And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. — Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
Five years ago, I have enrolled myself in seminary to take up my master’s degree in Christian Counseling. A year before that was like a thug-of-war if either I have to pursue it or just take another course that would propel my career. The moment I decided to pull the trigger to enroll, I knew it will be one of the toughest life decisions I have made my entire life. Yet, pretty sure that it is one of the best ones as well. My experience in seminary surely was not a walk in the park, but it will always be one of the best memories I will keep my entire life.
Why Christian Counseling?
Choosing my major in seminary was a tough call. I was about to start taking counseling as a secular course a year before I entered Alliance Graduate School. However, there has been a part of me to choose something that I know would develop my character as I pursue God’s calling for my life. Counseling has been very close to my heart since college, I really desired to pursue psychology as my major. However, with life’s turn of events, I could not do so due to both financial constraint and I passed my course in Mathematics. By no means I am a good mathematician. It’s just that I knew how to do it or maybe to communicate through the language as well.
Interest and Calling from God
My interest to understand about human behavior started since I was young because I want to understand the different principles about life. Moreover, to find out the reason of my existence as young as a teenager. Maybe, I just want to make sense of everything in my life. This journey led me to find my passion in helping people to understand about themselves as well. So, I guess, I am one of those people who think I could help people discover about themselves when I don’t even understand myself. Better yet, my personal exploration lead me to studying counseling.
I decided to go to the seminary not only because of my passion in understanding myself and other people, but also I want to learn deeply about having a healthy psycho-spirituality. Thus, the integration approach about counseling. I based my decision on hitting two birds in one stone. Since I have been also a minister of God’s word and deeply involved in discipleship, I want to utilize my gifting properly in building the kingdom of God.
Obstacles I Have Experienced
My journey through my five years in the seminary was not an easy one. It was filled with challenges left and right. I was on the verge of giving up many times and thought to myself that maybe taking up a master’s degree is not for me. I was never part of the elites or intellectual individuals from my high school and college. Far be it from me to enter into the field where I know I am not really that excellent. Yet, I was blessed to have someone support me financially as well in my studies which motivated me to pursue it.
Life of a Working Student
I entered the seminary in year 2016 which it was my third year teaching Mathematics in a christian school. Definitely, I was in a comfortable spot way back. I am able to do ministry both in the local church and even in my workplace. However, I knew that I have to enter into a different level and to step out of faith if I really desire to pursue God’s call for my life. It was so difficult to juggle work, life, family, ministry, and academics all at the same time. Yes, there were many times I already feel sleepy in class because of all the things that are on my plate.
It was God’s grace indeed that allowed me to survive. Working and studying at the same time is already difficult. But the added burden was the challenges in between such as my near death trauma experience and my mom had her breast surgery alongside. Many times, I was contemplating on giving up and to considered remaining low-key. However, it is indeed the love of Christ that compelled me to press on.1
Life of a Part-Time Student
I cannot count the numerous times I have asked myself, “what if I was a full-time student?” It was not a secret that I sometimes feel envious of my classmates who can excel in class because I know they have more time invested in studying than I do. This issue made me feel incompetent sometimes and consider if I would still pursue my graduate studies in counseling. No matter how difficult it has been, I just have to utilize optimizing my life by building systems to aid my work and student life. I guess using the things I have learned in building my productivity systems has helped me pass through this difficulty. Yet, the challenge of being a part-time student is building a relationship with my classmates and also participating in various school activities. It’s quite a bummer that I could not get involve much in the seminary because I have prior commitments or such.
The perks of being a counseling and seminary student is that I get to learn about myself and be transformed to become a better servant of God. Most people will never understand why I decided to take my degree in seminary when there are other available options in other universities.
Knowing Myself — Wounded Healer
One of the major benefit of being a counseling major in AGS is that we are primarily the main benefactor. It is important that a counselor should be the one who experience his/her personal healing journey first before he/she can be able to journey with someone else’s healing. Having a counselor to check in on me has a massive benefit, especially in processing various traumas that I have experienced in my life. I also have to face my personal issues in life before I can face the issues of other people so that I could be more equipped to help people in their own personal journey.
I have noticed an increase in self-awareness on my part being a counseling student. Not only that, but I must have the basic skills to check in with myself so that I could be able to notice easily if there is something going on within me. I guess this is the most important skill that was developed all throughout my seminary experience.
Knowing God intimately
I have been a christian for thirteen years and I can never exhaust the depth of God’s Word. Entering the seminary is a decision I have made primarily because pursuing God’s calling for my life. Yet, being in AGS, I have encountered God in a more intimate way. I learned about being more transparent with my feelings towards God because He is the most mature person that can handle me. My anger, frustrations, disappointments, rants, sorrows, and cries — these feelings are valid. I believe that God also acknowledges them since I am His child.
Knowing God deeply through His Word
Not only I have known God intimately, but also I have known Him deeper through His word. Biblical courses in masters level is not easy. Understanding the word of God really requires a lot of work founded on my personal relationship with Him. Being in seminary allowed me to search the scriptures with the lens of a child and an academic. Having about the “three worlds” and “Bible interpretations Then and Now” is one of the most valuable lesson I have learned in seminary. All the more I have learned how to appreciate how the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ relates to my counseling. It exposes the heart of God which created much passion in my heart to continually serve Him.
Knowing God through Ministry
Equipped with seminary training is not for display purposes, but it should serve a purpose. I know that my learnings should be applied in the ministry so that I could have an actual grasp of what it really looks like in an actual setup. I have applied the various things I have learned from AGS in my teaching, preaching, counseling, discipleship and even in leadership. For the past years, of being in the ministry of the word, I have developed my craft in sermon preparation. Not only I have learned about expounding the passages, but also to explore the condition of the heart of the people whom I minister.
Christian Counseling allowed me to see people in the lens of Biblical Worldview. I have also associated healing journey with the creation, fall, redemption, and consummation process wherein God’s plan is actively working on the life of an individual. God has revealed His heart to me as I have grown to love the ministry of becoming a counselor.
The Joy of the Journey; Pursuing the Destination
People often say that the real joy is about the journey and not about the destination. However, I think it is more enjoyable to experience the joy of the adventure while fixing your eyes on the destination. I could say that achieving a milestone of my life is a destination where I WAS heading. But now, I AM going to take another road. Since I could explore more doors that has opened for me to become better in the counseling ministry. For I am certain that my ultimate destination is simply heaven-bound, looking forward to seeing the One who called me and truly loved me.
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV)
Soli Deo Gloria!
- 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) ↩