'My boss thought I was a complete nut for walking away from money and success', but she enrolled in UAB's graduate school of counseling and never looked back. Today, she is running her own non-profit counseling firm which also has a publishing arm, (in which she combines her writing with her counseling)."

My head was spinning. Or was it my heart? I sat down. And there, in my bedroom floor on a Thursday morning, I experienced that moment that I had longed for all of my life. That moment, in which everything about my life - past, present, future - came together in a beautiful collision that suddenly made sense. God really did intend to use all of the brokenness - and broken pieces - of my life.

And so, all of this to say: my next step is applying for graduate school and pursuing my M.A. and LPC in counseling. For the very first time in my life, I have an incredible sense of purpose, and passion, and direction - and it is the most incredible gift from God.

In August of 2009, my first day back in college, I wrote: "every moment in my life has led me to this moment, to this day, when i would return to college at the age of thirty three. seeds have been planted throughout my life, the Lord has fertilized the soil of my heart. this flowing fountain of knowledge will rain down on me and i... i am ready to bloom! it is my prayer that i bloom for the glory of Christ."

As I begin the journey into graduate school, my prayer remains the same.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.
“They are plans for good and not for disaster,
to give you a future and a hope.
When you pray, I will listen.
If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.
I will be found by you,” says the Lord.
I will end your captivity and restore you.
I will gather you out of the from where I sent you and
will bring you home again.”

Jeremiah 29:11-16

1 comment:

  1. I had to smile......I have a counseling background....my degree though is Social Work (so it was a 64 hour Master's)...and I had my license to counsel and did lots of it before I "retired".....I never burned out....still use my knowledge - all the time!

    Excited for you.....the only caution is this - in a secular counseling program you have to weed out the humanism and be sure to line up with the Word of God....

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