So, if you know me at all, you know that I've done a lot of work on so-called "vocational discernment" in the last couple of years. Very few of you know the extent of it - the nights of tears shed and fears faced, days of believing the white devil and trusting my own reason over God's grace, listening to the lies in my head and rejecting the truth that anyone else told me. Praying and worshiping and reading and writing and very seriously trying to wrap my head around "what God wants me to do" vs. (?) "what I want to do" vs. (?) "what the world wants me to do". I worked so hard at "giving it all to God" and discerning Truth and almost literally "taking up my cross and following him". And I think I would say that it's been good for me, on the whole, even if it hasn't always been particularly healthy.
By the time I came back from internship - and even probably half-way through first semester - my prayers were just begging God for clarity. I was really messed-up inside and not even really seeing through the glass dimly, more like staring at a ceramic coffee mug. On the other hand, I was almost afraid to pray for that clarity, because of what I thought He was going to say. (See? I told you I was screwed up...still am, a little bit...)
And so I came back for my senior year prepared to apply for PhD programs - I honestly thought that's what God wanted me to do. Ok, that's a lie. If I had had the ability to be honest with myself at the time, I probably would have noticed that the PhD thing felt forced. I mean, sure, I'd love to teach at the undergrad level - it was so important to my own faith formation, and I'd like to do that for other kids. And maybe that's in my future at some point. But in my most honest moments, I can recognize that it was this: I'm the smart one, that's what I have going for me, and I'm a good person who always works as hard as possible - I must get this doctoral degree to prove that I'm not a slacker and living up to who I'm supposed to be. Yeah. Screwed. Up.
Lois Malcolm's Holy Spirit class was fantastic for this - the Holy Spirit - through her teaching - has done such a good job of freeing me from this identity that has been imposed on me - it's the narrative that has always been told to me about me, and I haven't known how to step out of it, or away from it, or...just not make it my primary identity. So I'm working on that. And it's getting better. Slowly.
And then I preached in chapel a couple weeks ago. As I mentioned, it felt so, so good. It was fun and joyful, I felt alive. I felt like, "there is something to be said here, and apparently I'm the one who's going to say it, so, here we go". I had a lot of good feedback from students and faculty afterwards, and it felt really good - although it's so not about me, it was totally a God thing. I know that a couple people watched it online, and that was nice - to feel like people were interested enough to watch.
But on Monday I got a package from a friend who had clearly watched the online broadcast - but who didn't tell me she had done so. She wrote me a lovely card, and then she made me art that draws out the main themes of my sermon, cites a myriad of excellent Scripture passages, and has my name and date on the back. I opened it in the presence of several friends, and in the midst of a lot of stress, so I didn't have time to really absorb it. But when I went back to it that night, it brought me to tears. I really put my heart into that sermon, and I hope that God was able to speak through it. It felt so right, and so me. And this beautiful art says, "That was authentically you, Katie. This gift for you is for you. The person who you are."
Thank you for seeing that, Mary. Thank you for seeing me.