In one week, I’ll be embarking on a 9-month journey of aiming to live out the very 2 topics I’ve addressed lately on the blog: community and calling. Specifically, in one week, I’ll be starting a program called the Beecherl-Corrigan Fellows Program, based out of Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, TX. The Beecherl-Corrigan Fellows is one of about 20 sites around the country that collectively make up The Fellows Initiative. This will involve several young adults living together, serving at the church, working part-time in professional work placements, and taking one seminary class each semester (how we have time for all this is a mystery; ask me in a few months).
What do I hope to get out of this? I can say one thing for sure: Confidence. Not just any confidence but confidence about calling, which comes from community.
Honestly, I ended college with confidence fairly shot. My last few semesters had been draining in just about every way (mentally, emotionally, spiritually) and had at least twice pointed me away from the career path I was anticipating at the time. Doors kept closing, it seemed, and every time I surfed the Internet a new article was remarking on the high percentage of closed doors faced by college graduates around the country.
Sometimes, it seems, doors start opening when we’re at our lowest. These are trapdoors perhaps — but these darn trapdoors can open to magnificent gardens.
Applying to the Fellows Program was, at first, my trapdoor. And confidence, planted by God and nurtured by community, is the garden that is now already in bloom and will continue to bloom this year alongside my class of fellow Fellows.
So, how does community build confidence? Specifically, confidence about calling?
Clarifying questions. James Fowler, who I mentioned last week, offers questions that can be asked — and answered — in community: “What seem to be your gifts? What kinds of things do you do well? What kinds of activities and contributions really give you a sense of worthiness? What kinds of things do you find most challenging and fulfilling to do? In what kind of activities do you feel that you are most yourself? What kind of people do you most admire and would you particularly like to count among your associates? Do you feel an inner nudge or call that seems to be pointing you in some particular direction? What kinds of things do you feel that you and God can do with your life that will make a difference for good in our world?”
Models. In order to answer questions like “What seem to be your gifts?” I need to see others modeling what sort of gifts are available that I might cultivate as well. For instance, the apostle Paul, who mentored Timothy, opened his last letter to his mentee by saying: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you” (2 Tim. 1:5). Here, we see that Timothy had both familial models (Lois and Eunice) and non-familial models (Paul), both of which are necessary. Young adulthood is a time for studying those models perhaps more intently than ever in order to ensure that what “lived first” in our elders now lives in us.
Affirmations. Paul tells Timothy in the next verse: “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:6). You have a gift, Paul says, so use it. You have supporters (“through the laying on of my hands”), so don’t you forget it. You have the Spirit of God, so do not fear. (That right there? That’s confidence about calling that comes from community!)
I can’t wait to spend this coming year pressing into a community that asks clarifying questions, that’s chock full of models in faith and vocation, and that’s quick to affirm the gifts of young leaders! If you don’t have a community like that, especially if you’re a young adult, my hope and prayer is that you’ll seek that out.