When I first came to Candler, I had a very clear idea of my plans for my course of study, for ordination, and for my vocation…or so I thought. Over the past year and a half, I have discovered God’s sense of humor. I can imagine God chuckling at me through my moments of believing that I had a plan for the future.
As prospective students visited Candler last year, I always told them to be prepared for the shifting and shaping of their calls to ministry throughout seminary, but I never recognized that statement’s application in my own life. I had a plan…didn’t I? I may have prepared, but God had different ideas.
As a result of experiences in the Contextual Education program, Candler course work, and Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, I felt God shifting me in a different direction. I knew when I entered Candler that I felt pulled towards specialized ministry, but my experiences have specifically led me to clinical chaplaincy and a denominational change.
This summer, as I worked with veterans on end of life issues during CPE, I felt God in so many new ways. I saw God in each of my patients, and I knew God wanted me to serve his children during the most difficult times of their lives. I could not have imagined being anywhere else. At this very same time, I was exploring other denominations as I discerned and entered a new church community very much “by accident.” However, I now know that there are no accidents with God. God was gently pushing me in a new direction and paving the way for a new path in my life.
But what did this passion for chaplaincy and new place in a church community mean for my ordination process: the process I had been in for years? Should I change denominations? Should I change course? I worried so much about disappointing those around me: my family, my friends, and my home parish. However, finally I decided simply to trust the path that God had laid before me through a denominational shift in my personal life, a withdrawal from my previous ordination process, and a shift to the Faith and Health Program here at Candler. I knew that God would be walking alongside me throughout the process, and he continues to do so.
Despite some initial discomfort, as change is never “comfortable,” I am so joyful in following this new path and the passions that God has set before me. The new classes that I am taking feed my passions, and my new church community feeds my soul. However, I still cannot help but fall into the trap of trying to plan the rest of my life and my vocation, as I consider the possibilities of clinical chaplaincy, campus ministry, urban ministry, prison ministry, spiritual advising, Christian counseling, and athletic chaplaincy. I feel like this “need to plan” and “need to prepare” is human nature, especially within the confines of graduate school. The options seem endless, and I cannot help but try to determine where I will be a few years from now or a few decades from now. However, just as God placed a new path before me this summer, I am certain that God will continue to be the leader in my life.
Paul’s letter to the Romans continually reminds me to discern the call of God, not where I think that I should or will be called:
Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The best advice that I have for any of you entering seminary, in seminary, or at any point in your life is to simply follow the path that God has set before you. You are welcome to plan, but do not be surprised when God’s sense of humor comes out and a new path stands before you. More importantly, do not be afraid to take that new path. Simply follow the Lord and enjoy the journey!
Katie is a second-year MDiv student in the Faith and Health Certificate program, a graduate of Elon University in North Carolina, and a Candler Student Ambassador.