Today marks the day that Fuller Theological Seminary and First Presbyterian Hollywood (et. al.) have blessed me as a Theology Student and minister of the Gospel. We celebrated the Baccalaureate ceremony in Pasadena with a message from Dr. John Goldingay, one of my favorite OT professors, about the immensity and faithfulness of God. God is greater than the heavens and stands beside the oppressed and downtrodden.
This message seemed to be quite appropriate for myself as I transition out of a four-year master's degree program into a Hospital Chaplain residency program for one-year. I have overcome some of the greatest hurdles toward ordination, however when I was hearing the Word shared this morning I was reminded of the call I have to serve an immense God alongside the broken-hearted.
Over the past months I have experienced and found myself trusting in this incredible God that is higher than the heavens, using the earth as a footstool. I sent out extensive applications to 7 Residency programs, traveled from San Diego to Seattle and spent dozens of hours in interviews. Right off the bat I was offered a position, but I had hardly stepped out of the starting gate and knew I needed more time so I asked to be put on hold for that position as they continue hiring other applicants. I then flew up for a weekend to Portland and Seattle. The hospital I first interviewed at was warm and welcoming, full of life and traces of those who have spent short and long stays within those walls. Though, I felt divided and confused; I did not know wether to be terrified or peaceful. The interview overall went well, but I had no idea what the panel of 12 interviewers (yes thats me and 12 people asking me questions for one and a half hours) thought of me. So I prayed, hopped in my car and drove across town to my second interview for the day at a large institutional hospital. In short, I was not interested at all.
After a lovely two day stay with Jamie, an absolute stranger, (thanks to Fuller Seminary www.fuller.edu and the Windrider Forum www.windriderforum.org), I drove across the state line into Washington and was welcomed by another kind hearted and generous stranger, Becky. I interviewed half-heartedly but had a sense that the Pacific North West was not an area I was being prepared for. I returned home later that day and tried to process and remember all that had transpired. The greatest and most lasting impression were the kind hosts who welcomed me into their homes, took me out to dinner and shared their lives with me, even if for just a few days.
When I returned home I knew I had three hospitals left to hear from. I was looking forward to interviewing in San Diego where I spent four years in undergrad. The facility was top-notch, spectacular and breathtaking. I almost immediately fell in love with the location, started dreaming of spending more time with my sister and working with the staff at Sharp. The interview went well, and I was honest about my hopes. Two weeks later, I hadn't heard anything, I began to become anxious and told myself "one more day" just wait one more day to hear from them. So I waited 3 days and could hardly take it any longer, mostly because I figured no news was not good news. And so I was disappointed, I received a call back and a letter that day in the mail confirming that I had not been accepted into the program. That week I went through a great roller-coaster wondering what on earth I was going to do. I was sure I would not be accepted to one of the 2 left, and I still was not convinced I wanted to take up the first offer again. So to confront my anxiety I decided I would just go back to the start and look at my first option again, because I wanted to pursue Hospital Ministry and that was not a bad option, even if it just didn't seem the right option. I called back, they said "Sure we will review your application again, but it may be another six weeks before we can get back to you." Ouch! That was far from the reassuring stability I was longing for. Though, in a sense it did confirm my hesitation toward that program.
Then, out of the blue I received a call, a number and area code I did not recognize. It was from O'ahu, Hawai'i, they wanted to have a phone interview with me. Now, remember I turned in my applications the last week of January, at this point we were into May and since I hadn't heard anything and this hospital was a 5.5 hour flight away I had not invested a lot of thought into it. By the next week I was sitting in a little office at school, trying to find a quiet space to speak with the Supervisor for my interview. Our conversation was comfortable, though nothing remarkable. After an hour we said goodbye and I was encouraged that I would hear from her within the next 10 days. After waiting over 3 months, 10 days sounded fantastic! I asked to speak with a current resident to get a better idea of the program, since I was not able to actually interview on campus. She was kind and helpful in filling in some of the gaps, but also a local and older than myself so I still had many questions and anxieties. I left it to prayer and considered my options. I had no idea even if I'd be accepted.
Nine days later, while sitting in the library, I received a call from the supervisor. "Is this a good time?" she asked. I said, "yes, this is a fine time." (Though I was in the library surrounded by a couple of guys goofing off, I just couldn't wait). She had called to extend one of the residency positions to me for the 2011-2012 residency program. I was so excited, first just to hear good news, and second to consider a new and exciting opportunity. I had spent almost every day that week praying and conferring with friends about the possibility of moving half way across the Pacific Ocean to a remote island with an entire population smaller than any other geographical area I have lived. I was practically tortured with fear and excitement. So we prayed, I was with my incredible and loving small group and I asked "so what do you think?" The answer was probably written all over my face, but they lovingly walked me along the tightrope and commissioned me to the other side. I have never met any of the staff, walked on the grounds of the facility or lived that far from home. I had plenty of reasons to say "I don't think I can do that," but my friends for months have been encouraging me to step out in faith.
One of my greatest fears and disappointments of graduation and transition will be and is saying goodbye to friends that have stood beside me and loved me so generously over the past few years. I owe much of my strength, hope, health and heart to them as they have stood as Jesus' hands and feet with me in devotion and ministry. I could hardly bear to walk into a new environment with no sign of this kind of community, so I reached out to see if there was anyone there. Within hours I was greeted by 5 people and couples from the Island through a mutual friend whom I have not spoken with for 2 years! Wow! God is great! This was the little push that I needed to leap out in faith, across the vast blue ocean, to land in a foreign and strange (though breathtaking) land of O'ahu, Hawai'i.
So, I have the clutch in, I'm changing gears, moving forward, stepping out, and holding on to a great big God.
Thus says the LORD:
“Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,”
Says the LORD.
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word."