Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)
Have you ever wondered how you got to where you are in life? Perhaps you have had moments that felt as though you have been in a fog, out of it for long periods of time and just woke up or find yourself in a place you did not plan to be at this stage of your life? For many of us, myself included, there are certain times in our lives where events take place that set us on a new path that may or may not have been expected nor desired. These events subsequently become turning points and how we handle them, especially when the events are unpleasant, can determine whether or not we fulfill God’s ultimate purpose for our lives with peace and grace or with kicking and screaming. This year, I have taken both of these approaches and am coming to acknowledge, I prefer peace and grace.
I am learning to mature in God by choosing to allow Him to shape me in His ways, and while some of the process has seemed unpleasant…I’m still standing and miraculously stronger than I was before. I am learning God’s faithfulness on another level through surrendering to Him and allowing Him to direct my path. God has been and is still faithful! Until He shows otherwise, I am walking in a new confidence in God, through faith in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s a mouthful!
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
This year marks the 8th year that I have been the Owner and Clinical Director for Soul Care Christian Counseling Services as a Licensed Professional Counselor. During this time, I have had some great successes and have also experienced some of the darkest days of my life, many of these days occurring this year. I have gone from being one to provide Care for the Souls of others, to one in need of care for my own soul even though I am a professed and practicing Christian with a very real and close relationship with the Lord. Recently, I am coming to realize that simply because one is a Christian, there will continue to be areas where God wants us to grow in maturity in order to become more like Him. His ways of bringing us into maturity, do not always feel so wonderful.
Throughout much of my life as a dedicated Christ-follower, I have experienced some great favor with the Lord in many areas of my life. I say that not to brag but to say that for a while, I was coasting through life in what seemed to be a nice upswing. I had accomplished some of my childhood dreams to study and work in the fashion industry, perform vocally in some cool venues & churches in New York City, to work in finance making more than both of my parents combined, to marry and become a mother and later to become a business owner a few times. While in New York, I sensed that God was leading me to fulfill a greater purpose in my life that I had ever imagined. That sense, the nudging of the Holy Spirit later became fulfilled as I pursued a career in Christian Counseling.
One of the reasons I became a Christian Counselor was to become the person I wish I knew when I was experiencing my own mental health challenges as a young person that included depression and anxiety. From the age of 5 throughout my teens, I had either witnessed or been exposed to a variety of issues that included poverty, abuse & domestic violence, alcoholism and racism. During these years, my family was involved with the church and much of my childhood was good overall; however, these sporadic incidents would do more to shape my outlook on the world and myself and overshadowed the good things for more years than I would like to admit.
During my teen years, I became more aware that I was struggling to keep everything together and something was not right with me. During Elementary school, most of the kids looked like me, dressed like me (thrift store clothes and hand-me-downs), talked like me and thought like me. In Middle school, we were all enrolled into a larger school with children from other parts of town, many who were different races and different economic statuses. All of a sudden, I realized that I was poor, I did not dress or speak well, my parents were in blue-collar jobs and not college educated, and our holiness lifestyles as Christians were not so common amongst my peers. In addition to all of that, my relationship with my father became adversarial and life at home was highly stressful. Mostly an A student, my grades began to fall in middle school and I was feeling out of sorts most of the time. I was naturally quiet and very shy growing up and tried to get through life with all its stresses the best way I knew at the time. I would often read my bible, reading scriptures on not being fearful, not worrying and being strong in the Lord but, my struggle emotionally persisted. Now I know I was experiencing depression and anxiety back then.
A significant event took place during this time that unbeknownst to me, planted a seed in my heart that would later contribute to my desire to become a counselor and work with hurting children, teens and young adults. One of my neighbors, Mr. Hunter would let me attend his family bible study in his home with his wife and other children. It was open to the neighborhood. I learned a lot while there but it was him taking us out to eat that probably drew me in the most. LOL! Mr. Hunter’s beautiful wife passed and at some point, I was no longer attending the home studies which provided some respite from home and encouraging Bible studies about other people overcoming obstacles.
Outside of the Sunday and midweek Church services, I began to seek out other sources of advice on how to feel better about myself inside and outside and on how to relate better with others who I often felt were superior to me based on social and economic status. Some of these sources included the popular teen, women and fashion magazines of the time. I would read and try to follow the articles on improve my self-esteem & confidence, how to dress better, how to relate to others better and it was not long before I realized that some of the advice offered at times was contrary to my Christian upbringing. For example, one of the magazines I enjoyed would highlight stories on Black women who struggled to get out of poverty, overcome abuse and societal ills, get a good education and gain financial and social success. This same magazine would also highlight stories that encouraged Black women to embrace their freedoms with their femininity and engage in intimate relations with men outside of marriage. There were additional articles about Black women making up a large percentage of persons dying from sexually transmitted diseases and experiencing relationship problems in dating, with marriage, etc. In my mind, I saw contradictory advice being given that when the advice went against God’s word, the resulting outcomes did not lead women in a positive direction and if I followed it, I would remain in a poor mental state needing, full of guilt and needing to repent to God on a regular basis.
I was not aware of counseling services during this period of my life but looking back, I know I needed it. In my early adult life after moving to New York to study Fashion Design, I became aware some time afterwards about the counseling field. Several years later in 2000, after having left the Fashion Industry to work in the Financial District in the World Trade Center, I heard an ad on the radio station about a Christian Counseling Program and knew that is what I was supposed to be doing. My husband was not thrilled about me leaving the job in finance but he was ok with me starting the Christian Counseling Graduate Program with Nyack College’s Alliance Graduate School of Counseling in January of 2001. I finally left the job in finance in August of 2001 to manage a clothing store I had opened in my hometown and to start my counseling career. And then the unthinkable happened and the world has not been the same since….9-11
The events of Sept. 11, 2001 happened less than 3 weeks after I left my job located across the street from the Trade Towers. There are very few adults alive during that time that will not know how the world changed after the largest terrorist attack that has taken place on US soil. I watched on TV with the world as these events took place in the city I had resided in for 7 years and 8 months…I am just realizing the numbers here…The numbers 7 & 8 have great significance in the Bible. The number 7 represents God’s Spiritual Completeness and Perfection. There are approximately 860 references to the number 7 in the Bible. The number 8 in the Bible represents a “New Beginning, a New Order or Creation, and man’s true ‘born again’ event when he is resurrected from the dead into eternal life” both physically and spiritually (http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible). Aside from just realizing the exact time New York City was my home prior to 9/11, I knew that it was through God’s providential wisdom that He blessed me to begin the Christian Counseling program in 2001, leave my job across the street from the Trade Towers and to be kept out of harm’s way in order to pursue a totally divine and different path. There were many who lost their life that day, Christians & non-Christians. I do not know why God allowed it but I trust His sovereignty in all things concerning us human beings and based on my knowledge and personal experience with God, I choose to believe that even in death, God is still full of love, grace and mercy.
Following 9/11, I was able to gain some counseling experience working in a Welfare-to-Work Program and a Vocational Training Program through the State University of New York, interning with Brooklyn Tabernacle’s Mercy Ministries Adult Education Program and later with Dr. Derek Suite at Full Circle Health which provided Christian Faith-based Psychiatric Services. And the rest is history.
My family and I later moved to Charlotte, NC where I was able to open Soul Care Christian Counseling Services in 2010. I initially started in my living room and later took a step of faith to open an office. Currently, Soul Care contracts with other Licensed Therapists & Christian Counselors to provide Outpatient Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling for children, teens, adults, families and couples. Soul Care partners with Churches & other Mental Health agencies to provide client services and also partners with several local colleges and universities to provide training and internship opportunities for up and coming Christian Counselors.
Soul Care Christian Counseling Services is going on its 8th year of service to the community and I sense that God is leading me in a different direction for the agency and for myself. As stated before, biblically, 8 is the number of New Beginnings, a New World Order and New Creation. This story for me is unfolding as I write this blog. During this year, I reconciled with my husband who I lived apart from for 4 years. For several months, after making the decision to reconcile, my personal and spiritual life have experienced several serious & unexpected upheavals in my business and with other close family relationships. These incidents have definitely caused me to experience some dying to self…emotionally and spiritually speaking but have increased my faith in God tremendously.
As part of my New Beginnings this year, I feel God has led me to start this blog “Faith in Counseling” to encourage more awareness of the importance of integrating Christian Faith in the field of Psychology and Counseling and to further develop me as a New Creation in Christ by overcoming my biggest and still lingering fears of speaking out loud in public through creating some YouTube videos related to Christian Counseling concerns. I hope that if you find yourself going through some significant life changes that you will allow God to direct your path.
I also hope, if you got this far in reading this blog, that you will join me on this journey of encouraging others to seek out Christian Counseling services when experiencing Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues as well as Relationship Problems. Galatians 6:2 and 1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us that God put us all here together to encourage one another, help bear each other’s burdens and comfort others with the comfort that we have received. Trust God, ask Him for wisdom and guidance and know that He will lead you where you need to go when you need it the most.
Chantelle Johnson MA, LPC
Faith in Counseling