Below is an article originally published in KAIROS, the Austin Seminary student publication.
When we least expect it. Expect it!
by Len Carrell
When I was growing up my older brothers would chase me around the house after I played a prank on them. In my retreat, I would run into the closest closet or behind the nearest door and try my best to keep them away. They eventually would have better things to do and would say to me from the other side of the door, “Little brother, when you least expect it. Expect it!”
Now, in their minds what was to be expected was clearly retribution. It was apparently supposed to instill fear in me for the rest of the day, if not the remainder of the week. What will it be this time? A bucket of cold water poured over my head during my next shower? Hot sauce in my Dr. Pepper? Locked in the trunk of Dad’s car? The anticipation was awesome and scary all at the same time, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
I hardly expected three years to go by so quickly. And this seminary experience has been more than I ever anticipated or expected it to be. When I expected I would never learn a foreign language, we learned two. When I expected to never be a theologian, suddenly they surround us. When I expected that I would never be able to write a paper, we have written many together. Certainly, when I sometimes felt the least of myself, this community helped me learn to expect differently.
It is so exciting what God has in store for the future. For us who are graduating this year, and especially for those who remain here to study, grow and learn. So many times during this seminary experience I have been reminded to keep watching for those “occasions for God.” Those occasions when we learn from each other in challenging and uniquely vulnerable ways. Occasions when we have been able to hear each other’s fears and terrors of coming out from behind those doors we all hide behind. Occasions when our talents and our words come together to affirm our own voices. Occasions when grace abounds through faith, hope and love shared together.
I’m honored to have journeyed with so many here at Austin Seminary. It is awesome to be surrounded by so many who are called into Christ’s ministry. I believe being called into ministry is expecting the unexpected, and a testament to how we all got here…by faith. It means embracing the surprise and wonder that lies just around the corner. It means encouraging one another to grow and learn even as some of us transition from study to practice. Our life together here is not only about getting a job someday, but also continuing to discern and seek God’s call in our life. And we are lucky that we get to do that together, supporting one another as we always have.
A child’s coloring book. That’s the best metaphor of seminary for me, a child’s coloring book. Anyone who has ever gone back through a child’s coloring book after three years will undoubtedly find an incomplete masterpiece. There will be some pictures that will have been colored with such care and precision that it’s clear these were the favorite subjects. Each section carefully outlined and evenly filled in to perfection. Some pictures will have been colored only half way with such attention. Others will be just scribbled on with complete madness and confusion, while others will remain untouched, blank as if never been seen. This is what seminary feels like. A masterpiece we cannot finish on our own, but one we need to invite the church, our colleagues, and each other to help color and complete. So join me. Let’s playfully color together the landscape of our theological lives as we invite others to help us complete what will always remain an incomplete masterpiece.