Embracing the Journey of SeminaryBy Dani Lauer on March 16, 2016
"Life is a journey, not a destination." —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Journey. An act of traveling from one place to another. A long and often difficult process of personal change and development.
Destination. A place where someone or something is going or being sent.
What is it about us as humans that enjoys destinations? Think about it. We have all these milestones in our lives, and people often encourage us to achieve, succeed and land at the next destination. Birthdays, graduations, career goals, weddings, having kids, anniversaries and the list goes on. Sometimes, we can get so wrapped up in the next destination that we forget to embrace the journey of getting there.
Our experiences in seminary can also be focused on the destination—of graduation day or getting our license to practice or landing that next position. And in some ways, I think it should be about the destination. If we lose sight of graduation day, we can become discouraged and overwhelmed with the process of getting through our program. However, all too often we become so focused on graduation and our future ministry that we forget to embrace the "difficult process of personal change and development" that seminary provides us. We miss out on what God has for us in the journey. And the journey is what it is all about.
For me, God has used seminary to bring about more personal change and development than I ever thought possible. Being in the counseling program, we are encouraged to help our clients become self-aware, provide a safe space for them to be heard and understood and to lean into the discomfort of their pain and suffering. While I am learning how to provide this for others, I am seeing how God is providing these very things for me as well. Through my classes in spiritual formation, biblical and systematic theology and counseling philosophy, I have become more self-aware and notice areas in my life that need to be refined and pruned. I have learned about being an image bearer of God and how that affects how I treat other human beings.
Through the incredible community at GRTS, I have found many safe spaces where I am heard and understood. In my own personal time with the Lord, I am learning to lean into my own pain and suffering so that I can allow Christ to heal my hurt and brokenness. If I become too focused on graduation day and what's next, I'm going to miss these amazing experiences God has for me right now and the lessons that come along with them. When we are able to embrace our own journeys, we can help others do the same.
This process of embracing the journey certainly doesn't end when we walk across the graduation stage. As Emerson said, LIFE is a journey, and I couldn't agree more. The journey of transformation continues throughout our entire life and ministry. While experiences in the professional world will look different than sitting in the classroom, I am expectant and excited to see how working in the counseling field will transform me. Yes, there will be times of great difficulty. Yes, there will be times of pain and suffering. And yes, there will be times of unspeakable joy, knowing I am working in the field God has created me for. If I get too focused on the next destination in life, I'm going to miss the beauty of this journey.
Some of the things I am doing to be proactive about embracing my journey:
- Being present in the moment when a friend is sharing something about their life. Not thinking about how I'm going to respond or the other tasks I have to complete for the day.
- Practicing mindfulness meditation to recalibrate my mind after a busy day. This simply gives me the space to take a few minutes, close my eyes, breathe deeply and allow my mind to rest.
- Putting my phone away when I eat meals, even if I'm eating by myself.
- Going for a walk to pray and be present in God's creation.
These are just a few things I do to be focused on the here-and-now rather than being caught up in what's ahead. Embrace the journey of whatever season you're in and watch God prepare and transform you to arrive at every destination right on time.