ESR class of ‘22
Throughout my time in seminary, people often asked: “What do you plan to do with your M.Div.?” The only honest answer I could provide to the question was: “I don’t know.” When I started ESR, I had no plan, no agenda, and no real goal for applying for my M.Div. to any sort of money-making endeavor.
In May of 2022, I earned an M. Div. from ESR. I had to field the dreaded question many times during graduation month. Luckily, I had gained clarity about the purpose of the MDiv. Here’s how I answer the question now: “It may appear that I will be doing nothing with it. However, my career as a therapist is built upon its foundation.
You see, on that same May day of graduation, I also earned a Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (MAMFT) from another academic institution.
While I loved my time at both schools, I shudder to think about what kind of therapist I would be without my time at ESR.
Prior to ESR, I had a bad habit of being the person that speaks before thinking… being the person who moves so quickly that I often run past the “knowing” in favor of a naive habit of focusing on my own “doings.”
Additionally, I unconsciously worshiped at the altar of certainty and control. I had no skill in holding paradox. My default was to look at the world in black and white—in absolutes.
At ESR, I was given time and space (…along with ample writing assignments) to slow my thinking, get curious, and listen to the Still Silent Voice within. Learning to discern was both uncomfortable and freeing. It allowed me to unwrap my values slowly and discover my gifts and calling.
Most spaces in our modern world don’t honor sitting in silence. At ESR, the practice of quiet contemplation is something I saw my professors and many of my fellow students fold into their daily lives.
I found that slowing down and waiting in silence was an act of patience and faith. Over my years at ESR, I moved away from charging headfirst into an impulsive path. I discovered there was a more relaxed way of allowing life to unfold. While this was scary initially, my education at ESR helped me find peace in being less attached and helped me find a firmer root in following rather than forcing my life.
Please don’t get me wrong… while I wax poetic about silence, space and discernment, I still find it challenging… and I still forge my path while running right past my Still Small Voice with great frequency. Additionally, my black-or-white thinking continues to come into direct conflict with my practice of discernment.
However, I have loosened my love affair with control. At some point in my ESR journey, I realized I did not make my gifts; rather, my gifts were given to me. Like the parable of talents, I had hidden my gifts underground… covering them up with my dreams and desires and fast-paced living.
Once I opened up to discerning my gifts rather than deciding on them, it became evident that I was called to be a counselor. (I later learned that all my friends, family, and fellow ESR students were aware of my calling long before I… such is life).
This gets to the heart of why ESR was foundational. As a counseling student, I was taught that each client has their own best answers inside of them. I would call “their own best answers” their Inner Light. Much to my surprise, in my counseling classes, this concept was also emphasized. In counseling vernacular, it’s called taking a “not knowing” stance. This stance allows both therapist and client to slow down and get curious about their challenging life circumstances.
This “not knowing stance” is a simple concept to explain in a textbook. However, it is a spiritual practice that takes much time, patience, faith, and commitment to implement in life (and in the counseling room).
When clients tap into this “not knowing stance” and begin uncovering their inner voice, I consider it a holy moment. There’s a shift in the energy of the room, which opens up space. Space for contemplation, mutual inquiry, and transformative dialogue. It is an honor to bear witness to these holy moments. In that way, my counseling office can be a sacred place… not so different from a church… and my time working on my MDiv gave me the skills to be qualified for my calling.
Jill Frame lives in Indianapolis with her family. She is a practicing marriage and family therapist. She enjoys writing and regularly posts on her website: www.highthrivecounseling.com