I’m writing this from 20,000 feet, zooming at approximately a bazillion miles a minute (hey, I said “approximately”) toward the east coast from the Mile High City and land of Peyton Manning. I went to Peytonville for Writers Boot Camp, a small Christian writers conference hosted by two of my very favorite writers: Margaret Feinberg and Jonathan Merritt. I was supremely out of my league there, surrounded by folks who seemed to me like exploding thesauri, spewing prophetic messages into books and publications to be read by millions. Even bazillions.
And then there was me.
Aside from the occasional post on this piddly weblog of mine, I haven’t written much of anything since my time in Argentina. For a while my refusal to journal was a coping mechanism. The blank pages before me could only only be filled with grief and bitterness. The reflection that once led me to worship had become a festering ground for dwelling on my heartache. So I was silent. That lasted a few months until one day I picked up that journal again, itching to speak, to create, to teach. . . But I realized I had nothing to say. As it turns out, career life in the States doesn’t lend itself to constant inspiration and spiritual insight like the mission field does.
Were my glory days over?
Here I am, twenty-five and staring at the stretch of streamlined, flatlined timeline of life before me ————————> cruise control set to take me straight to the grave with safety, security, and uneventfulness. I look around to my friends, mostly post-college 20-something’s, young professionals at the beginnings of our careers. Some of us are eager to forge ahead through promotions, right up that food chain. Others are feeling the weight of that timeline pulling on our necks and watching our childhood dreams slip through our fingers like fistfuls of sand. Maybe the latter of these friends can identify with my perhaps dramatic and depressing sentiments. But even the former has to admit that adulthood and career life is pretty womp womp–way less exciting than we’d hoped for.
I had been following Margaret and Jonathan for a while on Twitter when they announced a conference for aspiring writers. I was at work (not working) scrolling through my twitterfeed when I saw the announcement. On my lunch break I told my dad I was thinking about going and on a whim, I bought a ticket. Good thing, because it sold out overnight. Some sort of indescribable rush came from that act, deciding to go and purchasing that ticket. It was a small thing, a couple days off work and a couple hundred bucks, but it was so much more.
It was God saying: Kelsey, you are not stuck. That streamlined, flatlined timeline is not real. You invented that yourself.
Now here I am on this plane, basking in the joy of the week. In two days I travel to Atlanta to check out a seminary to potentially start work on my MDiv. Funny how a little 4-day trip to Denver could arouse the motivation in me to change so much more.
The conference equipped me with a butt-load of tips to make me a better writer. (Note to self: should probably stop using terms like “butt-load.”) But the most memorable part of my whole trip came in-between sessions. I had approached Jonathan Merritt with a question and explained my background to him. Former missionary, mortgages, exploring seminaries, yada yada yada…
“I want to be a pastor.” I blurted out. And it occurred to me that I had never said it out loud before. I had talked about feeling a call to ministry. To seminary. To things vague and broad enough to comfortably include both of my X chromosomes. Having spent the first 24 years of my existence as a southern baptist where the ordination of women is generally a no-no, saying it out loud felt gutsy. Even presumptuous. I may have even blushed. Jon was unfazed, gave me his seminary recommendations, and then I had to rush back to my seat as he began the next session.
“Before we get started, I want to address a question Kelsey asked. . .” He announced to the crowd of 50+ aspiring writers, answering the issue and adding in this aside: “Kelsey wants to be a pastor.”
Yikes. If I hadn’t been blushing before, I definitely was now.
“Kelsey wants to be a pastor. I think that’s great. Some of you may be of the opinion that women shouldn’t be pastors and that’s fine. This is America. You have the right to be wrong. . . But Kelsey, I affirm you,”
Everybody laughed, somebody tweeted it, and then he carried on with the next session, but I was dizzy from the experience. He had meant it as a silly aside and probably thought nothing of the comment minutes later, but to have my calling publicly affirmed by somebody I truly admire was riveting. It was timely encouragement to walk boldly toward my upcoming seminary visits, sure of the calling God has placed on my heart to feed his lambs.
Listen friends: we are not stuck. We are never stuck. Stuck is a state of mind. All it takes is a little encouragement, a little shaking of the routine, a little moment of bravery to speak your calling out loud to yourself and others to make the imaginary chains we have bound ourselves in fall off.
At the end of the day, maybe we need to be better at helping each other do this. Look around you. Who can you encourage and affirm today? Whose hand can you hold and whose back can you pat? We are each of us imaginary slaves to an imaginary timeline. Let us speak freedom!