If there is one thing I have learned from my three years of seminary, it is that being more observant of the little things, the everyday covert things, gives me life. I thought I was a good observer. I considered myself to be pretty spectacular at people watching! But oh thank goodness that Dr. Tom Long urged me to be an even better observer. By observing really well, I open myself up for freeing and enlightening opportunities that enrich my life. By sharpening my lens, I am better able to see how the Holy Spirit moves in even the slightest ways.
I started off by writing down everything I saw that had the slightest chance of holding any significance. I weaned from that approach because I would find myself writing things down while I was driving. (By writing things down I really mean typing those things in my phone at red lights. Still not smart. Mom, I’m sorry.) I then trained myself to try to remember those things I saw to then write them down when I was not jeopardizing my and others’ safety. Then I attempted a new strategy, and this is the “phase” I am in today. I look for patterns and analyze the things I see.
For instance, on my way to Candler on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I drive past Morningside Elementary. What I absolutely cherish about driving through that area is seeing all of the children and their parents walking to school. Even during the coldest winter mornings, they trek to school all bundled up, looking like the Michelin Tire mascot. The parents look immensely more miserable than the kids, by the way. Well, there is this one boy of Asian descent who I always pass, usually right around 7:45am. He typically walks ahead of his family, and I know this because no matter how far ahead he gets from his family, he usually gets stopped at the driveway on the left side of the school because he can’t cross until the police officer permits it. By the time the police officer lets him and the other walkers cross, his family is right back by his side. He looks at them, then glances ahead with an “ugh, dang it” look on his face.
Anyway, I love driving past him because besides the fact that he is just ADORABLE, he reminds me of me. That boy who tries to get ahead or tries to “win” reminds me of the way I function, the way I have been created. I have a need for speed. I like to win in my age group in the races I run. I like to drive slightly on the faster side. I like speed-walking through campus, mainly for efficiency purposes but also to avoid the zombie undergrad students glued to their phones. I like to solve my problems quickly.
When I see that boy on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I am reminded of the way I naturally am and then I am reminded that sometimes I need to slow down. When I sense that I need to slow down, I can observe better. It’s cyclical, really.
In doing my best to always be alert and then asking the analytical questions such as why something sticks out or what it implies about my life or the nature of God, I am able to better understand how I am supposed to live out my life in order to serve best. With that said, as I reflect on my personal statement from the springtime of 2011 as part of my application to Candler, I notice three things: my general calling to continue to pursue sport ministry geared towards female student-athletes is still present, my exclusive language is no longer exclusive, and I don’t know what the next step is post-graduation.
Sport ministry the way I see it: it is a difficult task to contextualize. Throughout the last three years, I have wavered from thinking I could see myself working with FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) to doing campus ministry and working my way into the corresponding athletic department. Now, I know I that FCA is not the right fit for me nor do I want to get stuck in campus ministry and not be able to explore sport ministry. The kind of sport ministry I see myself doing is very relational with hardly any emphasis on worship. This is not to say I believe worship is irrelevant. It is vital. It is just an area of ministry that would not be a focal point of my work. I would focus more on the individual and her struggles and concerns to enable her to be the healthiest and most successful full-time student-athlete she could be. When the time comes, I will probably need to complete CPE. About exclusive language: I cannot label God as a “he” or “she” because by doing so I believe I am limiting God. To me, God is limitless and mysterious. God’s ways are beyond the capabilities of any label. Thus, “God” it is.
Aside from sport ministry, whatever I end up doing, whether it is nannying full-time, working a 9-5 non-profit job full-time, or being a wife and mother full-time, I am confident I will do it because it brings me life while simultaneously emanating God’s love. You see, what has been fruitful about becoming a better observer is that God has revealed a number of new things I am “good” at. I am confident in more skill sets and also passionate about more things. Even more, I will continue to land upon new things and opportunities. The same is true for all of us! We are not called to just one thing in life. We have multiple callings, and that was something reiterated to me in my vocational discernment class with Dr. Ellen Shepherd. If there is any one thing that is true for all of us, I believe it is that we can glorify God and enliven, strengthen, and bring hope to the human race by doing more than just one “thing” in our lifetime. In order to be open to more than one opportunity, more than one thing, however, we must become better observers.
When I am asked what the great plan is after I graduate, and boy have I been asked more times than I can count, I make sure to name my time at Candler as more than just papers, prayers, and another Master’s degree. I make sure to communicate the formative experience these last three years have been. Clearly I did not go into seminary for the money nor did I go into seminary for all of the answers. I did, however, enter seminary on a leap of faith – a leap that I knew would somehow, somehow, lead me to become a better me, a better observer, and therefore a better servant of God. For these last three years of tears (lots of tears), some smiles, pages and pages of God-talk, awkward and uncomfortable situations, the passing of a laptop, jogs during class breaks, and brilliant and influential people, I am forever grateful.
I hope you see that I am not discouraged, disappointed, or distracted. I find it enjoyable to think about what the future holds for me. I find it gratifying to let the Holy Spirit just move. For me right now, there is something invigorating about the unknown. I can’t tell you where I will be in a year and I can’t tell you what I will be doing with my days in a year. I will, however, continue to do my best to observe well and with intention. And then, I will act. To the future I say: Let’s do the dang thing.