So, why are you in seminary? I sometimes joke that the only reason I’m here is because I prayed for God to hit me over the head with a divine 2×4. That super-obvious revelation didn’t happen… instead, I became the victim of divine waterboarding.*
God hit me over the head not once but a hundred times. So today I lift up a few of these moments.
*disclaimer: George W. Bush ≠ God and Guantanamo ≠ Heaven. You can only take the torture jokes so far!
My annual conference and my home church nurtured me while encouraging me to explore God’s call on my life. God was there in our community as we took communion, worshiped, and fellowshipped. During a time of guided meditation for the West Virginia Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM) discernment process, I saw Jesus turn to me and say, “I want you.” Only much later did I begin thinking about this experience as a call on my life that was broader than a two-year CCYM chairperson position in high school. I realized that I loved seeking God and sharing that journey with others through organizing Bible studies, mission trips, church meetings, worship services, and prayer times. It was good work. People came to me with their problems; while sharing coffee, I listened, cared, and prayed.
Over that fall and winter, I continued to have conversations with people who did not know that I was wrestling with a call to ministry and yet challenged me to listen to God’s voice. Several mentors were steady forces in my life, urging me to be open to the possibilities without pressuring me into making a decision.
In January 2006, I totaled my car after on I-64. Miraculously, I walked away unharmed. While at the time I had never read John Wesley’s writings, I was enough of a Methodist to know how he was “plucked like a brand from the fire,” and that story kept rolling around in my head. I felt that my life had been saved for some purpose, and I dedicated my life, yet again, to following God’s leading, no matter the cost.
A few weeks later I left to study abroad in Galicia, an autonomous community of Spain. In Galicia, my eyes opened to new expressions of love between God and God’s people as I became friends with several faithful women in the Catholic organization Opus Dei. My friend Marina, a numerary in Opus Dei, and I had many long discussions about religion that awoke a passion in me to dismantle the stereotypes that surround our faiths and our respective faith communities. We did not agree on every detail about God and Church, but we respected each other’s faith; we were united by the cross.
In addition to my friends in the Catholic Church, in Galicia I also became close to an atheist, who could not understand why my faith was important to me. As I listened and learned from him, he helped to clarify my vocational call. One night I finally blurted out to him in Spanish, “God wants me to be a priest!” If I had been speaking in English, I would have said, “I think that perhaps God just might be calling me into some sort of vocational ministry,” but those qualifiers were absent in my rapid-fire Spanish. From the time those words flew out of my mouth, I knew they were true.
Later in college, I began dating someone who grew up in a church that doesn’t ordain women. As I wrestled with the my love for this person and my growing belief that ordination was what God was calling me to, I came to the unmistakable conclusion that if I had to sacrifice this relationship—or any relationship—in order to follow where I felt God was leading, I would do it. In this way, I knew deep within me that I would never be able to deny the power of God’s call in my life. I knew that I didn’t really have a choice about it. If I didn’t, I could never be fully happy. Although that relationship ended when I came to seminary, I have discovered a community of people who both affirm my call and challenge me to grow in my understanding of this call.
from my “Statement of Call,” DCOM papers 2009 [slightly adapted]
I’m in the process of revising and shortening it (to 300 words), so I thought I’d share the longer version! (but not the “longest,” which is multiple pages single-spaced, plus about four journals full).
How does it resonate with you?
What has been your experience of call?