Over the past month, I’ve been accepted at two out my three graduate schools – Candler School of Theology (out of Emory University) and Boston University. I’m still waiting to hear from Pacific School of Religion, but so far I’m so proud of myself because damn – I just got accepted into seminary!
I didn’t feel this way at first, though. I got accepted into Candler, my top choice, and immediately felt confused. And then upset that I felt confused. And then shameful that I felt like I wasn’t appreciative of this amazing opportunity that just dropped in my lap. #thanksanxiety
I started doubting what I wanted, which is to be a hospital chaplain. It still feels weird to say that, because I really just never expected that out of myself. A teacher? Sure. The head of a nonprofit? Sure. A social worker? Eh, maybe. But a chaplain? That was SO FAR off of my radar that I still haven’t owned my choice. To be honest, I’m still a little confused – but I started asking God for signs.
And God delivered – kinda. I asked for signs, and I have been getting them.
There are some that I’m still learning to accept:
-My eye doctor told me an extremely personal story based on her experience with hospital chaplaincy (and I still get teary eyed thinking of it).
-When I went for my preliminary appointment at the dental school the dentist who I had just met, like 5 minutes previously said, “oh, you’d be a great hospital chaplain”.
-My friend’s dad sent me a book and a card of appreciation after I lent a listening ear.
Then there are the signs that are VERY OBVIOUS:
-I was in a town about 20 minutes south of Seattle getting a coffee after dropping some seafarers off, and in a parked car there was a jacket, helmet, and coat all with the word “CHAPLAIN” emblazoned upon it. I looked at the car, walked away, walked back and looked again and said, “God, I still don’t believe this is a sign.” (I know, I’m eye rolling at myself).
There are some signs that are a little bit more subtle:
-A seafarer tells me about a difficult situation that happens at the last port. The crew trusts me with this information.
-I see the a ship I’ve gotten to know over the past few months. A seafarer literally fist pumps when he sees me because he knows I have SIM cards that can connect him to his family.
-I see another ship I now know. The crew welcomes me back, remembers my name, and says they’ll give me lunch tomorrow when I come back. They do, and when I come back that afternoon for the second time that day, the chief cook gives me coffee and cake.
-My tax preparer asks that I do and I tell him I work in the port. He tells me that his father used to work in the management side of things in the port and I’m bringing back all sorts of memories for him about the different shipping lines (we also share some of my cinnamon scone…he’s a cool guy).
I asked God for signs, and I think I’ve received some. The trouble for me is actually believing in what has been shown to me. It’s kinda funny, you know? I would love a huge banner hanging from the sky that says “Karen, you should be a chaplain!” but I’m not sure if I would believe it even then. Instead, my perspective has been shifting so I can see what’s been put in front of me more clearly.
I’m going to keep asking God for signs – God can handle it. I’ve learned that my desires and yearnings can also become prayers even when I don’t expect them to because it’s actually okay to listen to the things my heart wants. It’s okay to give my feelings weight and validity and to know that prayer can be as simple as hoping for something to come to pass or as difficult as trying to pinpoint a feeling I don’t have a name for yet.