“Change makes you find your calling, your legacy, and God’s divine plan for your life. Don’t run from it.”
About a month ago, I packed everything I owned into the back of my mother’s Prius and, along with my mom and my 9-year-old niece, set out to Richmond, Indiana from my lifetime home of Portland, Oregon. The reason? To begin seminary at the Earlham School of Religion, where I am working on my M.Div. with a focus on peace and justice. Several months ago, if you had told me that I would be starting seminary in August, I would have thought you were mad, and yet here I am. But as unexpected as the change was to me at the time, looking back, it’s really not all that surprising at all.
A few months ago I wrote about how I had been planning to pursue a future in multiple sclerosis research, and in fact, I had been eyeing a Ph.D. program at Penn State on the neuropsychology of MS which I was fairly convinced I should be a natural candidate for. As I mentioned in my MS blog post, I had been doing a lot of work in neuroscience and neuropsychology, in the areas of study, research, and educating (as both a teaching assistant and doing outreach to K-12 schools). But then, everything changed.
While catching up with an old friend over some tea one day, I was telling her about my plans, when suddenly I found myself saying, “but there’s still that part of me that can’t stop thinking about getting my M.Div and going on to do chaplaincy.” This had been something I had thought about for several years, dating to my time as a religious studies student at Marylhurst University until they dissolved that undergraduate program and I left feeling a sense of defeat. But now, suddenly, this was no longer a silent thought, but something that had been given vocal power, and it put me in a situation where I couldn’t escape the thought, which was coming up nearly constantly at this point. I finally asked myself the question: If I chose one path vs. the other path, what would each path feed? My answer to this question was that to pursue a Ph.D. in neuropsychology would do a really good job at feeding my ego, but pursuing my M.Div. would feed my soul. At that point, the matter was no longer an open question.
At this point, I began exploring schools. It was important to me that I found a school where I could pursue my M.Div. that would align with my deeply held values and convictions. It very quickly discovered the Earlham School of Religion, which is a Quaker seminary in Richmond, Indiana. To my surprise, not only did they meet all of the requirements that I needed to be met to feel comfortable studying there, they even offer an M.Div. with an emphasis on peace & justice, and with that, I felt very strongly that this was where I should be, so I gave it some time to pray about, but the sense that I needed to be there only grew stronger. I applied and I was accepted, and I couldn’t be happier.