It hit me immediately after he said it. We were in the middle of a conversation on an idle Tuesday afternoon, sitting at the window bar at one of the city’s best coffee shops. I was drinking a latte. Right after I heard the words, I looked down at the remnants of the design the barista made in the foam. I smiled. It felt odd, but undeniably accurate.
I came to The Seattle School looking for something.
I had been working as a pastor of student ministries for five years—the five most complex and hard to describe years of my life. Only a few weeks into the job, depression began to set in and it became a frequent character in my life throughout those years. I wouldn’t say that those feelings were completely new, but the intensity and regularity were.
Something was wrong and I didn’t know how to fix it.
Years of struggle left me questioning what to do with my life. I found myself in conversations with students, in teaching series, and in everyday life circling similar themes. These conversations were about risks, creativity, dreams, and calling. I knew there was something in these conversations for me, but I didn’t know what. I’d tried the only path I knew. It was time to explore options. Theology and psychology seemed like the best places to explore amongst those themes for a sense of vocation.
I came to The Seattle School searching for something.
I thought it was a career path or a way forward. What I found instead was space for myself, which turned out to be what I was looking for all along. I know that may sound odd, so let me explain: though I learned so much in MATC program, it is the faces that were with me along the way that I cherish most. I needed them to speak truth to me, affirm what they see in me, hope on my behalf, and create space for me.
As the program progressed, I continued to desire more conversation, more tools, and more space for myself and my classmates to understand what vocation means for each of us. At its simplest, I define vocation as the intersection between who a person is and what a person does. The school has a way of guiding us to answer the first part of that equation (who we are), and I began looking toward the second part (what we do) with more intentionality. Together with my good friend and co-conspirator, Lacy Clark Ellman, I started facilitating conversations around these ideas. I also began hosting professors and outside lecturers to share thoughts on their path and how they had come to answer these big questions.
I knew I was still searching for something, and I was hoping that doing these things would help me find it. I wanted to figure out what to do with my life. And I wanted to help my classmates in the same way.
That’s when it happened. In the middle of conversation over coffee something big shifted for me. A friend and classmate, Ryan Moore, who had been participating in the vocational work that I was leading said to me, “The difference between the way you and I enter the [vocation] conversation is that you want to help others. I’m just trying to figure it out for myself.”
That observation was like a fan on the embers of a fire. What had been happening in the depths of myself suddenly began to burst out of me: what if the ways I wanted to help others were enough for me to call that my work? What if I could allow my desire to help people come to know the intersection of who they are and what they do be the focus of my life’s work? What if my vocation is helping you find yours? (It still feels so meta.)
I came to The Seattle School searching for something and I found it.
It wasn’t what I expected or how I expected to find it, though. I found it through a long process of letting my voice be heard, and being told that I have something good to offer others. And all along the way I was invited out into the world to do something uniquely and unquestionably my own.
Which is what I was looking for.