I’m sitting here trying to find words that adequately sum up my feelings about being halfway through my senior year of college, but I have come to the conclusion that finding such words is simply impossible. It’s as though I blinked and all of a sudden I’m left with just one semester of my undergraduate career. I never thought it would be possible to love a university as much as I love JMU and I’m not at all ready to leave, but I am so looking forward to embracing every moment I have left here & not wishing any bit of it away. Choosing JMU was & remains one of the single best decisions I’ve made in my 21 years of life so far, and I am forever thankful. Academically, this past semester was my absolute favorite, while simultaneously being my most rigorous this far. In the midst of classes, I was also in the process of visiting and applying to grad schools (which was wonderful and all but I have to say, nobody really warns you about how difficult balancing those two tasks are!) This semester my course load consisted of counseling psych, psych of leadership, diversity issues, sensation & perception, and abnormal psychology. I can’t even pick a favorite because I loved them all so much (although abnormal psych was by far the most interesting and I am currently now looking to purchase the DSM-5). All of my professors were so smart and accomplished it was low key intimidating, but they were also so kind, thoughtful, helpful, and caring of their students, which you don’t always see in professors. JMU really crushes the stereotype that large universities make it impossible to build relationships with professors – professors make themselves available, you just have to seek them out and make an effort to know them. I learned inside and outside of the classroom lessons from those professors and from my peers that I never knew I would need or want.
I have been studying psychology for the past four years and I have fallen absolutely in love with it. I’ve learned so much about human behavior, the mind, mental illness, disorders, therapies, and various psychologists, and it is so fascinating to me that I am convinced undergrad will not be the last time I study it. For the longest time, I thought I was studying psychology in undergrad because it would help me a lot in ministry, which it definitely still will. I know I am called to ministry, I still love preaching and I love the Church with everything in me – I feel obligated to state that for those who think my love for psychology means I no longer have a love for ministry. It is still my whole heart and I am pursuing that and seminary, still. But I’ve realized these past few years that I also have a lot of space in my heart that is filled with passion and love for psychology, along with a strong pull to do something more with it. Pastors are trained to handle various issues that congregants come to them with to a certain extent before referring them to a professional who can better help them. I know that I do not want to have to refer someone when I myself am passionate about helping people in the area of mental health. I would love to be able to counsel them myself, and that’s a realization that I constantly find myself going back to. I do not know what further pursuing psychology looks like. Maybe it’s pastoral counseling. Maybe it’s chaplaincy. Maybe it’s being a part time pastor and part time certified/licensed counselor. Maybe it’s becoming a pastor first and getting my doctorate in psych later. Maybe it’s being a pastor and using my undergrad psych knowledge to help guide parishioners as best I can.
Maybe it’s something I’m not even thinking about right now – something God hasn’t even revealed to me yet.
I don’t know.
Those words used to terrify me to the very core – I’ve always been a planner, a perfectionist, someone who never really liked change or the unknown. Saying “I don’t know” definitely still freaks me out sometimes because the unknown leaves room for an overwhelming amount of possibilities. I thought it would scare me even more being a senior in college and still discerning what God wants me to do and how he’s calling me (which, let’s be honest, is a process that never really ends). I was just looking back and reading the journal I kept my freshman year of college back when I was contemplating transferring school’s. I wrote, “I think I need to leave (transfer), I just don’t know.” I remember the pure fear and uncertainty that I felt in that moment. The unknown can be terrifying, but it can also be exciting. It can be exciting because of all those possibilities – because of all the ways in which God is capable of using you. I don’t think I’ve ever been more comfortable before in my life not knowing exactly what is in store, what God wants me doing, or where he wants me going, and I believe that comfort comes from having seen God be faithful through the many, many unknowns that I have encountered in my life before this very moment. I’ve felt God hold my hand from the moment I was rejected by my top choice college back in high school, to the moment I chose to transfer school’s after freshman year, all the way to JMU, present day. I’ve taken these leaps of faith and been caught and carried and led by God, and I have no doubt he will handle my career path, seminary, post-grad life, and everything else in between and after, the same exact way. There are so many ways in which we can integrate our loves and passions, so many ways God is capable of using us, so many opportunities out there, it’s absolutely thrilling. God is faithful – so faithful and so perfect to the point where we don’t have to let the unknown scare us one bit, rather, we are free to let it excite us, as we are constantly reminded that God is good and right by your side, and he’s not going anywhere, whether you know where you’re going or not, he does, and he’s with you all the way.
A couple days ago I found out that I have been accepted into Candler, which makes 2/4 seminary acceptances so far! I am still waiting to hear back from 2 others (one of which I’m still working on the application to, due in January). People keep asking me which seminary is my top choice, and honestly, I don’t think I ever had a top choice. If I did, it never lasted more than a few days. I was constantly changing my mind and I think it’s because I know God’s going to have his hand interlocked with mine wherever I end up. All four seminaries I chose to apply to, I chose because I can see myself there. They’re all wonderful, and I’m not just saying that for the people who may be reading this. All of the campuses are beautiful, their locations are great, the opportunities offered are amazing, the faculty are so kind and intelligent, the students are passionate, hardworking, and beam with pride for their seminary, and the various pastors I know who came out of those seminaries are some of the greatest people I’ve ever met in my life. I am so confident in God’s ability to lead me where he wants me but also to let me take leaps of faith, never once letting go of my hand as we figure it all out step by step together. I know my next step is grad school – I want to keep studying. If anything, God has made that clear. I’m pursuing my M. Div not just because I need it but because I want it. If God wants me also pursue a masters or doctorate level degree in the psych field too someday, he’ll make that known to me when he wants to. But here’s where I am. And I am content. “Wholehearted dependence” was the phrase I stuck up on my wall in my room at the beginning of the semester and told myself I’d cling to it throughout the semester. I’m still clingin’ to it, failing miserably sometimes, but have constantly brought myself back to it knowing that even when I’ve felt as though God wasn’t near to me (which, if I’m being honest, was a lot this past semester) I knew he was – whether God is close to me or not is not dependent on how I feel. Whether or not I feel like he is with me doesn’t change the fact that he is right here – his presence surrounds you and me, constantly, whether we feel like he is or not.
So, with all of that being said & to end this post, here’s to what is and here’s to what could be (cheesy, I know, but it’s fitting for a post like this one). Here’s to the possibilities. Here’s to not putting ourselves or our God into a box. Here’s to being open to all the possibilities and allowing them to excite us rather than terrify us. Here’s to taking leaps of faith, to being present, to loving it all.
Here I am, Lord, I’m all yours. Take me wherever, use me wherever.