Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Things Present and Things to Come

When I first found out about where I was going to be doing internship I was a little less than happy. To be completely honest, I had to fight back the few tears that were trying to escape in the middle of class. It was not where I wanted to be, it wasn't even one of my preferences. I was in shock and after reading the congregation's profile, I felt like I was thrown into the exact place I didn't want to be. The congregation wanted someone enthusiastic about Youth and Family ministry as well as Mission and Outreach. When I read that I what was really being said, "Glorified Youth Director." That was exactly what I was trying to avoid. I knew almost nothing about the congregation and could find nothing out online as their website was all but broken. I knew that this was a site I didn't want to be at. I knew that I really wanted to be somewhere else. The only thing that I truly liked about the site was that it was in Washington State.

At first glance I thought that this was just another adversity for me to overcome in my seminary journey. I whined and moaned and complained (thanks to those that were willing to listen, you know who you are) and it got me absolutely nowhere. I realized that there was no way for me to change where I was going so I tried to make the best of it. It wasn't easy, and by the time I darkened the door of my office for the first time I couldn't honestly say that I was completely crazy about the idea of being.

I'm now two months into my internship and I don't know if I could have found a better place. Oh sure, there are things that I might wish to have different, but I still am doing all the things that I wished I could do on internship and more. I am on a committee to discuss the recent changes in the ELCA. I get to teach confirmation just about every other week. I've been leading the Adult Education hour between services since the first week of October. I'm preaching at least twice a month. I'm helping to develop services, working with council, leading worship, working with the youth and more. It is so amazing to me that a place that I had no desire to be at is the place that I probably needed to be at the most.

Of course I shouldn't be surprised, this seems to be my life since I felt the call to seminary/life of ministry. I ended up at Luther Seminary instead of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. I ended up doing my Clinical Pastoral Education (chaplaincy for those who do not know) not in California close to home but in the Twin Cities in the coldest and snowiest winter they have since I've been there. I ended up doing internship my fourth year of seminary instead of my third. Nothing seems to go as I planned it to be. And a little bit of pop-culture/theology might have something to say about it.

So I started reading The Shack. After months of trying to avoid it I felt that it was finally something that I should do. And even though I haven't finished it yet (so no spoilers please!!!) I can see the value in the book. At one point in the book there is a conversation about conforming to the will of God and how we must be willing to do what God wants even if we can't understand why. It's a hard lesson to learn but it is so key. Now this particular conversation in the book was also talking about freedom, but I won't go there. My point is that my wants, my will is broken by sin and therefore self-serving. I can't possibly know that is the best thing for me because I can't see beyond myself. God on the other hand is not handicapped by sin and God's will is perfect. It is only until I am willing to see that fact that I can be able to move freely in his will. And until I learn this I must continue to wander through the desert (metaphorically speaking).

This last Sunday the topic for the Adult Education hour was Old Testament themes, one of which being wandering and wilderness. One of part of the themes is that it is a vital part of one's faith to wander through the wilderness. It may seem that this is contradictory. To wander is to be lost, but in the Bible to wander is to be closer to God. The wandering in the wilderness is a time of discernment, grow, learning and faith. Even Christ had to wander in the wilderness for forty days before he was able to fulfill his ministry and ultimate task of death on the cross. Now I'm not trying to say that I am Christ, I am far from it, but I have recognized that this time is a time of discernment for me. I need this time as it is vital to my faith. Before this time I took at face value what was presented for me. If someone said God is good, I believed them because it made sense, but I had never thought how or why God is good. If someone told me that such and such was a sin, I believed them for the same reasons, never challenging the perspective to see if it truly fit with my own, to see if it fit with my relationship with God. Now I cannot make right my relationship with God through wandering, but I can be lead to a better understanding during my wanderings by the Holy Spirit. And I think that is were I am, wandering with the Spirit as my guide.

And so I wander, I don't know what the rest of this year is going to hold for me. Sure I can look at the calendar and see what is coming up and I can see the relationships of the people in this congregation grow and change as my time goes by, but I don't know what is going to happen with 100% certainty. And the great part is that I don't have to. All I need to do is be present in the moment, right now, and know that whatever is going to happen God will guide me. In the end all I can hope for is an experience that is as good as the one that I've had so far. And so far the experience has been great.