I am a person who doesn’t like to be around people who are like me, but instead different. I have always sought out friendships and experiences that expand my understanding and love for people, and I’m often marveled at how our heavenly Father beautifully crafted us together. So when I first began Loyola University’s career development class, I felt like a fawn frolicking amongst a meadow of diversity. My class represented a variety of religious beliefs, nationalities, sex, ethnicity, professions and talents. But as the class came to an end, I found myself less amazed by our differences, and more in tune with our commonalities – our personhood – the very life, breath, and heart of God’s creation.
Our final assignment was a demonstration from each student expressing his/her personal life path and addressing the question of identity, “Who am I?” Sharing of the “self” is not easy or comfortable for many. However, each student was given the creative liberty to demonstrate meaningful moments, persons, or experiences that have helped shape their identity. In my personal journey, for example, I’ve come to realize that my life isn’t really about “who am I?” For me it’s about, “knowing who He is – knowing Jesus.” Instead of what I know or do, it’s about Who I know and what He does. It has especially been through my struggles and weaknesses that God has proven faithful and strong.
My peers expressed themselves through drama, sand art, music, poetry, pottery, film, media, and scrapbooks. It was a beautiful moment of how sharing of the “self” causes all other differences to become less definitive of “who we are.” As my classmates grew increasingly comfortable sharing their stories with one another, I witnessed a group of people become “one” — I believe just as God describes in 1 Cor. 12:12-14. It wasn’t our stories of success, achievement, or credentials that united us, but it was our openness about life’s failures, hurts, and mistakes. To be open and allow others to see “you” — each one a masterpiece, yet also so human, fragile, and dependent on Christ — unveils all differences. We are what I like to call, “commonly different.”
It was as though God intentionally pulled pieces from his human fabric – my peers — from across the globe to weave together one majestic tapestry. Each thread so unique and exquisite, yet when hidden or separated, unable to fulfill God’s common purpose and good.
As counselors, I believe it’s so very important that we embrace diversity and extend compassion to people from all walks of life. But, beyond diversity, are hearts and souls … the highest calling for Pastoral Counselors.