Tuesday, September 16

The Seminary Diaries: herein lies your identity

It had already been a long day, full of homework catch up, lots of obscure reading (that did not stick), and our new life group (that was completely wonderful, btw).  I'm searching for my much missed REM sleep, praying my thanksgiving to God, and I thank Him for the opportunity to attend seminary and for this giant calling He has brought me to.  Then, very clearly, and almost audibly, He said:

"Imagine if I stopped calling you to counseling."

I don't believe those were His exact words, but in that instant it's almost as if I went back to a former self and was living in a world where I hadn't been called to seminary.  Suddenly, I was no longer equipped with the gifts to be a counselor; I was no longer on a path towards career counseling and helping others. 

And I panicked.  I'm talking tight chest, tearful eyes, panicked.  I was suddenly caught in a place where I pleaded for something that had only hypothetically occurred.  "But what about all the schooling I've done?"  "What about this deep passion you've given me for people and for studying this material?"  "What about the dreams I've had for 4 years now?"

And He responded, "herein lies your identity".

Gulp.

I've been so grateful to be given the gifts of empathy, support, wisdom, and shepherding, and I've done my best to be obedient wherever God calls.  I've spent much time pondering all that God has had to do in my life to get me to this place (no easy feat, I'm sure), and yet, Counselor is still where I am hanging my identity hat each night.

He's right. If He took that away, I would be devastated.  I would feel as if my whole life had been taken out from under me.  And just like that, there's the hole.  I cannot place my identity in something worldly, in a career, or in how people see me; all of those things can and will be taken away and will not leave a lasting identity.  I will be completely empty when they do.

Gulp.

Of course, when I woke up this morning, I was still being called to counseling and to seminary, that was very clear.  What was even more clear is what God was going to do through this midnight premonition.  In my first class, two students, whom I've never met before, were able to point out two things about me--"perfectionist" and "controlled".  (Like a Mack truck in the face, those words were).  In the second class, "identity formation is what we're doing here".  In the third class, "therapy is a way of stripping away the old stuff and building new thought processes". And finally, the fourth class, Professor Adam Wilson so profoundly declares, "In a grad program, there is a high desire for approval (the best grades, being noticed, climbing to the top, etc.), but if you only focus on that, you'll miss what God is wanting to teach you here".

A high desire for approval, he said.  Stripping away and building of identity she said. It was very obvious that this was the beginning of God pull away the things I hold so dear in this world and the things that I think protect me from bullies and critics.  It's very clear that God will be removing every security blanket I have, leaving me completely empty and bare, for the world to see.  The irony of this, however, is that's exactly why I chose this school.  The obvious choice was always Alex's place of work which was closer and offered a similar grad program.  But when Dr. Nesbit said to me, "Seminary is going to refine you and break you down, so that you can be the truest version of you that God has called you to be...", well, it was love at first sight...like feeding candy to a baby....hook, line, and sinker.

So I knew this was coming; I knew there were things about me that had to be stripped and peeled away before I could truly be in the place God wants me to be.  However, I didn't realize it would be the things I think make me, me.  Regardless of where and how I built these identities and securities (oh, it'll come up), they have to be removed.  For me to stand fully in God's grace and holiness, I have to give up the things that make me the one in control. 

I will never proclaim to you that the life of a Christ-follower is a "happy" one.  In fact, I apologize to you if you've been promised that before.  Happy is superficial, happy is selfish.  Instead, it's the joy (not like the Ho,Ho,Ho kind) that comes after you've endured beautiful suffering and the joy that is long-lasting; because, after all, it's this beautiful suffering that makes us grip tightly to God and His goodness, and makes us remember why we could never do it alone. It's in this suffering that He reveals to us who we truly are.

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