Written by Mandy Kellums Bakara //
Social justice is a vital part of mental health. As a professional counselor, my work involves aspects of social justice every day that includes connecting with clients where they are, empowering them, and helping to increase a client’s sense of agency and self-efficacy, and promoting wellness–each of these things an act of justice in its own small way. As a follower of Jesus, I seek to walk in a way that embodies love, joy, and hope as I sit with clients while fear, grief, anger, and pain feels consuming, and in my personal and professional life, to live in communion with God. The following is the result of an assignment tasked in my doctoral studies to write a Counselor’s Creed. It seems fitting, just after Mental Health Awareness Month, to share what I believe about God, about persons, and about my role in, and call to, social justice as a professional counselor.
I believe in God, Creator of All.
Triune, ever-present and everlasting, not bound by time or space, all knowing, and just. Intimate, loving, giving. God’s voice rolled out the foundations of the earth, God’s hand sprinkled the skies with stars. God, who hung the canvas of the universe with words, invented time and space in a single breath, spoke the words and mountains, trees, flowers, and made the animals blossom and bloom and bolt across the land. All of creation existed and related in harmony with God.
God touched the earth and out of the dust formed humankind, instilling creativity, intelligence, and resilience, into finite and time-bound flesh. The image of God in the unity, as well as in the uniqueness, of humanity. Created for joy, humankind was captivated in life-giving, perfect relationship with the Creator. Giving language and purpose, God declared the original, pure nature of humankind “good.”
Though it did not surprise God, evil slithered in, corrupting and shattering the once perfect relationship between God and humanity. Pain, death, sweat, toil, and thorns emerged. What was once a story purposed for harmony and pleasure with the Creator became a tale of choice and rebellion, excuse and shame, replayed over and over throughout generations.
Out of this brokenness and separation came a curse. From that point forward, humankind has lived in fear, separated from God. Since that defining moment in time, beauty and pain have grown in the world, side by side. Suffering and joy exist in tandem. Yet, God gave a promise of the redemption to come. All of creation groans in waiting, longing to be restored.
I believe in the Redeemer, Jesus.
A holy conundrum, a living enigma, a mystery. Divinity and humanity living together in the same heart. The Word in flesh. Born helpless and yet almighty, temporal and yet eternal. Bringer of both peace and a sword, of both clarity and confusion, of both judgment and pardon. The one in whom all things are reconciled.
Jesus is the author of salvation, the Christ, beloved son of God, Lord of all, deliverer. From a cradle to the cross, Jesus bridged the great divide between God and humankind once and for all. Through Jesus’ brokenness and death, hope became tangible and real.
Rabbi, teacher, the servant king. Jesus provided the way for humankind to cross the frontier between ambivalence and faith. In the great, humiliating, sacrificial exchange, Jesus offered up his life, defeating darkness and evil once for all. He showed love by dying for humankind; restoration is in the blood of Jesus.
The beautiful, scandalous, ambitious gift of life through faith in the resurrected Jesus is more than can be asked for or imagined. Grace offered to all. Sanctified, already and not yet. Conquering death, Jesus, the wounded healer, the scarred Savior, infused the rhythm of heaven that echoes within the soul.
I believe in the Spirit, Healer of souls.
Helper, abider, holy dweller within. Divinely attributed and wholly distinct. Knower of the deep things. Wooing, calling humankind towards God. Permeating and transforming lives reconciled to God through Jesus. He is the mediator and communicator between God and humankind of longings and yearnings that cannot be uttered.
Whispering dove-like delicacy, a powerful gift. Hidden in living, penetrating fire. Sensitive to sorrow, comforting in suffering. God intimately involved in the healing process of the soul. Instantaneous beginning, stretching toward forever; true healing occurs in the crevices of the heart, the places and spaces where the Spirit enters and dwells, in Truth taking root in the soul.
Searching out everything, the Spirit illuminates the unattended depths of the soul, nooks and crannies considered unknown by humankind. In the healing process, the Spirit leads from places of contempt, shame, and ambivalence honestly and courageously towards spaces of compassion, goodness, and delight. Through love and humor, courage and gentleness, good judgment and true wisdom, healing takes place in community.
I believe in the counselor, carer for souls.
I am part of an integral mission; a means designed by God to carry out within history God’s purpose of love and justice, revealed in Jesus Christ, through the church and in the power of the Spirit. Continuing to work out identity and calling, theology and mission, aware of this call to provide a safe presence for wounded hearts to receive a corrective emotional experience. Practicing science and art in harmonious tempering.
Responsible to those entrusted in my care, ones inviting and allowing me a place in their unique healing process. United with God through faith, anchored in scripture, grounded in prayer, committed to walking slowly, pausing often. Journeying gently with the wounded and weary, those enveloped by grief, not disturbed by the memories that come unbidden. Recognizing although healing can and does occur, scars still remain.
Identifying, challenging, questioning, helping move rocks in life-soil that hinder growth and development. Patiently accompanying through mazes and puzzles of pain, modestly aiding in untangling from the baggage of life. Collaboratively observing. Always cautious in detecting stories and sources of hurt and shame, sometimes exposing and liberating, often making meaning from pain.
Following the example of Jesus, I choose to listen to societal scapegoats, marginalized and vulnerable individuals and communities, intentionally and continually engaging in a cycle of action, reflection, and worship. Unwilling and unable to offer cheap hope, I seek to compassionately advocate, empower the underdog, and consistently seek justice.
Aware that, for some, life remains daunting, devastating. However, my work matters. Though the impact may be minutely small, my life has eternal significance. It is an honor to partner with Christ. At the end of the day, I recognize that life on this planet is only a preface to the story God is waiting to tell in eternity. In that promise I rest in hope.
Mandy Kellums Baraka works in the Human Needs and Global Resources Program at Wheaton College and teaches Counseling at Huntington University. She has an up-close-and-personal look at resiliency in the lives of people. This teaching and learning voyages have impacted her research and teaching. When not at work, Mandy enjoys tossing a frisbee, drinking coffee, running, music, hanging out with her husband and their nearly-new Havanese puppy.