When I accepted Princeton Seminary’s offer to join their class of 2014 four years ago, I never imagined the changes this singular decision would involve. At the age of 22, life revolved around a few things: my friends, my job as a ski instructor, my faith, and what was coming next in life. Change – how I was going to be changed, and how I was going to change those around me – wasn’t by any means on my radar.
Four years later (including that last year in college), I have been most certainly changed. I have been molded, cracked, ground down and reshaped by the one who made me in the beginning, and who loved me enough to subject His own son to crucifixion on my behalf. I have met people – other people who feel the same, similar and completely different calls to ministry as/than my own – who have changed and formed me, some without trying and some because of how different we are from one another.
The call to Christian community was not one I answered lightly, and at times was strange; it felt odd, and yet, the kinship I developed as a result of this very place is true community. I have been prayed for, visited, my cross shouldered and dragged, my tears and deepest fears heard and wiped away, and belly laughs shared over pizza, burgers and beers.
Change didn’t happen overnight. Change happened because I broke – physically, spiritually, academically – and then I was rebuilt. I didn’t break alone, but I broke with others. But in this brokenness was a great deal of beauty, and progress, and as a result, I got better. I didn’t necessarily get “all the way better,” but I became better by the grace of God and with the help of those around me. In high school, we had this slogan when we were trying to build a turf field: It takes a village to build a field…well it took a great circle of friends to build me up again, and thanks to them, I am better. My ministry is better, my mind is better, and my soul is better.
On the eve of graduation in just a few days, I am in awe of all the changes that have occurred – so many that I cannot even count in fact. But at the same time, I feel the need to mourn this change, the closing of this door. This place, Princeton Seminary, has been my home for three years, and has been the catalyst, the source for the change. Whether it has been the actual source, or whether it has only given a home to the people who have been responsible for the changes themselves, this place is special.
Changes occur throughout a person’s life, that is, if we let them happen. If we stay in the same place for the entirety of our lives, I wonder whether change will actually happen, or if we will remain the same person, and the same issues we have been dealing with forever will persist and fester, lingering beneath the surface undealt with and seemingly ignored. Perhaps this is why I have chosen to move, or why I have chosen an adventurous spirit in the face of illness – perhaps it is because I have no choice but to accept changes, as they will always happen whether I like them or not. Or perhaps change is best taken standing up, with courage and a fearless spirit, with grace and faith, rather than with heels dug into the dirt and a spirit of fear and irrationality.
When I arrived at PTS three years ago, it was a very hot, sunny day. I was giddy with excitement, and saw the world before me. I loved God with all my heart and thought that everything was possible. I never imagined that I would spend time in the ICU a few times, have five procedures on my heart, have some very heart wrenching discussions with some amazing cardiac specialists, and be flying to California to have the opportunity of a lifetime to serve God again. But every breath I have taken over the last three years has been in service to God in some way, and every one has been a change. Seminary has caused significant changes, and has forever impacted my life in ways I couldn’t be more grateful for.
When I get my diploma on Saturday, there will be tears. But I have been changed for the better, and God willing, I will be able to change others with the way in which I have been called to ministry. I cannot do it alone, but can only do it by the grace of God, an by the grace of God I will.
I never thought Saturday would come, but it finally has, and at the same time, I cannot push Saturday away hard enough, because once Saturday comes, PTS won’t be the same place. It won’t be my seminary anymore, but it will be the community of those who will enter in July, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed, excited and beaming with excitement for all that ministry might hold for them. Some will be filled with that same excitement that I had three seemingly short years ago, and others with arrogance over the amount they already think they know. But regardless of the attitude they bring, this place won’t be mine anymore come Saturday. But maybe its time to pass on the keys, to allow change to happen on my own terms.
A life of faith is all about change – the ebb and flow of the waves against the beach. God is the constant, and the location and people are the things that change. This chapter has been truly incredible, mostly because of the partners I’ve had along the way. It will be sad to say “see you later,” but never goodbye.
To be changed again means to be broken again, to have these newly healed edges sheered off and made raw for the world to see. Vulnerability never gets easier, but in the company of true companions, it becomes less heart wrenchingly painful. But I grow bigger and stronger and more capable in the sheering and changing if I allow it to happen. God willing, change will continue to happen.
Change is ok. Sometimes it is a sign that good is afoot. That doesn’t mean that a bit of fear isn’t normal as well; have faith, jump into the change, and know that the change will form and inform the journey.