Tuesday, February 28, 2012

You Told Me So...

I have been terrible about updating this blog recently. My goal is to do better now that my hectic month of February is over. But yesterday I had a very strange/life-changing experience and wanted to share it with y'all.

I was on my way back to Chicago with the Fourth Church middle school youth from our Winter Retreat in Wisconsin. We were in the van driving away from the camp and I was thinking about my graduate school options. I have been in the process of applying to graduate schools to get my master's in accounting. Where to attend grad school has been on my mind a lot lately, so it wasn't unusual that I was thinking about it. What was weird and disconcerting was that I suddenly had the sense that I was not on the right path. My head starting pounding and I couldn't hear anything but the blood rushing to my head. I was completely overcome with emotion and had to try really hard to keep my composure since I was in a van full of people. The only thing that kept running through my head was the sense that I should be going to seminary next year.

I know it sounds strange, but this really did happen. It's hard to describe...and hard to talk about. I have felt called to do things before, but never like this. I felt called by God to go on my first mission trip back in middle school. I felt called by God to work as a camp counselor one summer in high school. I felt called by God to do a year of service here in Chicago. But I have never felt such a strong calling before. The skeptic in me tried to convince myself that I was just sleep deprived, worried about going back to graduate school for accounting and excited about how well our retreat went. But the other part of me cannot accept these things as reasons to not listen to my experience. So what if I was tired? Maybe I am worried about going back to school for accounting because part of me knows deep down that isn't what I'm meant to do with my life. And who cares that I was in a good mood because the retreat went well? Experiences such as the one I had do not happen all the time. Isn't everyone always complaining that God doesn't speak to them clearly enough? I am pretty sure that more than once this month I have said something along the lines of, "Why doesn't God speak through burning bushes anymore?" This might be the closest thing to a burning bush that I'll ever get.

I have thought in the past of going to seminary. Well, let me clarify that statement. For about a year, I have been considering seminary. It wasn't until I went to the YAV Placement Event in March of last year that I even considered seminary. Prior to March of 2011, seminary seemed like a distant place filled with stuffy old white guys who just sat around debating the merits of Calvin. Now, I know there is a lot wrong with that sentence, but when I was a kid that image got into my mind somehow and never seemed to work its way out. As I got older, I realized that these stereotypes of seminary from the 1850s were not accurate, but I never considered myself as someone who would fit-in at a seminary. I thought theology would be boring and just semantics. I was worried the things I believed would not be accepted or ok. The list goes on and on....but more recently I have been wondering if these reasons were valid or just excuses.

For me, February has been the month of Vocational Discernment. I went on 2 different vocational retreats and have spent a lot of time thinking about life, the future, vocation, my calling, whatever you want to call it. I have also had many conversations with people wondering if seminary is in my future. Since I work at a church, I wrote off many of their questions as just them wanting to make me go to seminary. I would hate talking about my plans for the fall because it always made me really nervous. If I had decided on a Masters in Accounting, then why wasn't I happy? Why wasn't I excited to share my plans for the future with anyone? When everything fell into place about my YAV year here in Chicago, I felt like I was always talking about it! I was so excited!! So maybe that feeling of dread that came over me wasn't just nervousness about the future. Maybe I should have listened to that little voice in the back of my head sooner.

I am always telling the kids in Elevation that God speaks to us through every day situations- and I honestly believe that. Unfortunately, I was apparently too stubborn and boneheaded to pay attention to the signs in my own life. I basically needed to be slapped upside the head to get the message. To those who kept asking me about seminary and not accepting my reasons as actual answers, thank you and you were right. Please feel free to say, "I told you so!" the next time I see you. Your questions, though unwanted at the time, are now very much appreciated.

As of right now, I do not know where I want to go to seminary or what I want to do with an M.Div. HOWEVER, I am not going to let that be a deterrent any longer. It is no longer the 1850s- the student population in seminary is more diverse. My thoughts and ideas are just as valuable as someone else's. Theology is not as stuffy as I thought. (Granted, I still think it would be really easy to get caught up in the semantics and not actually have a conversation about anything real, but that is beside the point.) The skeptical part of my brain will just have to take a rest for a little while. Man, who knew that 3 minutes could change your life so drastically?

If you have any questions/comments - feel free to email me. Additionally, if you have any reading suggestions to help me to figure out this new path, please let me know!


  1. "stuffy old white guys who just sat around debating the merits of Calvin"

    As a stuffy old white guy who sits around debating the merits of Calvin, I want to say that you don't have to be in seminary to do that - and that I don't think seminarians tend to do it that much.

    Also, I think you would make an excellent pastor.

  2. This is a very exciting change in future plans! And seminary's only as stuffy as you make it, which means it's okay to call classmates out if they get too pedantic.
    P.S. Join us in Louisville! It is both a fun place to be and it approximates your native climate.

  3. Sarah, that is really cool! I am more glad and jealous that you had an experience with God than that you want to go to seminary, but that is really cool, too! Let me know if I can be a help or resource in any way.

  4. Great post Sarah! Happy for you and all of the things God has planned for your future. As a fellow Grace Pres-er looking at seminaries, I share your skepticism and excitement about the wild journey an M.Div might entail. Let me know if you ever wanna talk about the process. God will continue to guide you along the way!

  5. This brought a smile to my face--what an amazing experience! I agree with Katie--if seminary is the right place for you, you should join us in Louisville! If we in the YAV office can be of help in your discernment process, let us know! Prayers are coming your way.

  6. In 2005 I was building furniture for a living and was fed up with it (the short story there). I yelled at the Universe that I wanted a change, at the same time in a separate conversation I told someone I would never live in Colorado. Boy did I ever get the change, Carol (my wife for those that don't know me) was promoted to a management position in.....wait for it, Colorado Springs Colorado. The company moved us and helped us buy a house. A year later we were back in North Carolina but that's another story. I no longer doubt what happens if you let go and give your self over to the universe. Tom Schaefer

  7. We haven't met personally, but I know you somewhat through my daughter who is one of your housemates. Often as she has shared of your interactions together and your enjoyment of your church job, I have wondered why you weren't going on to seminary. What you've shared about regarding this new clarity and calling makes a lot of sense to me from my perspective. Blessings to you. I'm happy for you!

  8. Thank you all for your support!! I am very excited & promise to post updates when I figure out more.... :)


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