I finally and officially finished grad school this week with a masters degree in counseling. For our final paper we wrote about what we learned through our internship experience. As I wrote mine I realized it all came back to one word…grace.
I can still picture myself that first day of class, clutching books to my chest, staring nervously at other students, wondering what might be ahead. It feels like yesterday. It feels like a lifetime ago. In reality, it has been four and a half years.
In many ways, it seems like I know now even less then I did then. But one thing is for certain—I am not the same person I was when I began. God used this experience to shape and grow me personally, professionally, and spiritually in ways I didn’t expect. Here is a little of what He has taught me.
Lesson One: Receiving Grace Brings Healing
I long believed following the letter of the law was thought to be the way to wholeness. While I had shed much of that by the time I entered the counseling program perhaps a bit remained—at least the fear that if you let people have too much grace they will abuse it.
I began, tentatively at first, to offer my clients bits of grace. Those women, so hungry for what God had to offer, devoured them ravenously. So I offered more. And as they ate their fill, something strange happened. They began to heal, to love God more, to reach out to others, and soon we were done. It shocked and thrilled me.
The clients I witnessed the most dramatic life-changes in were those who got a firm hold on grace by the time our sessions ended. And I, too, have found that this has spilled over into who I am as a person and counselor. I went into practicum believing in grace from a theological standpoint. I finished believing grace to be one of the essential parts of healing for all people, regardless of where they are (or are not) in their faith journeys.
I believe God offered grace not just to save us from our sins but also from ourselves. Our legalism, perfectionism, trying too hard to be good does as much harm as rebellion. If someone had said this to me before I began my internship I would have disagreed. But after working with about 50 women I can tell you it’s true.
Grace is frightening because it requires giving up control. It also requires humility and childlike faith. Grace is thought to be easy but it’s hard, so very hard. It’s much simpler to try to fix ourselves than to place our hearts in God’s hands just as they are.
But when we do, our “work” ends and His begins…and we are never the same.