One especially challenging aspect of this calling (meaning that my calling from God is to be a minister…Christian lingo) is coming at it from Smith. Smith is a wonderful place, and fosters the growth and progress of strong and independent women, but at times, being a Smithie, and being religious seem to come into conflict with each other. It feels on occasion as though I am dating two people, or a citizen of two nations that are at war with each other at one time or another. I see the ability for Smith College to acknowledge religion as a strength, as opposed to a weakness, but I also see it waring within itself to do such. I remember nearly 4 years ago, when I entered Smith, I was just a baby in my faith (having only started reading the Bible and exploring the ways of Jesus Christ on my own two feet). I am not sure that I immediately wondered about how religion figured in the picture Smith saw of the world, but I sure did as I pursued a major in the subject. I have almost always considered myself a religious person, or identified as a person of faith, but it was not until I approached the study of religion in a purely academic setting did I see the stark opposition some have toward its grasps upon society. I saw this especially in one particular class, discussing the relationship between the studies of anthropology and religion. It was clear that a few of my classmates had either faced extreme persecution at the hand of religion, or feel as though religion clouds your ability to view the world in an objective manner, but who really knows, as they spent no time explaining their complete hatred for religion. At times, it is evident that the academic (and financial, political) institution that is Smith might feel in a similar manner. I remember some time ago, I was telling a fellow student about my career aspirations, and how important it was for me to go to seminary in order to fulfill them. Her response, let me tell you, was less than encouraging. The look on her face was simply priceless. It was as though I had a flesh-eating bacteria crawling all over my face, and it was rapidly consuming me. No “That’s amazing!” or “What a wonderful goal!” Just a look of abject horror, or even a look of sadness that read “Poor you.” I don’t think there is anything to be felt sorry about by becoming a woman of the “cloth” so to speak. Much of this confusion probably comes from their own previous experiences, but I wonder what is going on in their heads. Ministry is not an easy profession, and does not come without stress, sleepless nights, frustration and the like. But on the bright side, I will have the opportunity to speak to people constantly about Jesus, life, anything. People open up and show their true colors to clergy, probably figuring that ministers are men and women of God, and therefore, nothing can be hidden without incurring the wrath of God in the process.
Hopefully, by entering seminary in the fall, I can prove to other Smithies that my vocation, my calling, is not a denial of my education, but rather because of my education. I am able to enter seminary because of Smith. But I suppose that the greater student body at Smith might need some convincing, or some evidence to prove them wrong. My argument to them is that for me, ministry is not submitting to something ridiculous and unknown that will serve to cloud my judgment. Rather, for me, entering the ministry is the only way I can see to serve my God, and furthermore, it is what God put me on this Earth to do. I just want to open eyes and help people to understand how religion and faith in God is a good thing, not something detrimental to one’s citizenship or mental clarity.
So, I guess the final question I will ask is: Is it possible to be a follower of Jesus and also a strong and proud Smithie? Are the two simply in such conflict with each other that reconciliation is futile? I don’t believe so, not at all. Being a Smithie is simply one part of your identity, and does not have the ability to consume your entire being, as it certainly does not consume mine. I consider myself to be someone who wears many hats. I am a cyclist, a woman, a musician, a writer, a ski instructor, a Smithie, and finally (but not least of all…) a Christian. My faith in God and the words and deeds of Jesus Christ are a huge part of my existence; they tell me how to wake up in the morning, walk, talk, act, and go to bed at night. But they most certainly leave room for other things, like being a Smithie. I will forever be a part of the strongest community of women in the world that is Smith College, even when I graduate and move out in May. But never will being a Smithie allow me to forget who I was before I came, and even more importantly, who I will become after I leave Smith. Smith and Christ will always reside in me, even though I made promises to them both at entirely different parts of my life. Smith has taught me how to be a strong and confident woman, who is able to take on any fight that God might throw at me. In fact, I would even say that God made me to go to Smith, even though I thought otherwise. It was God’s plan that I went to Smith, and it is God’s plan that I will always remain a part of it, in spirit when the relationship is no longer directly physical.
Ultimately…I am strong. I am a strong woman because of Smith, and I remain strong because of God. I think the two fit nicely together, despite how trying their love affair may be at times. My faith has grown because of Smith – because of the people I have met and the friendships I have made.
Alrighty, enough for now. More Later!