Starting Something New

August 29, 2013

We brought my old messenger bag up from the basement- the one I used during seminary with the clasp that you have to get lined up just right in order to release it. It was a bit dusty from years of sitting in a box. The piles of books still surround us on the floor of the bedroom and the floor of the basement. Only three boxes worth out of the 14-15 boxes still packed. In my quest to find the books for class, I found others I wanted to read or re-read or meant to read and forgot. And I couldn’t bear to put them back in boxes, suffocated by the darkness of the basement closet. But without bookcases, they live on the floor in piles. New pens, a freshly cleaned up laptop, and a winsome desire for an iPad with a keyboard that costs way too much money to buy right now. Clothes laid out, directions on gps, and the plan in my head for how tomorrow will go. I’m headed back to school.

Just for one class. Auditing really. Nothing too challenging, as I’ve already earned an MDiv and this is an MDiv ethics class. But I find myself nervous nonetheless, anxious about the homework and reading and conversations with people who haven’t been out of school for 9 years. Their minds might be sharper than mine, quicker to understand and perceive, whereas mine may reflect a slowness that comes both with age and maturity. Their tongues are already formed for the language of academia whereas mine has been shaped by the dailyness of pastoral ministry and toddler-speak. I have once again that familiar feeling of being the outsider, treading into the place where others are already comfortable and well-versed. And I realize I am selling myself short at the same time.

But any new educational venture is like that for me. I remember my first day of seminary, walking across the brick entryway, red stoned etched with names, the statue of little Lina Sandell, the big white pillars by the big white doors. I walked up to Nyvall Hall with my nerves bouncing inside me, my face trying desperately to hide the anxiety and questions that threatened to spill out of me any which-way they could. I remember thinking about all the seminarians and pastors who had entered the threshold ahead of me and wondering why I, of all people, might think myself worthy to do the same. The life of the mind is a beautiful thing, but it can be a terrifying thing too.

I do not feel the same amount of joy or pressure with this venture into a different seminary as a “non-degree seeking” student. But I do find myself carrying the weight of what this audited class means. I am not doing this simply to do something. I am doing this to seek out God’s plan for me: where has he shaped the next path for me in my life?

This is no small question as this is the pressure I feel right now. Do I apply to PhD programs in January or do seek a call to a local church again?

Each option is filled with the hilarity of the impractical, the exhilaration of the future, and the trepidation of mystery. Each option opens doors and shuts them. Each option allows for my gifting and challenges my weaknesses. Each option would bring me joy.

The question is: Which would bring God the most joy? And if he decides both are equal paths, which would bring me most joy too? Where is my call now? Where am I best used for God’s glory and neighbor’s good?

So as I cross the threshold of another seminary tomorrow to listen and read and discuss and maybe even do the writing assignments (even though I don’t have to), I am wrestling with this whole idea of call and what it means and doesn’t mean. And desperately praying that God would speak clearly… for that is what I need most.

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