I was sitting in Will Willimon’s office after a trip to the emergency room when Will asked me, “Is this sustainable Rob, don’t you yearn for more?” I know what he meant. Pastoral ministry is beautiful and life-giving for me and it is everything I have ever dreamed of. But I also want more. Maybe it’s self-righteous optimism or idealism but I really believe I can help people in concrete ways beyond the local church.
The poet Warsan Shire writes, “Later that night, I held an atlas in my lap ran my fingers across the whole world and whispered, where does it hurt? It answered, everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.” Our world, our nation, our state is in desperate need of a change of pace and a change of perception. Our places and people are hurting and I can’t sit around and be complacent in my calling and vocation.
A few weeks back I reached out to Pfeiffer University and Dr. Susan Wilkie. I was risking something big for something good I told them. I wanted to apply to the Master of Marriage and Family Therapy so I can be not only a pastoral advocate for mental health but a licensed mental health professional who can care for the last and least of these. Luckily, in my own journey of mental healthcare I’ve been afforded the best healthcare has to offer, but I know my story is unique and so are the circumstances surrounding that.
Too many people are hurting because they don’t have an advocate or someone to stand in the gap. I’m not idealistic to the point of thinking I can help everyone, I know it may sound self-righteous to want to “help” people in our day and age but I’m reminded of a perspective that Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood gave us, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.” I want to be a helper. I want to make a difference for the sake of the people in this world who so desperately need an advocate. I hope I can be equipped by this program to help and to heal.
I found out today I was accepted into the program upon completion of my application. (i.e. I have to get my references in and such but the admissions committee voted) I have to work out my start date and such but I nonetheless know that God is in this and my family (most importantly Stephanie) are behind me in this venture to find my place in the world. I will continue the good work started at Bethany United Church of Christ and give them my all as their pastor. Luckily this program provides and allows for that and has embraced me as a person ready to begin the program.
On a recent podcast interview I was asked what I’d like to hear God say to me when I get to heaven, I jokingly said, “Well, you tried.” The more and more I think about that I want to hear that in some small way I made a difference in the life of a person walking a similar road that I am. I know my narrative is one of twists and turns, but God is present, willing and accounted for amidst it all. I will continue the good work of ministry in a sustainable and healthy way, and I’m looking forward to this new chapter at Pfeiffer University.