Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The moment I accepted my call

I went to Saint Olaf planning to become a choir teacher.  I declared my major in Music Education well before I bought extra-long twin bed sheets.  I took the requisite exams, signed up for the correct first semester classes - keyboarding for three hours a week, theory for the same, individual piano and voice lessons.  I slaved over theory homework, once spending three hours diagramming chords before going next door and having Sarah look over it only to say:  "You did this all wrong."

But I was also taking other classes, including the first section of "The Great Conversation," a two-year humanities concentration.  The first section is "The Greeks and the Hebrews."  I did not slave over this homework -- I devoured the texts on ancient life, particularly the study of the Hebrew scriptures.

Six weeks into the semester, I knew that I was not ever going to be a choir teacher.  I was a good singer, and an OK pianist, but I lacked any natural skill at theory, and I was bad enough at it that I was beginning to hate music in general.  But I plunged forward, ashamed to admit defeat.  I simply added Religion as a second major, because I am not a quitter and I can totally handle this ... right?

It came time to register for second semester.  The next Great Con class was at a specific time, and when I got to registration, all the Keyboarding II classes were filled except one that was right after Great Con.

It wasn't unusual for keyboarding classes to go over the "Open Seats" limit; all of them had by two or three students in first semester.  They planned for this kind of thing.  It would not be a big deal for me to join a "Full" class so that I would not have to sprint across campus in order to make it on time.  I wasn't even the last section to register - there would be plenty of Keyboarding II students after me who would have to ask for the department chair's signature to allow them to join the class after it had exceeded its limits.

So I had no apprehension about asking him to allow me to join a Keyboarding class that did not require a backpack-laden 600m dash three times a week.

He gave me a disdainful and disinterested look and said:

"This is what happens when you double major.  You have to make choices."

Now, it is true that I was a double major, but the conflicting class was not a religion course - it was part of the Great Conversation and it fulfilled severalgeneral education requirements.

So that annoyed me.

I believe he may also have called me Emily when he said it.

That annoyed me too.

But what really annoyed me was that I was trying to make this work - trying to keep up the facade that I could be a music major - and I had come to a point where I had to accept that I couldn't.

I wasn't cut out for it.

I was cut out for something very different.

I knew that when I was twelve and wanted to be confirmed - wanted to accept the vows made for me by my parents at baptism and become an adult in the church.

I knew it at fourteen when my priest sat on my parents' floral green couch and explained how he would send people who wanted to become priests around the mall in a collar - so that they could experience people's reactions, see and hear and sense the feeling of being set apart.  I remember the mixture of terror and excitement that arose in me at that moment.

I knew it at sixteen when I started attending an AoG youth group, searching for something deeper.

I knew it at seventeen when I read The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell:
He did not flinch from the knife.  He cut the thread cleanly, a priest in perpetuity.  God had been generous with him.  He could not stint in return.
And at eighteen, standing there with my unfulfilling registration card in my hand, I finally accepted what my mother had known since I was three:

I was called to be a pastor.

I could pretend all I wanted that I was going to be something else - an author, a librarian, a computer technician, an English teacher, a music teacher, a stage manager - but I'd known for years what my call was.  Trying to do anything else was just too exhausting, because I knew what was going to truly fulfill me, what was going to be me at my most me, and it wasn't music theory and it wasn't C++ and it wasn't the stage and it wasn't the classroom.

I was called to be a pastor.

I went to the library then and looked up all the available religion classes in second semester.  I went to the registrar the next day and dropped Keyboarding II and Theory and my piano lessons.  I added Religion 202:  "Classics and Moderns."  One of my Great Con professors was teaching it, so I thought it would be a good place to start.

On the syllabus for Classics and Moderns was a text I'd never heard of:
Martin Luther, Three Treatises, "On The Freedom of a Christian"
And I would open that red-covered book and read:
A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.
A good place to start, indeed.

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