If you were asked to write a Christian Experience Statement, what would it look like? What would it say? What pieces of your life would it reflect? Would it include a future, a vision, or just the past?
When I applied to Alliance Graduate School of Counseling for their Mental Health Counseling program earlier this year, I was asked to provide a written Christian Experience Statement, using these two questions as a guideline:
Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? If yes, please state your conversion experience, fundamentals of your personal faith and present pattern of personal growth as a Christian.
Present a personal biography including a discussion of significant events and influences which have helped develop your present values and approach to life. What is God’s call upon your life? How do you see Alliance Graduate School of Counseling fitting into God’s call on your life? What do you visualize your ministry/profession looking like five years after graduation?
Here’s what I found … when you’re truly living your story, writing a Christian Experience Statement is surprisingly easy to do.
The middle of five children, I was 10 years old when my mama died. My dad pretty much shaped who I thought I was after that – small, insignificant, a child; and who I thought I needed to be – brave, responsible, self-sufficient, independent, submissive to authority, perfect. I got my value and identity from obedience, performance, achievements, accomplishments, recognition, and attention.
I didn’t grow up in a church or family where Christ was part of everyday life, where we sought out God’s help to get through hard times, or prayed through problems or struggles. We went to Mass Sundays, I attended a parochial school, and we prayed before dinner – that was pretty much it. If there was a problem, we fixed it ourselves or accepted that life wasn’t fair, we didn’t ask God to intervene. I was raised with lots of rules, a strong work ethic, sense of responsibility, self-reliance, high expectations for achievement & behavior.
I’ve been hiding out most of my life … hiding low self-worth behind credentials and accomplishments, hiding loneliness and fears behind an outgoing personality, sense of humor, busy schedule. At 50 years old, I was the woman at the well, isolated, hiding out from the shame of two failed marriages. I felt alone, insecure, like I didn’t matter, and everything in my life seemed out of control. But I wore a completely different mask: I was a businesswoman, single mom with 3 smart kids – all good athletes, Youth Leader that led youth mission trips, took kids to soup kitchens, counseled parents of teens. I was a soccer coach & referee – that’s the me I let other people see, and the image I desperately tried to keep intact, hoping no one would discover the real me: lost, broken & falling apart on the inside. My entire family was in WI, and I had distanced myself from friends, thinking they were judging me for not following my husband to Boston for a job he accepted on his own, and painfully, against my wishes.
My journey to redemption started in 2003 when a stranger sitting next to me at a Christian weight loss conference invited me to join her at a Women of Faith Conference. My randomly assigned roommate at that same conference happened to be a Community Bible Study core group leader in VA, and at confessing I had never done a bible study of any sort, she encouraged me to sign up for a local CBS class, which I did. Both Women of Faith and CBS were important steps in launching my spiritual journey, but more importantly they set me on a path of connection and emotional healing as others reached out to me. Being a part of The Plant core team, missional community leader, & later serving on the leadership team, all deeply affected me as I developed a relationship with Christ in everyday life, to look to Him in all things, devote myself to Him, and to grow in community. The heart of it was not in a salvation moment, but in being drawn into authentic relationships with others that led to a deeper relationship with Christ.
I have worked in a corporate setting by day, and done some type of ministry by night, for most of my adult life. My heart for teenagers and the desire for them to feel safe, seen, and valued has never wavered. Whereas I used to see teenage girls struggling with cutting & eating disorders, today I see a generation of overstressed, overcommitted, highly anxious teens with epidemic levels of depression, substance abuse & suicide. And I feel like the church should be leading the charge on mental health of our teens! We focus on spiritual development, cultivating a heart of mission & service, equipping them to know Christ & make Him known, and yet so many are hurting and wondering where God really is in their life.
I have wanted to be an adolescent therapist for as long as I can remember, and this year as I prayed through the word THRIVE, I decided I would not take graduate school off the table because I thought I couldn’t quit my job – God would have to! He had awakened such a desire in me, not only to counsel teens, but also to advocate for mental health of our teens in the church. God has put people and circumstances in my life to affirm the call to Alliance Graduate School of Counseling and the vision for the church He has stitched in my soul, challenging me to trust Him for financial provision.
Five years after graduation, I see myself as an Adolescent Therapist at a biblically based Christian Counseling Center, helping teenagers to settle their worth, coaching youth leaders through current mental health issues in their ministries, writing and speaking to church leaders on awareness, education, and role of the church in mental health for teens.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long. –Ephesians 2:10 NLT