By Grace S. Welch
MA in Counseling Ministries '14
God wants to authenticate us – provide us with new skin. The process of shedding your old skin is painful, however. Your new skin can feel too large, too tight, too short or just plain uncomfortable. That can send you searching for your old skin.
I am in my third year and internship phase of the MACM program (the Pastoral and Professional Counseling Track). I know all about the pain of purging old skin.
Before coming to MTSO, I transitioned from a successful 23-year career in human resources for which I was passionate. I enjoyed my home, a comfortable living, great weather, a network of friends and contacts, and my church.
Here in Ohio, I found myself working in MTSO's buildings and grounds department, living on campus, enduring the ups and downs of student life, and raising a son by myself, 1,400 miles from my family back in Arizona.
A year ago, my old skin came searching for me in the form of an assistant chief of staff opportunity, with significant pay and travel, a chance to work with a former business partner, and the prospect of returning home to Arizona. I was conflicted.
I prayed, spoke to my pastor and advisor, and tested the idea out with my Theories I class. I even accepted the invitation to interview and tour the facility, where a familiar sense of comfort washed over me. I was able to quickly assess departmental waste, process duplication, excessive overhead and spending. My old skin had not failed me.
Only this time, I saw my skin differently. This corporate opportunity was no different than I was used to, but I realized I had changed. Learning to let go of the comfortable and familiar – and surrendering to new and unexplored areas – is a large part of the authentication process.
I was offered the position and a chance to return home to loved ones. In those deliberating hours, I wrestled with my new and old skin and was reminded of the parable from the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We all know what happens when new wine is put into old wineskins. The skin will be destroyed. But when new wine is poured into a fresh wineskin, both are preserved.
Needless to say, I did not take that job. Staying here at MTSO, pressing toward the calling, has not only preserved me, but it has shown me how to recognize the surrendering time. It has tested me and placed in me the courage to submit and the power to confront the unknown.
Those things were useful as I searched for a practicum intern site. I thought I could not work with alcohol and other substances or with troubled youths. I was hoping to intern in a facility where I could practice my pastoral care skills. Yet I was led to an addictions treatment and recovery facility.
Reluctant and hesitant at first, I pulled on the new skin. After the first couple of weeks, I was uneasy. This new skin felt like burlap. As I learned the operations, worked with staff and built therapeutic relationships my comfort level steadily increased. By the time my practicum ended, I had a newfound desire to work with this population. Had I tried to shed my new skin too soon, I clearly would have missed the chance to feel how well it could fit me.
Recently I had yet another chance to try on new skin, spending an internship working with adolescents, providing trauma informed care in a residential, shelter and acute-care setting.
I am doing everything I thought I would never do. Why should I be surprised? The Lord declared in Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Resisting authentication – your new skin – is refusing a precious gift intended especially for you to accomplish the work you are called to do. My sisters and brothers, though the old and familiar lurks and calls to you, I encourage you to press on toward new goals in your new skin.