Is “Diversity” really about Differences?

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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.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails,” Proverbs 19:21 (NIV). | Michelle Adams

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That scripture comes to mind when I reflect on my personal journey and decision to attend Loyola.  I am the spouse of an Army officer, and last summer, our family moved from Missouri to Maryland.  Initially, I refused to move with my husband, because we have a son with a joint custody agreement.  It was not “my plan” to leave or separate as a family – I couldn’t even entertain the idea.  But then God placed a strong and clear calling for me to trust Him … I knew that He was sending us to Maryland.  I knew there was a higher reason and calling, but I had no idea that a few months later I would find myself applying to Loyola University to be a pastoral counselor.

It all came about when searching for job openings in the area.  I had been separated from my son, and longed to discern why and what God had in mind.  Instead of job matches, a biography of an alumna from Loyola first appeared in my Google search window.  She had earned a master’s of science in pastoral counseling and instantly my heart leaped at the thought of “pastoral” or “spiritual” and counseling combined.  In the same day, God confirmed my calling – His purpose – by crossing my path with three people who spoke highly of Loyola’s reputation and commented, “it’s a renowned program.”  Having worked at a university for 15 years in Missouri, I believe God knew that it would be important to me that Loyola had quality academics and a solid reputation.

Before I could apply and seriously consider the pastoral counseling program, I started exploring financial aid and scholarship opportunities.  Living on a single income, I had no idea how we could afford graduate school.  That same day my husband came home from work and stated, “you are eligible for post 9-11 G.I. bill education benefits!”   I was floored how God had everything in place.  I also visited and attended one of the classes to ensure the location was accessible (I’m not a city-driver), the students and faculty were friendly, and class times would accommodate our family commitments.   It was ALL in check with my mind, body, heart, and soul. 

My journey as a M.S. Pastoral Counseling student just began this past January 2012, but there hasn’t been one class that I haven’t walked away thanking God for the opportunity and privilege to attend Loyola and to soon serve Him as a pastoral counselor.