After a year and a half of running as far away from Church and ministry and calling as I could, I found myself at a crossroads. Every Baylor student had to take 6 hours of classes in the Religion Department. Most students chose to take a class in New Testament and a class in Old Testament. I found myself in an interesting dilemma in the middle of my junior year. As a first semester freshman, I took a class called Survey of the Bible. This call was designed for students that planned to take upper level courses in the department. At that time, I was excited to grown in my understanding of calling and faith and the Church. Since completing that class, I found myself trying all in my power to run from this calling.
When it came time to register for classes in the Spring of my 3rd year, I knew I needed to complete the other 3 hours of religion requirement. I found the course in the catalog that had the least to do with my call to serve the church and prepared for class registration day. When it was my turn to call in (yes, this was a forward thinking registration system…before everyone used the internet) I found out that my class of choice was full. Seeing this as simply a small challenge to avoid being still with God, I went the next day to the head of the religion department to have him override the course.
I can remember sitting in the office preparing my case:
“You see, Dr. Smarty-Jesus-Man, I am working hard to graduate in four years because I am a great daughter and I want to make sure that I complete my religion requirements this year. I know that the Modern Cults class is full, but I am more convinced that ever that building this knowledge base will help me as I familiarize myself with the temptations of my generation. I also know that there are other courses, but this one in particular peaks my interest in those that are far away from God and I want to be a part of speaking of their culture and context.”
I tried my best and instead of singing my paper, he produces a folder from his desk that contain a list of names.
*insert your most loving grandfatherly role model with a calm but firm voice*
“I see that you responded a few years ago to a perceived call on your life to serve God in the Church.”
(stunned silence fell over the office while I sheepishly nodded)
“I am not going to sign the paper for the cults class, but I have already placed you in the Intro to Ministry class that will give you an opportunity to further explore that call.”
If it is possible to be irritated and relieved at the same time, that is where I found myself. Most of me screamed, “NOOOOO!!!” The remaining 3% felt a small relief that maybe, just maybe I would quit trying to cram my ill-fitting skill set into a business or education degree.
I can remember walking into Dr. Slover’s Intro class in January with skepticism and a complete sarcastic crappy attitude. I knew that this had a huge possibility of crashing my well solidified rhythm of avoiding God. As I approached the room on the first day, proudly sporting my greek letters and the bloodshot eyes of a wild weekend, I was smacked with a new reality. The class had 12 students. While this is an adorable Biblical shout-out, it meant that there would be no hiding. Even worse, only two of the 12 were of the female variety. Things only got worse when the syllabus explained that I had to participate in an internship with a local church. There was no escaping this one. I was not going to avoid it any longer.
Within a week, I had the background on the other 11, and I quickly realized I was odd woman out. My only other gender compadre was very clear from her background and understanding of the Church that she was not equipped to be a “pastor” in any capacity. She was pursuing her call to foreign missions. Of the other 10, many were drawn to preaching, a few to music and one to full time evangelism. So when the first assignment was to tell my background and to explain your understanding of ‘your call’ I was terrified.
Most of my classmates were raised in and were responding to ministry leadings in churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. Having been raised in the United Methodist tradition, I had a framework for traditional views on women in leadership, but I was blessed with examples for inclusion as well. It never crossed my mind that saying that I felt called to ministry with students was going to be controversial or troublesome. When I stood to tell my story, the confusion came over the room. Many were offended, a few were curious and in the same moment, the shame gremlins crawled up my back and held on for a wild ride. Not only did I have so much to work out personally, but I was about to enter into a season where I was forced to examine my framework for life.
Although incredibly traditional, my teacher was kind and honored my place. But when it came time to choose an intern location, in order to have a female mentor, I was given the choice of a missionary or a children’s pastor. I opted for the later because my Jamaica experience was a little fresh in my memory bank. After 3 months of meeting with her, I learned so much. Including the fact that I am not called or created to me in ministry to children. I really wasn’t sure that I liked them. However, the season did remind me of the passion I had for serving and teaching and loving people in the midst of the struggles of faith.
It was clear, through this class, that I missed the Church. I missed learning from leaders and teachers. I knew that my passion for connectedness in the season of adolescence was my jam. So I did the best thing I knew to do, I interviewed with churches to serve a summer in youth ministry. I wrapped up junior year with one foot in full blown college crazy and one foot in vocational ministry. While not great long term partners, it was such a step forward from my place of disconnect that I could begin to see the light of day.