I decided to take a few weeks off from blogging. It was both intentional and inevitable. Up until this weekend my life has been on a steady march these past few months towards the events of the last two weeks. Through all that has taken place, God has been reminding me that He desires for me to rest in Him.
The story of my calling to ministry began with my desire to work towards a PhD in history focusing on the Middle East. That later turned toward an interest in seminary rather than secular history. During that time, I would have said that I was called to be a professor, perhaps at a seminary or Bible college. That was the path I was headed down. Over time, God has given me more and more opportunities to engage in pastoral ministry that I began to realize that my call to ministry was pastoral in nature, although I have never set aside my interest, aspirations, and passion for study and academics. That all came to a head when just a couple of months ago I submitted my application for the PhD program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. A few weeks later I received a call that I had made it past the first round of the application process and was invited to the campus for a day to take the entrance exam and participate in an interview with professors.
September 4 was the day that my wife, my daughter, and I made the trip down to Louisville, Kentucky. The next day I woke up and went to take my entrance exam. That afternoon, I had my interview with a few professors that oversee the candidates for the Biblical Spirituality emphasis of the PhD program. When my interview was over, we all made the drive right back home. It was a stressful and exhausting couple of days.
The next morning after I arrived home from Louisville, I headed to my church where I would sit before a panel of nineteen men who formed my ordination council. If I had the choice, I would not have scheduled both of these events so close together, but there wasn’t much I could do about the way things were scheduled. For about three hours, I sat and answered question after question about my salvation, call to ministry, character, doctrine, and philosophy of ministry. It was an incredibly encouraging morning, though tiresome. That event consummated in yesterday morning’s ordination service at our church. Charges were given from my mentor and our pastor, and my wife and I were brought forward and prayed over by the elders and deacons of the church.
These events were very good and I thank God for them. My wife and I have been praying towards and preparing for the day of my ordination for many years now. We are thankful not only that it has finally come, but that the Lord saw fit to make that day come amidst such a great congregation. My application to the PhD program is another thing for which we are both thankful and excited about. However, as my mentor always says, our enemy does not fight fair. In the months leading up to these events, my wife and I have felt increasingly under a bit of spiritual attack. Doubts have plagued us, misunderstandings from what others have said, not said, done, or not done have caused us confusion, and we found ourselves even getting after each other as these two events drew closer.
In the midst of it, we eventually felt that God was telling us through all that we were experiencing to rely on Him. That was the question for us, will we rely on God through this? The more time that presents itself before occasions such as this the more exit doors we can see on our journey towards the goal. In the charge to me as the ordination candidate on Sunday, my mentor told me several times that now was my chance to run for the door, considering all that a surrender to vocational ministry would mean. This has been only the beginning of a season where we will feel increasingly from the Lord that we must rely on and rest in Him.
My ordination is complete. I won’t go into all that I believe ordination to be today, that will be for another post perhaps, but the process is complete. Where things go from here is mostly visible, although I cannot say with absolute certainty what that is (more to come on that in the coming months). However, the PhD is entirely a mystery. We are in yet another period of waiting. I am to be receiving a letter in mid-October with the school’s final decision as to my acceptance into the program. Beginning the journey of a PhD would be pivotal for the next few years of my family’s life and really the rest of our lives, and the inverse is true as well. Yet, we are no strangers to waiting. We have almost become comfortable with it…I stress the almost!
In the midst of all this the Lord led me to Isaiah 41:13, “For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” God doesn’t seem to teach us lessons in ways that we would particularly like. I remember a pastor telling me once that when we ask God for patience, He doesn’t zap us with patience, but instead gives us an opportunity to be patient. What I am saying to a degree is that I probably asked God for this season at some point, in that I know that I have consistently prayed not only for patience in the past but the ability to trust Him more, to obey Him more, and to rest and rely on Him. Well, so why was I complaining?!
May we learn what the Lord is teaching us and receive it with thanksgiving and joy!