by summer intern Miriam Hanson -
"Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised." – Hebrews 10:35-36
In the weeks leading up to my time at Messiah, and even in the first few days here, I anticipated that this summer would be a "no-strings-attached" kind of opportunity: I would arrive in this new, West Coast city, I would settle into a professional, working relationship with people, and I would learn a lot about ministry, namely, that congregational work wasn't the calling for me. I really wanted that last caveat to be true. I really wanted to dislike working in a congregational setting, and quite honestly, I was hoping that I would kind of hate ministry work in general.In fact, I had been attempting to do a lot of bargaining with God to make that happen in recent months.
After all, the business of souls is messy: People are messy, both literally and in a more figurative, emotional, uniquely human way. They argue over stupid things, they all work on different timetables, and they don't all think on the same wavelength. Perhaps most frustratingly of all, they often cause a lot of problems as they attempt to see their well-intentioned ideas into fruition, and you can't get mad at someone who is well intentioned. We are a messy bunch. So why would anyone want to work – or worse, want to lead – amidst that chaos? And why would God have picked me (the introvert who has a penchant for happily proclaiming that she hates people) for that kind of task, that kind of life? My plans for an unattached summer seemed ideal: I wouldn't have to get caught up in all that mess, and in 10 short weeks God and I would be on the same page: One where I didn't have to do congregational ministry.
Except somehow I got swept into the family on Day One. Barely 2 hours after I had pulled into Lloyd and Dorothy Summers' driveway, I had been invited to attend Theology Uncorked. Another 3 hours later, and my car was only partially unloaded when we left for the winery and I experienced the first of many "Welcome to Messiah" moments. The rest of the summer wasn't much different: Always getting swept into an unplanned meeting, or a last-minute dinner invitation, or an unexpected conversation. I suppose I really shouldn't have been surprised; isn't that who God is and what God is always doing? Being and bringing us the unexpected?
I learned that lesson best in my last weeks here, but without the experiences of those first days it would have never sunk in. Those days were followed by first hospital visits, first home visits, first opportunities for writing liturgy and leading worship. After packing all those "firsts" into 10 weeks, I had hoped that God and I would be on the same page. And from my vantage point of week 9.5, it looks like we are, except we're on God's page rather than on the one that I had picked out. Somehow God always seems to be a better writer than I am, infuriating as that tends to be, and God's ideas of how the chapters of my life should begin always work out better than my own. It is a lesson that I have learned over and over again, but each time I start a new chapter and encounter another set of first days, I always seem to need a reminder.
So, while my time at Messiah has come to an end, I know that there will always be new first days ahead: First day of my year in service with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps. First day in my new host city of Omaha. First day of seminary, a day I didn't want to ever happen and now can't wait to encounter. Life changes, and I will always have other "firsts," but because of what I have been able to experience this summer, because of the kindness and encouragement that this community has poured out upon me, because of who you are and what you embody as "Messiah," I get to walk into all of these other firsts with an even better first to accompany me: First time finally feeling confident in the life and work to which God is calling me, and that "first" is going to make all the difference. Know how grateful I am for all of you, and how excited I am to carry all of these first experiences made here at Messiah into my next chapter. Thank you.