Sorry it has been a while, what can I say? Seminary is a busy, busy place.
In a past post, I talked about my call, and all that was hopefully to come. At that point, all of those things were just dreams. Words in a blog on the internet. But so much has changed in the month since I last wrote. Ok. So, I’ll start from the very beginning.
Seminary is a place where a very distinct lingo is developed. Discussions about “candidacy,” “ordination,” “field education,” “CPE,” and “under care” are used on a daily basis to discuss today, tomorrow, next month, and perhaps most importantly (at least to us!), the distant future. I talked a lot at the beginning about being taken under care of my denomination so that I could get ordained – here I go again, using this sometimes cryptic and non-descriptive language, but in this case, it is very important. But finally, it has happened. A few weeks ago, I met with my committee, and was voted upon by my classis (the same as a presbytery, dioceses, what have you). They ultimately found me fit for ministry, giving me the green light to continue my seminary education, and keep taking steps on the path toward an ordained (or formal) ministry position. This was a huge vote of confidence, especially since I have struggled to see myself within my denomination at times. My denomination, unlike the Presbyterian Church (USA) hasn’t quite come to grips with the idea of women in a formal ministerial capacity; this can, at times, feel like a complete lack of support, especially when there is nothing more I have wanted for my life – let alone feel unequivocally called to – than to become a minister, regardless of the specific capacity (chaplaincy, church ministry, etc.). But this nagging feeling of ignorance on the part of my denomination disappeared entirely when I stepped in front of my classis (a big shout out to the RCA Rockland-Westchester Classis! Y’all are such amazing ministers of the Word!), and felt God in that room. I felt as though I was among equals, people who supported my call, because it was a call from God, regardless of the gender I was assigned by God at birth. They saw in me God’s plan, what I have come to have mere glimpses of over the last several months. I was accepted, viewed as important and worthy.
So, ultimately, I’m on track with my denomination, under care officially. This means that I’m still in consideration for a ministry position, but just in a few years. This is a good thing, especially since I am just a junior – a mere first year. For those of you out there who really know me, it is no surprise that I have begun this process so early in my seminary career – I’m not one for waiting until the last minute to get something done. Never have been, and I pray that I never will be. Although it is safe to say that I have astonished numerous people with my ambitious demeanor, I feel as though now that the paperwork is done, I can truly explore God’s plan for my life in practical terms, not in terms of standards assigned by a governing body. I have finished the basics – paperwork, psych evaluation and my introductory interview with the head of MFCA. I am now free to step back and enjoy the process for what it is – the best time of my near future, and a significant part of it, regardless of which direction I head in under the ministry umbrella.
The second big event is the fact that I got a job for next summer, exploring whether or not hospital chaplaincy is the right road for me, or where God intends for my life. As y’all know, I spent a bit of time at the University Hospital at Princeton in July, and also as y’all probably know by now, something changed while I was there. I felt as though my life needed to head in a different direction. Or rather, that I was supposed to be doing something different – a type of ministry I wouldn’t have considered in a million years. So, following the signs from God, especially the number of chaplains that just appeared at my bedside, I inquired about being a chaplain at the same hospital I was admitted at. I asked around, had an interview with the head chaplain there, and what do you know? I got offered a job there for the summer! I hoped and prayed that he would pick me, as there was only one position available for the summer because of budget concerns.
I feel as though God gave me a gift by keeping me safe that day, and even more, that He was with me in the great number of people who visited me when I needed friends and family most. So many things could have happened, but I truly believe that God saw me and held me close, further showing Himself and His love through those who gathered around me selflessly. I think it is naive to say that I want to do the same for others in similar situations as me on that day in July, but I truly mean it. Sure, blame it on the fact that I am young, and haven’t really had much life experience. But I’ve sure as heck had my experiences with being sick, and I think that speaks for something. I don’t believe that God makes bad things happen, including the less than exciting moments over the last five years of my life. But I really do believe deep down in my heart that He looks for reasons to make use of our different experiences, including the less than exciting and joyous ones too. Perhaps this is where my gift lies. I think I can relate in some way to the people who lay in hospital beds; I cannot sit with a mother and understand what it means to lose a child, or sit with a woman or man who is dying of cancer. But I can sit with them and understand in some realm what it means to be sick, scared and worried about what family is thinking, what will happen in the future, and wanting so desperately to feel better again.
So yes. I may not have experienced, known or be able to relate to everything that I will see in my hospital chaplaincy unit next summer, but in a way, I will be able to understand somethings of what I’m seeing because of what I’ve felt, seen, known, heard. I can sit with someone, hold their hand, and create a bond between myself, them and God that cannot be described or formed with words. Because there is one thing that I do know about chaplaincy: it isn’t about what you say to a family or a patient, but rather what you do and who you are with them. A held hand speaks louder than a single word, especially those that seek to relate yourself to the situation of the patient. (Something a student chaplain tried so desperately to do with me in July. Suffice it to say, I was eager for her to leave so that I could talk with the chaplain who simply listened, read scripture with me, and prayed with me.)
As with many things in life, it isn’t about what you say. It is about how you act. Because 9 times out of 10, actions speak louder than words, and in a time of crisis, that statistic grows exponentially. When you are sick, regardless of whether you will walk out of the hospital or not, all you want is someone who will ease your fears, not make them grow and metamorphose.
I do have a lot to learn, and I realize that now very clearly. But I can’t even begin to learn without diving in and getting my whole legs wet, not just my feet. I won’t learn until I try, taking risks, and allowing the growth to happen. As I’ve said time and time again, God always gives us challenges and parts of life, knowing full well that we are more than capable of handling it. God doesn’t discourage us in the process – it is us who discourage, defeat ourselves. I know that God wants me to do this, to have these experiences, and He won’t put me in any situation that I am not equipped to handle. So, bring it on, I’m ready and willing God!
But first, I have to get through my Junior year, short and long terms, midterms and finals, papers and studies. But remember, in and through God, all things are possible!
But make sure to remind me of that tomorrow!