Students at The Seattle School choose again and again to wade into the difficulty and pain of their own stories in hopes of fostering healing change in the lives of others and the world around them. Here, Heather Casimere, first-year MA in Theology & Culture student, writes about the perseverance required to choose the hard work of truth and beauty, and about the grace that moves her forward when the task seems too large.
At this point in the semester, we are all reaching the point of burnout. There has been a good amount of work done as we dare to enter into our stories and confront issues, such as that which appears in the trauma we have faced as individuals; the dynamics we were reared in amidst our family of origin; the beliefs we have adopted when it comes to ourselves. We may not always be aware of it, but this work is beyond academic. It is personal. It gets at who we were, who were are, and who we believe ourselves to be, as we travel toward who we are becoming.
This work is hard. We have been at it for half a year. Some of us for much, much longer.
As students, we share the burden of realizing that as the semester moves onward, there are more and more things becoming due; more and more papers requiring attention and self-reflection. We look at our work schedules, our personal lives, the urge to play and our body’s demand for sleep, and wonder how in the world we are going to get it all done. Sometimes grad school isn’t a magical fairyland experience. Sometimes it seems much bigger than us. We face the temptation to doubt ourselves. To think that we can’t. That we won’t be able to. That it’s too much.
We can panic and lean into the lie that it is too much. This is the logical response when it seems like the plates we spin on our upturned palms can’t handle one more thing.
It is exactly there that we are blessed with the opportunity to make a decision. Persevere or take flight? Curl into a ball under the oh-so-comfortable covers? Or roll out of them and into the difficulty and challenges which lay before us, believing that we actually do have what it takes to not only “get through this” but come out successful. When we are feeling overwhelmed, we are able to take a second and choose. Will we confront the day with fear and anxiety, telling ourselves that we can’t, that we aren’t able? Or will we step out into the unknown, knowing from where our help comes?
I am one who knows about perseverance. Many of the battles I have faced have been uphill. I’ve crossed many a challenging terrain. But there are times when even one who was created as tenacious as I does not have what it takes within myself. Where then, do I find the strength to keep going?
Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV) puts it like this:
A song of ascents. I lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Before you Masters in Counseling Psychology students roll your eyes, take a moment. Be curious. Have you ever faced a moment in your life when you knew you did not have what it took, and were it not for some greater power and strength found outside of yourself, you would not have made it through? Have there not been times in your lives you experienced grace?
Have there not been times in your lives you experienced grace?
I know what it is like to live in a cold, dark neighborhood in the dead of a seemingly unceasing winter, thousands of miles from anyone who is close to you, and to be held by Grace. I know what it is to see a dead man, one who cannot do a single thing for himself, raised up to become a whole person again. I know what it is to feel trapped in a job that you hate, one which looks perfect from the outside but triggers anxiety in you, and still find the strength to go into that place of employment every day.
When we do not have it within ourselves, we can ask for help from the One who is greater than us, than all of the things that we see. He promises that if we seek Him, we shall find Him, even in the most unlikely of places.
As we stand facing the various mountains which loom ahead, we are presented with a choice. We can cower and curl into a ball, telling ourselves the lies that we are so quick to believe about ourselves. Or we can square our shoulders and stare up at the face of that damned big rock, acknowledging that our help comes from its Maker.
As we ascend, do we not more clearly hear His voice? Etched in glory, His sweet flora propels me to greater heights, and I realize: I can.