Three years ago, my prayers to attend seminary in person weren’t granted. My family stayed in Iowa and I took part-time classes in a distance learning program.
Sept 9, 2014 I wrote a letter to God in my grief (posted on one of my former blogs). In it, among other things, I said,
“God, let me remind you about Naomi and Ruth. Moses. The fishermen. These unassuming people who heard your call and answered. They followed. They went.
God, to me, following a call means you stop what you are doing, you get out of your boat, you pick up, and you go. You follow Jesus. Someplace else.
But instead, I’m docking my boat in order to follow you right back where I started: home.
Now I have to disentangle myself from the threads of other dreams. Dreams of new opportunities in exciting and prestigious places.
God, during the final night ceremony at Camp Woodbrooke, each camper and staff person sends off a little wooden boat into the starlit pond, its single candle blazing brightly. A wish propels each boat. I am standing on the shores of home and ready to release my boat into the night. My wish is that I release the weight of second guesses, what-ifs, and could-have-beens right along with it. I wish to remember that you are everywhere. I wish that by staying here, I might actually embark on one of the most significant journeys of my lifetime.”
Three years later, I’m attending seminary in person in a place I never thought I’d be.
God answers prayers, but not always in the order they are received or in the way we expect.
I am accompanying six new seminary students on a journey with scripture this semester. The reality of the first year of seminary is sinking in for them. As they proclaim the Word, furtive glances sneak across the room, trepidation about coursework and work-life balance surfaces in prayer requests, and one can see the wheels turning as they ask themselves if this is where they really belong.
The text we read last week was Genesis 32: 22-32, when Jacob wrestles with God. Most students felt some personal connection with the text as they are at the beginning of wrestling their seminary existence into being. Jacob will not let go until he is blessed. In the process, God strikes Jacob’s hip, hurting him.
My hip still hurts from my first-year-of-seminary-wrestling match. Oh how I wanted to let go. I wanted to let go, even though as my prayer from three years ago attests, I wanted nothing more than to be in seminary in a new place.
As I pray with these brave new seminary students, I ask God for their strength and stamina during their own wrestling matches this year. As they depart our weekly gathering, they face challenges still tender enough to cut them at the quicks of their lives. I remind them, “Blessing awaits. Hold on. Don’t let go.”