And God said, “Let there be an extended surface in the midst of the waters and let it divide between the waters and the waters” (Genesis 1:6, my combo of versions version).

Never have I felt the lives and beliefs of others affect my daily thoughts and feelings more than I have the last few months as I pursue a Master’s Degree in School Counseling. Although perhaps I should have predicted the sudden wrestling of thoughts, I believed that after all these years I could face this sphere of influence with all the truths my soul had become grounded in; and I would not be shakable in its face. 

That was a misdiagnosis of myself. In accepting this grad school invitation, I was taking a step away from the ringside seats…I was no longer going to be a spectator.

Whenever there is an arena, be prepared, that within that squared circle there will be a fight.

During this time I also had a conversation with a family member (someone I consider one of my uncles) who shared a discussion he had with a friend about a fellow church member who worked in the court system. He recounted that they’d shared the sentiment “that this individual couldn’t possibly have done their job well all these years with their lack of biblical knowledge.

Can Non-Christians Be Good at Their Jobs?
I understood what he meant. He meant that who we are as Christians should influence the way we interact and function in the world. He meant that to be a follower of Christ means that we have to
be someone and know what we are believing beyond mere Sunday attendance. He meant that we can’t profess to follow someone and not know the ideology behind the one we follow. He meant that our beliefs influence who we are, every day.

But can someone who doesn’t even know Christ be good at their job? Can they carry out their duties perfectly? Absolutely they can. I have come up against failures in reasoning which are held up as arguments for truth time and time again. It seems the church is teaching people to function from those kinds of fallacies!

The roles of any given job have a list of to-do’s and parameters that may or may not infringe upon the morals we attribute to God. But our opinions are not necessarily God’s. And although we can live as Kingdom people in a broken environment, that doesn’t mean our company, organization, or job is meant to be part of God’s Kingdom on Earth. God pursues people, not institutions. It’s one of my grudges with the Church; that people see it as an entity, not a collection of people whom God loves and who love God and each other. An entity—a body that must fight for ownership of their space and what happens in it wherever they go.

So, returning to where I stumbled from at the beginning of this article, the ring I found myself in starting graduate school. The scope of a school counselor’s role is to support students in their education life, and help them navigate whatever would interrupt and impede their education. There’s a lot that buffets and influences them as they grow. There’s their family life, their friend life, their social/neighborhood life, their school life, their physical life, and more. As they grow, all these things start revealing new aspects of who they are; aspects that impact each one of us differently and make us struggle in unique ways. 

Getting in the Ring
have never been someone who wanted to get in the political cultural ring and fight anyone. But, as I consider all these issues—cultural and personal—and see them in new ways, as I discover more and more of what I will have to help students navigate in today’s world, I realize that I will now have to walk out what I told my uncle: We are called to encourage people
from fallacy …  into humility. Away from making judgments based on feelings and principles—things that tell people what Kingdom they belong to according to our definition of truth—to allowing people to be who they are and inviting them to the table so they can experience an invitation to His Kingdom.

Christians are so good at fighting the wrong battles. When we do so, we encourage people to make that issue the point of contest, and all that is most important is lost in the resulting battle of wills.

In Genesis, I see God seeing how He created everything and declaring it “good!” Part of that good was a separation of a single created thing so that the two parts could function for the good of the other in a separate yet symbiotic way. We combine some sentiments of what Jesus and Paul say in this way: “in the world, yet not of it.

Seeking our own source of goodness and knowledge created a fracture in humanity. Over time there became a separation between those choosing to return to God as their source, and those who continued to seek their own way.

I have found myself in this “extended surface in the midst” space. I am human. We are all human. We all struggle with similar things, and yet at the drop of a hat I can find myself condemning others for the very same things I myself have done—and may still struggle with. 

That’s a common failing in people, isn’t it?

How to be an Influencer
God uses the brokenness of this world to help me see
my brokenness and conform me to His image. Is He doing this with me for others too? Are they witnessing Him in the midst of all that I am? Am I a light in the darkness? 

Romans 2:4 states, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (emphasis mine).

It’s so easy. It’s so easy to dehumanize others with our arguments justified not by how we live in obedience to His voice, not by how we live for the better of others, not for how we set our agendas aside, but by the ideals we deemthe way.” 

It’s so easy to be unkind to others, while being internally kind to ourselves.

Jesus chose to justify us by sacrificing Himself; then he invites us to “Come, follow” Him. And He stated, “I Am the Way” (emphasis mine). Second Peter 3:9 says, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (emphasis mine).

My textbook School Counseling Principles stated, [paraphrasing] “part of your job is learning the rules, so you can know how to break them in the best interest of your students.” (Stone, C.: School Counseling Principles: Ethics and Law [5th ed.)]. Virginia: American School Counselor Association [2022].) Are we, as followers of Jesus, learning our culture’s rules so that we can break them in the best interest of those in the dark? Or are we functioning like bazookas wondering why we see death everywhere we go?

Getting in the ring isn’t pleasant. But even the ring has an “extended space” so that the contestants can face-off well. We can do our jobs without knowing the depths of theological argument, but we cannot be life in a dying world without knowing Jesus. Wherever we find ourselves, we must step back, get to know our King, learn the rules of the arena we are in, then be an illuminating—not a burning—light in the dark. 


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