I was called to serve when I was a teen, in a small church in rural Pennsylvania. I sat in a pew in the back, and I listened to a message of grace, forgiveness, and unconditional love. I knew my life was changed. And I knew that I wasn’t the only one who desperately needed to hear this news. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was meant to help those people.
I just didn’t know how.
I Knew Nothing About this Christianity Thing
My Biblical knowledge was nonexistent. I’d never heard the words theology, liturgy ,seminary, deacon, or sermon. I couldn’t name a single book in the Bible and all I knew of Jesus was from a cartoon where Linus narrated a school play about a baby born in a manger.
I’d been brought up with the “freedom to make my own decision about religion”, combined with regular healthy doses of disparaging comments about people of faith and all organized religion. I couldn’t reconcile my experience that Sunday with what my parents said.
I Had to Learn More
So I kept going to church. I sat with little kids in Sunday school classes and began to learn about the Bible. I listened in on confirmation classes. I’d go home to sarcasm and ridicule, but that didn’t stop me. I’d been given a copy of The Message Bible. I kept it hidden at home, reading when nobody was watching. And I affirmed my faith and baptism, and became a Christian.
I left home shortly after that, and started working my way through college. I met my husband, graduated, began a career, raised a family, began another career. And all through those years, I volunteered. A lot. I was VBS helper, Sunday School teacher, choir member, lay leader. And a tutor, hospice volunteer, caregiver. Surely this was the limit for me – I was doing God’s work, right?
Except for that persistent, nagging feeling I should be doing something else, something more. I’d long since given up the idea that I could baptize or share communion or stand on a pulpit. Those roles were for other people – smarter, more educated, more Christian, men. Chosen people who knew something I never would.
Then the Onion Thing Happened
At a large gathering, I got peeled.
Slowly at first, casual conversations would drift towards why I should consider ministry. Then similar comments began to come from people who knew me well. And then from those Chosen people who knew something I didn’t.
I had my list of why I wasn’t equipped or permitted or worthy or ready or even good enough to do God’s work. So I asked questions. And with each answer, the barriers began to crumble. It turned out that maybe I was one of those chosen people myself. I was told that God doesn’t call the equipped, God equips the called. And that it sure seemed like I was being called.
Wow. I decided to go home and think on it, for a good long time. Mull it over, figure out how to get myself prepared. Pray on it.
But God knows me.
God Put a Full Stop to My Deflection.
Turns out one of those I’d spoken to was a close friend of a leader in my congregation, and was so excited to share the great news about me. So instead of returning home to ponder, I walked into a crowd of support. Enthusiastic, affirming, compelling support.
And then the final barrier blown to bits – an opportunity for a cost-free, fast-track place at seminary.
I began my denomination’s formal candidacy process and applied for that spot at seminary.
And God Smiled
In 20/20 hindsight, I clearly see God’s wisdom, humor, and gentle but shrewd nudging.
I start my studies soon at a different seminary that I’d never heard of, in a program that will cost money and will take me twice as long to complete. I know now and God’s always known that there is no way I would have headed straight to where I’m going. But guess what? It is absolutely where I belong.
God’s unconditional love, God’s limitless Grace through the Holy Spirit, and God’s absolutely undeserved Forgiveness through Jesus are the unwavering core of my story thus far and will continue to be as I move forward. Thank you for joining me as I share this journey.