In April of 2020, I witnessed my husband receiving an offer of admission to Duke Divinity School, over the phone. While it was a glorious moment, and a long time coming, along with all the pride and joy I felt for him, I also felt immense dread at having to start a job search and interview process. After seminary, I was called as associate pastor of a small church in Decatur, GA. My job responsibilities were essentially what I had written my capstone about: including homebound senior adults in church community life. I had arrived, and was thriving in the work. When I married Andrew, I knew that his goals were academic in nature, and following that dream could take us anywhere in, or out of, the country. When the opportunity to put those vows into practice came knocking, I was ready but I was also afraid.
There’s a whole range of emotions that I went through in thinking about moving from Atlanta, GA to Durham, N.C. I was stressed about packing, overwhelmed with the excitement of adventure, and crippled with anxiety about not having a place to live if I couldn’t find a job. Employment searching during a global pandemic is tough. I created a spreadsheet in my bullet journal with jobs I wanted to look into, the dates I applied, and the outcomes. I threw away that journal and started over because that spreadsheet was angst made tangible for me. All the while, my parents and friends would say “it will all work out,” and “God will put you where you need to be.”
Those words were meant to comfort, and to a large extent they did, but they also instilled in me something of a holy fear. I worried that my experience of call had been it for me, because the job description and congregational demographics were essentially what I had devoted my seminary studies to: senior adults and faith. I worried that, in this time of desperation where we had a deadline to be in Durham with a source of income and a place to live, I would miss the divine in the midst of desperation; saying “yes” to something that wasn’t where God was calling me, because of impatience and fear. Does that make sense?
I wrestled with that for about 3 months, while I continued to search for jobs. I would ask “how can I be faithful to God, my family, and my vocation?” And each week, I would learn that faithfulness to a calling can have a lot of faces throughout the course of our lives. After seminary, I had a true “call experience,” where I felt like God and I, and my passions had aligned beautifully. Like this job had been orchestrated just for me. Now, at my new job in Durham, I really can’t help but feel the same way. I started seminary specifically because I wanted to be a chaplain, which is what I’m doing now. I went into congregational ministry after discovering that preaching is something I do well, and love to do. In both instances, faithfulness to my calling was easily measurable, because it fit the parameters of my education and the confines of my mind and my experience.
Through my time of job-searching this summer, however, faithfulness to my calling to ministry became so much more than just matching my education and experience to something that will help me put food on the table. It became an exercise in emptying myself of Sara, and filling up that empty vessel with commitment to love and to serve, with trust that being called to something fundamentally means that when you move into a role, God is with you each step of the way, guiding your work in the same way he crafted your very life. Thanks be to God.