"For me to be a saint means to be myself." - Thomas Merton
Over the next month, we will hear from people at different parts of their journey becoming the men and women that God has created them to be. The only way we can step into the mission that is our life, is to do the work to discover who we are. To begin the series, I asked my husband, Paul some questions. I love so many things about him (obviously), but one of my favorite things is that he changed career paths to one that he felt called. And he SHINES as a therapist. For me, he is a sign of God's goodness and I wanted to share some of his own insights with you (without my filter!). Enjoy!
At what point in your life did you begin the journey to really know yourself, step into who you are, and embrace the call that God uniquely gave you? What was the impetus?
I think my journey to really know myself started in earnest when I was forced to confront my struggle with alcohol. In this treatment center I found myself with space to explore who I really was and what I was passionate about. I took some aptitude tests, talked with my therapist, and found that I have a passion for connecting with and helping others. I took this information and filed it away because the natural path towards using this to become a therapist would mean going back to school for two or three more years and that seemed both expensive and exhausting. So once I left treatment I decided that I would get a job suited to my undergraduate major. I got a job working for a real estate company and was shown time after time that I wasn’t in the right field. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with real estate or the people I was working with (thank God for real estate professionals - my father and brother are both commercial brokers). The issue was that I was made acutely aware that I was not using my own unique gifts - I was trying to fit into someone else’s, and it was uncomfortable. This was the final push that I needed to completely open to and embrace the fact that my gifts were pushing me to become a therapist. The process of applying to master’s programs in therapy was intimidating to me, especially given that my undergraduate degree was in finance! However I pushed on, was accepted into a program, and ended up graduating with honors. It was surprising to me how much easier school seemed to be when I felt connected to and inspired by the material. I get to work in a field that feels congruent with who I am as a person today, and that would not have been possible had I not been willing to consider that certain messages I had learned growing up might not be helpful guides for me. I grew up in a community that, although having a plethora of positive qualities and giving me a wonderful foundation, had a relatively narrow definition of "acceptable careers for a man”. These careers were finance, real estate, accounting law, etc. I never considered that I could be a therapist until I got sober. And the whole time I had been ignoring myself while wondering why it was so difficult to fit into the professional world. I’ll end with this quote I came upon the other day from the civil rights leader Howard Thurman, which I think encapsulates my journey beautifully, "Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
As a therapist, you get to walk with people who are struggling with all sorts of life’s difficulties. What would you say is the thing that keeps most people from doing the work to know themselves?
I think the biggest barrier to self discovery is shame. The voice that says, “What’s the use, you’re not worth it anyways”, or “You don’t deserve to embark on such a selfish endeavor”. A message that I think is very loud in our culture is that we should keep our heads down, be useful, and not make things about us. But in order to be as useful as we possibly can, we have to know who we are and what our unique gifts happen to be. I think that in committing to a journey that can allow us to know ourselves more deeply, we are actually building a foundation where we can connect with others more deeply.
What do you think the story is that God wants to tell with your life? What does the Holy Spirit want to reveal of Christ’s nature with your own personal mission?
That’s a big question and I will not pretend to know the answer. My experience so far in life has been that the more I try to connect to God, the more I am able to connect with myself. And the more I am able to know God in myself, the more useful I can be to all of the people I make contact with on a daily basis. And if I had to guess, I think that this is as much as I’m meant to know about the story that God wants to tell with my life.
What does your daily prayer/meditation routine look like?
I would be lying if I said my daily prayer routine is anything but irregular at the moment, but when I am most centered it consists of a combination of reading and meditation. I love to read Thomas Merton for a period and then sit in silent meditation simply following my breath or focusing on a piece of the reading.
What books or resources were/are helpful for you on the journey of discovering who God has made you to be?
Celebrate the Saints who became who God created them to be this All Saints Day!