Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Call of Service

For this week, my Con Ed I group was asked to read the introduction and first chapter to Robert Cole's book, "The Call of Service: A Witness to Idealism" and then write a reflection on it. This is my reflection, in its entirety, talking about the difficulties that I've had in seminary finding it in myself to fully respond to God's call.

“She was getting to the heart of what she had learned that mattered. For her, service meant serving, and not only on behalf of those she knew and like or wanted to like. Service meant an alliance with the Lord Himself on behalf of people who were obviously unfriendly. Service was not an avocation or something done to fulfill a psychological need, not even an action that would earn her any great immediate or long-term reward. Service was itself a challenge – maybe a bigger one than the challenge of getting by a truculent, agitated mob twice a day.” (5)

As I read through the selection from Robert Cole’s, “The Call of Service: A Witness to Idealism,” I was struck early on by this paragraph describing Tessie’s thoughts on service. I started thinking about my own views of service and how they’ve changed since I’ve been to seminary.

I, like many of my classmates, came to Candler because I felt I was following a call from God to serve the church. For me, this is a call that I’ve felt in one way or another from a very young age. When I entered Ursinus College in the fall of 2003, I found myself facing the frustrating task of completing a liberal arts degree, complete with math and science, when, deep down, I felt called to seminary. When I first walked onto Emory’s campus back in August, I was relieved, feeling as though I was finally able to respond to my call. I expected to spend the next three years of my life in a state of utopia, being filled with knowledge and emotional and spiritual healing. I expected to soak in all of the reading, to have all of the answers, and to be able to articulate myself with grace and dignity.

What I didn’t expect was to be unable to balance my life at home with my life at school and work. What I didn’t expect was to be overwhelmed with paper assignments and exams. What I didn’t expect was to have people question my faith, my denomination and my overall views on life. To put it simply, I didn’t expect it to be this hard.

About a year ago, someone asked me what I was afraid of most. Having never divulged this to anyone before, I told them I was afraid that in my life, I wasn’t going to accomplish was I put on earth to do. And in my first semester at seminary I saw this fear start to become a reality.

This paragraph gave me hope; Tessie felt, like I do, that she had been called by God to serve. But the vivid descriptions of her being escorted by federal marshals into a newly segregated, but still very white, school are evidence enough that Tessie’s call wasn’t something that she could easily respond to. But she never gave up. And that gave me hope.

I’m not trying to minimize racism to my difficulties as a student managing my time. I am, however, quickly realizing that God doesn’t call people to serve and then make it easy for them to respond. The service that God needs isn’t easy. Instead, God calls people to service who he knows are strong and can withstand the pressures that are going to come along with it.

There are still probably going to be days when I yank on my hair and scream my desire to quit to the world. But from now on, every time I do that I am going to think of the many before me who withstood pain, grievances and hardships and remind myself that being called by God invites me into a community a very special people.

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