Today I am reminded that January will bring about my final semester regarding classwork in the Doctorate of Ministry. My next step will be implementing and reporting on my final project. My first assignment will be an analysis of several books, with some course work due before the first day of the semester. While I always feel overwhelmed, I am giving thanks for the program offered at Austin Seminary. The academic expectations are very high, and for that, I am truly grateful.
With the acknowledgment of the end in sight, I can’t help but recall the years of struggle that I had making it through my undergraduate program. My head and heart were not in school. All I knew is that I wanted to sing. Nothing else mattered. Making good grades was not a part of my interest in my early twenties. It would take many years before I appreciated the discipline of academic achievement.
Seminary gave me a perspective that changed my complete outlook on life. At Iliff, I recaptured my love of history and writing. I discovered the depth of my appreciation for theological studies, particularly concerning how others expressed their understanding of God and our place in the universe. I also reclaimed my joy for academic research. School to me became a blessing, a way of reaching beyond myself and not being afraid to live within a world of unknowables. One of the most important lessons that I learned was that God, and how humanity expresses the divine presence, is larger than anything I can ever fathom. The Holy Mystery is vast and amazing.
Our journey takes us to many places that we would never expect to go. If someone had told me at twenty-five that I would be pastoring a church before I finished my forties, I would have told them they were insane. Those that knew me back then probably are still questioning the discernment of a congregation to have me as their pastor now. What no one on either side of the spectrum realizes is that I have walked a road that is distinct to me. God illumined my path and blessed me for ministry. For that, I am truly grateful.
It has been a very long journey. One that is filled with disappointments as well as blessings. I would never have enjoyed my experiences if I had never chosen to go down the path, one step at a time and one lesson at a time. Praise be to God for His holy patience and understanding. This is my story, and I am sticking to it!
Your path has been full of sharing joy with others, Joe. As one of your friends from your “previous life”, I have never doubted that you are where God intended you to be all along. Your hard times helped make you who you are. And, by the way, I know first hand that you do an excellent job as a pastor and a preacher. I watched you as you related to your congregation with love and compassion.
I am proud of you for taking the more difficult path and finding a place of comfort. I love you, my dear friend.
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