Finding My Passion
I departed on a journey to “find my passion,” and the deeper I went into the wilderness, the more God challenged me to go, yet deeper.
“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” ~Luke 12:48
As the challenges began to mount – some I took on boldly, others with trepidation – my pastor’s suggestion that I “meet a faithful deaconess out in Conyers, Ga.” remained with me. I considered other forms of ministry, but the diaconal ministry intrigued me. The deaconess is called to point people to the Christ that I so dearly love (hopefully convincing them that Christ loves them, too), to work among the forgotten, the marginal and to bring the church into this work. So here I am, in the formation process with the Lutheran Deaconess Association (LDA). In December I completed a Master of Arts in Practical Theology from Columbia Theological Seminary, while co-parenting two children and chasing my endurance-runner husband on the trails.
When I entered seminary in August 2013, I began to wonder what exactly God might be calling me to do. I had answered the call and enrolled in seminary, but I was not clear as to what my particular specialty would be. I could clearly name the office that I sought, lay minister, deaconess or deacon is what I would tell folks when they asked, but I remained curious about the particularity of that call. With each inspiring seminary course, I considered another focus. Perhaps a Christian education director, or maybe a chaplain, or maybe I should pursue an advanced degree and become a renowned theologian. Should I be a pastor? How about a spiritual director? I tried on many shoes by taking advantage of the opportunities at seminary. I gladly applied and completed CPE, I tried parish work during a semester-long contextual learning course, and I taught Bible study in diverse settings as I wondered which way I should go?
The African American mystic and theologian Howard Thurman is quoted as saying, “Follow the grain in your own wood!”
What was my wood? Some how upon receiving confirmation to enter ministry from clergy, my congregation, friends and family, I thought the decision would completely erase the woman I was before I entered seminary.
One day, a few months ago and toward the end of my degree program, while trying to put the finishing touches on an academic paper, my uncle phoned, and when I didn’t answer the first time, he called again. Annoyed, I answered the third ring. He told me he had been going through my deceased grandmother’s letters and found one written by me at the age of 12 to her. In this letter that my uncle read to me, I went on and on about my coming birthday and suggested gifts she might want to send. Finally, toward the end of this 35-year old handwritten letter, I told her that I wanted to be a journalist, a writer when I grew up, and that I had a few technical problems to conquer, one being my horrible spelling. But, I wrote that I was working on that and nothing could stop me from my dream. I said that I believed I could and I would. I don’t recall writing this letter, but I sat listening to my uncle as I locked my eyes on my undergraduate degree hanging on my home office wall — it is a Bachelor of Science in Journalism. I did it, but when did I forget to be who I was? When did I forget to follow the grain in my own wood?
Soon after, I met the professor of pastoral care at Columbia walking along the campus greens. Somehow, we began a conversation about the purpose of seminary. He believes that it is not what most of us think it is. Most of us think it is a means to make us fit into a few molds that are traditional church offices — pastor, chaplain, Sunday school teacher, bishop, or professor. He, Dr. Michael Cook, said, “No. We mustn’t forget who we were before coming to seminary. If you are a businessperson, a CEO, you will be a better CEO after finishing seminary. Seminary will inform who you already are.” He said, after seminary that CEO will handle profits differently, she will manage her employees differently, she will have a broader concept of her product.” He warned that we should not throw away our autobiographies in search of a “proper church” biography.
In The Book of Concord Martin Luther confirms Dr. Cook’s philosophy:
“This alone was considered the Christian life: whoever observed festivals this way, prayed in this way, fasted in this way, and was dressed in this way was said to live a spiritual, Christian life. On the other hand, other necessary good works were considered secular, unspiritual ways of life: that each person is obliged to act according to his or her calling – for example, that the father of a family works to support his wife and children and raises them in the fear of God; that the mother of a family bears children and looks after them; that a prince or rulers govern a country; etc. Such works, commanded by God, had to be a “secular and imperfect way of life, while the traditions had to have impressive names (titles), so that only they were called ‘holy and perfect’ works.” (XXXVI.8, pg 76)
In other words, all practical ways of life are vocations, or calls as well as those recognizable offices of the church.
The art and craft of wordsmith are my gift. I extend the definition of Word and service, to include the lower case ‘word.’ It is through proclamation of the Gospel being lived and put into action among the church and its people that I might assist in the mission of God and the ELCA. Not only preaching the Word, but using word to make public the work of the people — to bring awareness of “hope restored” in devastating circumstances.
This is my journey. Join me.