It finally hit me this morning. My seminary career is at a close. When I moved here four years ago, I couldn’t envision actually graduating. I came here with the simple leading of the Spirit. No audible call, no clear direction, no vision and no idea of what the future held. I simply knew that this was the next step.
I moved to Fort Worth having a few friends from college studying here. It took some time getting adjusted to the size of churches here in the metroplex. After a few months, I found the church I wanted to plant my life in while I was here. The first Sunday after church, a group of us went out for lunch and I got to know a few people that are still in the group and I’m close friends with. The next night I attended a small group and just threw myself into it. I’d bring my guitar and help lead worship. The small group leaders also let me lead a couple of times.
After about a year or so, I was asked if I’d like to lead a small group. I jumped at the opportunity. I enjoyed it but as time went on I became frustrated. Looking back part of it stemmed from my personality. I’m never satisified with the way things are. I had also hit a dry spell spiritually and was living in my own strength. Also, I think it was God orchestrating changes in my life and in the life of our singles group. We restructured our groups and no one joined the new group that I was to lead. I tried not to take it personally but I did and I began to withdraw socially and relationally. I failed to take advantage of joining another group and being refreshed. Instead I wallowed in pity and simply withdrew. I would show up on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights but I wasn’t relating to people and I let my friendships wither.
Also during this time, there was a good bit of transition. People were moving out of state for jobs, others were taking ministry positions at other churches and others were getting married and moving into different social circles.
After a few months, I became frustrated with my reclusive lifestyle and began seeking out relationships again. I began attending a small group but felt like I was on the outside looking in. The group didn’t exclude me but they had bonded as a group and I was late to the party. In the midst of this, I began working to rebuild old friendships and create new ones.
Then in December of last year, things got turned upside down. A good friend in our group died suddenly. We came together as a group and supported each other and ministered to her family while they were making arrangements and dealing with her estate.
I think it took me several months to really process it all. Then at the end of February, I was laid off. The first few months I was hopeful that I would find a new job but the months continued to pass. Moving into August I was coming to the end of my rope. I took on additional ministry roles as part of my field experience for school. As the weeks went on, the stress and frustration from the failures in these ministries and the prolonged unemployment brought me to the end of myself. I would just pour my heart out to the Lord asking for wisdom and answers to my prayers.
Lessons that God had been trying to teach me for years had been packaged up into an intensive crash course. I was confronted with the reality of spiritual warfare. I continued to wrestle with whether God was calling me to remain single. My use of debt to provide for my needs showed my complete lack of faith in God to meet those very same needs. I have wrestled through fear and self-doubt that has plagued me since childhood, often causing paralysis in the face of God’s call to be obedient.
At the same time, I was having successes in other areas. I had finally disciplined myself to eat better and begin running and as a result after six months I had lost over 50 pounds. God had blessed me with several new friendships that were encouraging and challenging at the same time. The small group I’ve been leading for the last few months is beginning to gel and friendships are being built and strengthened. Then in October, after seven months of unemployment, God blessed me with a wonderful job as a programmer.
So as I stood in my living room this morning, waiting for the sun to come up, I was overcome with joy and gratitude. The last four years have been some of the hardest for me spiritually, financially, relationally and emotionally. However, as I look back, I honestly would not trade the last four years. Those trials and heartaches have prepared me for this day. They were the foundation for the things the Lord wanted to teach me and work in me. I learned a great deal in the classroom while in seminary, but I have learned so much more in the journey.