It Is Well In The Storm
Lately, I’ve been in a bad place.
I’ve said these words out loud to a few people I trust, but I usually sugarcoat them with a smile, so I don’t think anyone really understands how deep these words run when I say them. A lot has been happening in a short amount of time.
First, due to finances, my seminary career may be ending after this semester. I was given a significant scholarship last year only to recently discover that the funds for that scholarship were only available last year. It took a lot of fighting with Financial Aid to get the little amount in loans I was given last year, let alone trying to convince the school to give me more. Of course, my school has suggested a few different options that are not exactly feasible: 1) I could drop down to part time (but that would cut my scholarships in half, so I would be in the same position money-wise, just with fewer classes), 2) I could apply for private loans (but due to the financial situation James and I came through this past year, it is doubtful these would be approved), 3) I could take a semester or two off from seminary and try to save the money to pay for it out of pocket (but in the meantime, I’d have to start paying back loans, which we cannot afford right now, so there’s no way we could save the money), or 4), I could participate in a payment plan the seminary offers of 3 payments per semester which would come to about $1000 each (...do I even need to explain why that wouldn’t work?).
I’ve struggled financially with school before. When I completed my Bachelor’s degree, there were a few semesters when I wasn’t sure if I was going back, but then the funds miraculously showed up at the last minute. Those who know my story know that I believe I was supposed to be at my school, though. So, while things got scary, there was always a part of me that believed God would provide at the last minute because he wanted me to continue there. In the midst of the chaos and the confusion, I found my peace in somehow knowing I would still be going back no matter how bleak things seemed.
But this time, it’s different. I don’t know for sure if God intends for me to continue towards this degree. I know I want to do it, and I know it would allow me to have a better education and complete the remaining requirements for my ordination...but I don’t know if God is going to provide. It sounds ridiculous when I say it that way. One way or another, I know God is always going to provide what I need exactly when I need it, even if it’s not what I want. When I think about it, continuing in school makes the most sense, and I don’t understand how I was able to start toward this degree if I was never meant to finish it, especially when I don’t have peace when I think about not finishing it. But I don’t know if I’m thinking from the perspective of my own desires or from God’s desires for me, and that’s a terrifying thing. Every time I look on my student portal and see the classes scheduled for next semester, I want to cry. Every time I work on an assignment for my current classes, I’m overwhelmed and discouraged and all I keep asking myself is, “What’s the point if I’m not even continuing after this?” It’s a sort of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, too. If I don’t end up going back to school, we have to start paying back loans; but I don’t know how I am going to afford going back this time, either.
Along with the school situation, I’ve struggled a lot in my call to ministry lately. I’ve heard a lot more negative comments that have broken me down than I have comments that have built me up lately. I feel as though I have failed as a pastor because there are some individuals I have had a lot of difficulty loving lately. It is difficult to love someone who insists on hurting you over and over. There have been many words of affirmation spoken towards my call as well, but they are continually drowned out by the negative voices. I don’t doubt my call to ministry, but lately I find that I highly doubt my ability to minister well.
I want to say that I understand how trivial all of this sounds. I know that there are much worse situations to be in. I know I have been extremely blessed up to this point in my life, and compared to many others, I do not know true pain. There are much worse places to be in than the “bad place” of my own mind.
I have had a lot of support and affirmation from others lately, and I do not dismiss their words. Deep down, I know their words to be true, I’m just clouded with doubt on the surface right now, too.
I know that with school, whatever happens, happens. I know that if I’m meant to continue, I will, and if I’m not, I won’t. I know I’m called into ministry, and I need to work on loving people better. I know I’ve been more blessed than many others in their first year of ministry have been, and I’m thankful for that. The negative voice seems to speak louder right now, and I know I need to find a way to deal with that voice. I just don’t know how to yet. In the meantime, I am asking God to help me mean it when I ask for his will to be done, and when I proclaim that it is well with my soul.