I usually like to pick a word for myself that I hope will describe each new year.
My 2017 word was gentleness.
I picked this word because I knew my goal for the year was to cease from striving, to stop grasping, to accept my smallness in the world and to be considerably less frustrated about circumstances. As a result, I knew I would need patience as hope would be deferred and answers to questions would not come.
I found some of the best ways to discover if you are in fact gentle is to consistently not get what you want or expect and then see if you are able to remind yourself with frequency that in this world you are entitled to nothing. Godliness with contentment is great gain. Part of the gain is the evidence of gentleness.
While my word was gentleness and I can recognize many situations in which I exercised it, gentleness is still my endeavor because The Rolling Stones remind me that getting what I want is not always going to be the case…
…Unless you change what you want.
Wait… huh? (This will take a turn, you probably didn’t expect).
Scripture tells me that where my treasure is there my heart will be also and what I know to be true is: if my want is wholly fixed on desiring the love of Jesus above all else, I can have that. I can have unconditional love despite circumstance. I can obey God if I want to, and I can say no to competing desires.
Which is why in August of 2017, I started asking myself some new questions. I also began giving up certain expectations. I decided to cast my net wider because I felt like I was becoming too comfortable, while being less content.
So I applied for chaplaincy positions on college campuses. I connected with a new young adult community. I planned my first vacation alone. I began the process of coming to an internal acceptance that if need be I would remain single forever. I was even willing to accept that my calling to ministry was less than what I imagined and resolved that I could continue working in construction, quietly, even if I felt strongly otherwise.
It led me to October where I confronted myself with the help of a friend. I addressed some things I didn’t necessarily like about life in general at that point. And I gave God my opinion. I gave my evaluation of my love for Jesus, and it seemed to me to be found wanting. This feeling saddened me.
I did not feel unloved by God. I felt incapable of reciprocating. Though, I was reminded that love was a choice, I felt tempted to choose to not love. And this potential decision provoked me to look around and recognize the faithfulness and love of others. I discovered one of the ways we reignite our love (and fear) of God is to observe others who are loving God faithfully. Choosing faithfulness despite uncertainty and suffering is an awesome display of love.
And something began, and I hope will be brought to a mature completion inside me. I remembered that love requires me to give while trusting that the risks of faith I take are guided by God. I was also reminded that it is not possible for me to love even a little bit without God.
For me, love starts with listening. Love happens when we hear the needs of others and meet them, but love finds its energy in the word of God. I started to hear when I listened.
God is the only one who knows me in my depths and the only one who knows me better than myself, which makes making decisions much easier when I’m hearing from the one writing my story.
Fast forward to the middle of December. I began the process of applying for hospital chaplaincy programs. I wrote 12 pages worth of essays (5 about my life history, 1 about my work history, 3 regarding my spiritual development, 2 about navigating a crisis, 1 about why I want to be chaplain).
I had my good friend Victor read and edit all of them. He is finishing up his PhD in counseling and was amazing enough to edit my essays in his free time. He’s a quality human being. I submitted all the materials and references for these programs around Christmas and was leaving for India on New Year’s Eve.
My assumption, based on how things usually work, was I would hopefully hear back sometime after I returned from India because 3 weeks is a normal amount of time to review 12 pages worth of essays and additional materials in an application packet.
Apparently, in the hospital chaplaincy world in specific parts of the country a suitable response time is a few hours and 2 days respectively. Whereas, here in the northeast where I submitted an application packet, a month has gone by with no response from 3 different individuals at the same hospital who I submitted my application to.
So with very quick responses, during the peak of the holiday season, while I was preparing to leave for India for 2 weeks, I found myself scheduling interviews within a week or so of my return.
India was a blast and a rather busy 2 weeks. I tried to take some time to process 2018 and potential new seasons of life and these opportunities. I suppose the little time I had to think about it was enough. While I wanted to process it more, time and energy did not seem to allow it.
Between jet lag, jumping back into work, and trying to prepare for the interviews themselves, I did not think about the implications of an offer. My interviews were on the 17th and the 22nd respectively, and I felt optimistic after both of them. Again I assumed I would hear something after a couple of weeks.
Not the case, I received an offer of admission to a residency position within 24 hours of my interview on the 22nd.
**Full disclosure, I heard from God several times in September about a timetable for my next step in following the Spirit to whatever my ministry direction would be so I shouldn’t have been too surprised. Something similar happened 7 years ago when I interviewed for my first ministry position.
I still didn’t and don’t really feel like I’ve had time to adequately process, but my experience thus far has seemed to indicate that God is not too interested in me swirling it all around in my head for hours on end. Because what I am prone to do is to make up fears or potential excuses.
God, the Father, did extend the offer allowing me to list all my initial fears as a “counting the cost” type of measure to which He promised to give answers to. We hashed that out at Qdoba. I left a little teary eyed after finishing my burrito.
I accepted the offer Monday, mailed my documents today and now wait and pray through a hopefully slow transition. I hope its slow because I’m aware of something else God is doing.
God is interested in doing a deeper work in my heart, one that I am getting the impression is more important than processing through the external details of the location and timing of my next season. That is what I must slow down for while the externals continue to be caught up in the whirlwind.
By the way, just for your information, my word for 2018 is one I learned while in India and that I gave away in the title of this blog. It is Emprise – an adventurous, daring, or chivalric enterprise.