I had a plan, you know. If you know me, you shouldn’t be surprised that I had a plan. When I was 22, and college graduation was a few months away, I knew that I was going to graduate school to get a degree in higher education and student affairs. I had applied to three different programs and been accepted to all of them. The next step was to get a graduate assistantship; this would pay my tuition and give me some stipend money for living expenses.
Only I didn’t get one, which left me with two options: student loans or no school.
I think we’ve talked about my feelings on debt before, and this was no exception. I had heart palpitations at the idea of student loans, so that was not really an option for me.
With no plan, I despaired. My dad drove up to take me out for ice cream and assure me that I was not going to be homeless, which made me feel a little bit better. My mom said she knew what I was going to end up doing but that she couldn’t tell me because I wouldn’t listen to her.
“Well,” I said, you really can’t leave me hanging like that. I’m desperate!”
“I think you’re going to work in the church,” she said.
She was right. About the not listening to her part, that is. We had been over this at least a thousand times. I was going to be a super involved parishioner. Look at me go! I had already volunteered as a chaperone for youth mission trips, taught 3 year old Sunday School, been on a weekend retreat with a small church to do their children’s program, volunteered with the kids at the homeless shelter, and been a tutor at an inner city school on a regular basis. See, mom? Really passionate parishioner!
I wanted to keep my passion for Jesus and the church separate from my work because I never wanted to resent it the way some people end up resenting their jobs. I didn’t want to be disillusioned and burned out on the church because it was my safe place, and I was scared that making it my job would risk all of that.
“Silly girl,” my mom said, “Don’t you know that the happiest people are the ones who are passionate about their work? Separating your passion and your work will only ensure that your job in unfulfilling.”
Hmph. That made me feel kind of dumb. But since it was coming from my mom, I brushed it off.
The next day I received a phone call from my campus minister. He wondered if I was coming to dinner the following night.
“The one for people I think should consider going into ministry. Didn’t you get the invitation in your campus mailbox?”
I couldn’t go to the whole dinner because I had a housing department banquet, but I went for long enough to get this book.
Well no, I did not want to be a pastor. But I was interested in ministry with youth and children.
The next week was kind of a blur. There was a lot of running (literally, not figuratively), a lot of sitting on the state house steps (my prayer place at that time), and a lot of conversations. Finally, I called my campus minister back.
“Something weird is going on.” I told him about my week. He said these words I will never forget. “I think you are experiencing a call to ministry. Let’s have lunch.”
And that is how, over an STP sandwich at Groucho’s, I decided to meld my passion and my work.
But that is just the beginning. More next week on how I actually got a job, and then more later on how I came to be in this place with you wonderful people.
P.S. I got offered a graduate assistantship the next week. I guess God had a plan too.