Sunday, January 01, 2006

Historia Personal

I became an English teacher by default. After finishing my BA in three rushed and turbulent years, I decided to head to Europe to gain some life experience and, in all honesty, to travel. Coming from a family that hadn’t travelled internationally in over a generation, the romantic fantasy of exotic foreign cities and long nights in cafes was irresistible. Being a Christian and a literature student, the natural way to fund such a venture seemed to be going as a “tent-making missionary” / high school English teacher. I would love to claim that my intentions were more noble and that I had a burning desire to remind the people of Europe of their historical faith, but that would be a lie. Despite my less than perfect intentions, living in Budapest turned out to be a wonderful year. Working with people consciously committed to ministry and others who were trained and experienced teachers challenged my ideas of what it is to be a missionary, what it is to bear witness to Christ in the world, and what it is to live a life that is authentic as a Christian, a thinker, and a woman. Like most people at 21, it was a year of false starts, mistakes, and fleeting moments of success. The end of the year took me home and to more teaching, as that was what my resume said I could do. One thing had become clear to me through the long, dark, cold Hungarian winter; the quiet nudging that had been irresistibly inching my heart toward an openly religious vocation since childhood became a strong pushing that would not abate.

I took the most obvious step, which was enrolling in seminary as this allowed for further study and, possibly some form of “religious” work. After realising that it wasn’t possible to work one full-time job with two part-time tutoring gigs on the side and attend Fuller Theological Seminary on even a part-time basis, I quite the three jobs and study to contemplate becoming a nun, at least, after a few break-ups, it was on my mind. Rather than rushing off to the nearest convent, however, I went to the Cedars to do a bit of volunteer work for the summer and to live in community with other young women. It was a much needed break from teaching and, more importantly, from Los Angeles, which I hated. While there, I spent a great deal of time dusting, vacuuming, ironing napkins, cooking 5 course meals, and praying. It was during that time that I met a blue-eyed Aussie whose irresistible accent and playful smile swept me off my feet. It was then that I realised the convent was not for me.

Not wanting to risk everything for someone I hardly knew, I applied to full-time graduate programs with funding (no more three-job attempts, one or two are enough when studying). I also travelled to Australia to work for four months and explore the options ahead of me. While offered a full scholarship and TA position at UCSB, I chose love. This brought me back to finding work and, according to my resume, I could, at this point teach and wait tables. As teaching is more secure, I found a teaching job at a school in Sydney.

Having taught for four years, I can honestly say, some aspects of teaching are great. I love getting to hang out with people and talk about books. I love explaining ideas, others and my own, and seeing people “get it”. I love doing something that is useful to society. The biggest problem is, I don’t like children. Since high school covers years 7 – 12 in Australia, I end up finding about forty percent of my year 12 class a joy to teach. The younger classes have a few exceptions and some days it even appears my students are learning a bit, but the niggling feeling that I this isn’t where my vocation stops won’t leave. Even when teaching in Hungary as a guise for travel, I knew that my position there as a “missionary” was, somehow, close to right.

My husband and I had no plans to attend Regent a year ago. While he had considered it a great deal while single and I knew that God wanted something of me, it wasn’t something we had discussed as a couple. One night, when praying with some friends about our lives, they asked us when we were going to study at Regent. As we had not discussed this, the suggestion seemed a bit odd. So, we shelved the idea. But it kept coming back. Still more friends, without knowing others had suggested it, asked the same question, so we began praying about the possibility. After talking with our families and a wide group of friends and asking them to pray about this possibility for us, the idea not only met with support, but it was affirmed over and over again.

While coming to the point of applying to Regent was a long process of questioning, doubting, and praying, when we dream together now, the reasons seem so very clear. Study at Regent is where our passions for nature, education, social action, service, and rest weave together. While we don’t know what the future holds or where God will take us, at this point, we know we need to be trained for what we see as our possible future ministry. We dream of maybe being involved in some sort of para-church or retreat ministry – a place that challenges people’s perceptions of what it is to follow Christ, where the Church is not seen as something that shapes our spirituality, but where being part of the Body shapes what we eat, how we make money, how we spend our money, how we dress, how we think, where we live, and how we interact with the rest of the world. We hope that studying at Regent will equip us for this possible future, but if not, we trust that God will continue to lead us along his way.

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