Sounding Forth: Truth and Love

Laurence Towner is a counselor with Sage Hill Counseling in Memphis and is a fifth generation member of Second.  She is daughter of Kathleen and Jud Towner; sister of Buck and Katherine Towner; and granddaughter of Ginny and Justin Towner. She received support from the Foundation to attend Dallas Theological Seminary, where she received her Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling in 2015.

As a graduate student, she began her practicum and internship work with Windhaven House, a sober living facility for women struggling with substance abuse and addiction. She later joined their counseling team, which included individual counseling as well as an Intensive Outpatient Program designed specifically for women an their families. She became very familiar with the 12 steps of recovery, as well as the freedom that can be found within the binds of addiction.

Hear, in Laurence’s words, her seminary experience and what it prepared her for:

My experience in seminary was the time in which I grew in my understanding of God’s faithfulness and love.  This process wouldn’t be possible without the help of the Foundation and Second Presbyterian Church. I left my job and became a full time student and had to learn what it meant to fully trust the Lord with every area of my life and surrender any control or perceived comfort. I was able to see the Lord provide in ways I could never imagine and continue to return to these times and remember His faithfulness in the difficult times of navigating through private practice and trusting the Lord will continue to provide.

My time in seminary prepared me specifically for making Christ the center of all things. During my time in seminary it was easy to find my identity in my schoolwork, getting the perfect internship opportunity, gaining the most Bible knowledge, or landing a great job once I graduated.  While I desire good things, they will never fulfill Christ’s place in my heart.  It was a struggle to balance studying the Bible to maintain my grades and reading God’s Word out of a desire to live and know Him more. I have been richly blessed with the example of professors and fellow students to remind me of this Truth and always seek His Word.

While learning and growing in my knowledge and understanding of the nature of Christ, I also experienced the most loneliness. It required me to push through discomfort and engage in community. Through my church and classmates I was able to establish community in Dallas and grow in my relationship with Christ and others. This is foundational to my personal growth and must be in place in order for me to care for others especially in a ministry setting.

Seminary was a time of joy as well as deep suffering and pain. I learned a lot about my sin and myself. While I came to understand more of my humanness, the Lord revealed more of Himself, His love, and His grace.  Our seminary requires students in the counseling program to be involved in their own weekly counseling. This time prepared me to continue to learn more about myself while learning more about God and who He says I am in Christ. One of the most valuable things I learned in seminary is the reality that there is always something new to be learned about God. It is a continual experience of knowing more and growing more with my Creator. It instilled a desire to continue to seek God through the His Word and relationship, and celebrating who He created me to be.

Everything I learned in seminary directly impacts the way in which I am able to counsel other people. In the midst of my inconsistency, the Lord in His character is absolutely consistent and unchanging which provides the foundation and strength to be the person He has called me to be. He has faithfully provided each and every step of the way and I trust He will continue to do the same through my ministry.

Ministry opportunities with which she had been engaged both during and since seminary

When I decided to go to seminary, I went with the hopes of getting a degree in Biblical Counseling to work specifically with women struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. My ministry experience includes working with a women’s sober living home, providing counseling and a consistent presence for women struggling with substance abuse and addiction. I’ve been able to share my own story of recovery and God’s faithfulness praying it may provide hope to those who are broken and suffering. My time with Windhaven House Sober Living in Texas changed my understanding of addicts and alcoholics and allowed me to understand on a greater level the heart issues occurring in humanity and our deep need for a Savior. Windhaven House expanded to Windhaven Counseling Center, which included individual therapy, family therapy, and Intensive Outpatient Program. Currently, I am in private practice with Sage Hill Counseling in Memphis serving a range of ages, backgrounds, and life circumstances with Christian counseling.

Highlights of her current ministry position

My current position as a therapist with Sage Hill has been an absolute joy. The Lord has affirmed my desire to sit with people who are struggling and desire change or some who desire to learn about more themselves. I believe counseling provides a space and relationship unlike anything else we have experienced. It is a joy to sit with clients and experience change, as they are able to see who God created them to be, finding freedom in that identity, and moving towards change. I absolutely love my clients and each one brings unique gifts to their own process. I delight in sharing that space with these people and seeing how the Lord uses the time and works in their hearts as well as mine. I’ve always enjoyed people and it is a gift to share in the hurts, pain, shame, wounds, accomplishments, excitement, and joy with someone else. My hope is for each client to know what it means to be created in God’s image and Sage Hill Counseling does an incredible job of stewarding this Truth.

Lifetime ministry goals

 My lifetime ministry goal is to open a sober living home for women that is Christ centered. I have a passion to work with those feeling enslaved to their addiction and experiencing true freedom in the truth of Christ’s work on the cross. I hope I will always be involved in private practice in some capacity because I’m able to sit with people struggling with different issues but seeking growth and change.

Her biggest takeaway from seminary

Each day in one way, shape, or form I reach for something I learned or experienced during my time in seminary.  Dallas Theological Seminary’s motto is “Teach Truth. Love Well.” This is something the professor’s and community instilled in me since my first day on campus and I hope it is something that continues with my life and ministry. I pray that I always want to learn and teach Truth, and love others because of the deep saving love I’ve been shown through the person and work of Jesus Christ.