Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Guess The Joke Was On Us

My mischievous side wanted to call this post “God Spoke To Me In The Grocery Store (And He Looked Just Like George Burns)”, but being that misleading just for the sake of The Funny isn’t good.

Tami and I visited Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, IA, this past weekend. Remember a couple of weeks ago when we said we didn’t think Wartburg could overcome what we perceived to be the advantages of Luther Seminary? Well, God (and Wartburg, and Dubuque) have been quietly chuckling ever since.

We loved it at Wartburg. The sense of community is overwhelming, in a positive way. All weekend long we heard and saw little things that point to what a safe, secure environment Wartburg has. Students talked about leaving backpacks in the auditorium unmolested all day long. Spouses talked about kids playing together, and about the great Youth Room (staffed by work study students) available for use after school by kids 5 and older. We attended a coffeehouse where kids of all ages were running around without causing trouble, and parents were helping/dealing with any kid who needed it in a very “it takes a village” fashion. We kept hearing one positive comment after another about the schools, the public library, the other colleges in town, and the city of Dubuque in general. The housing at Wartburg is both less expensive and better suited to our needs.

From the student point of view, the first professor who talked to us said “You will not be able to hide here. People will find you and support you and help you face whatever you need to face.” We heard again and again that students, spouses, faculty and faculty spouses all become close, and that in particular you bond with your class, and they and their familes become your support system. This is very appealing to me. The average class size is 35 people, and no one gets lost in the crowd. Gifts are acknowledged and respected; shortcomings are allowed for. I learned that my call story is neither unique nor outlandish.

Dubuque is much like La Crosse, down to being roughly the same population. It’s a little more hilly, but it has beautiful old homes and interesting architecture. There are attractions for children and families and lots to do, including four other colleges/universities with all of their events. There is a wide variety of shopping, including the comfort value of familiar stores like Target and Best Buy. No food co-op, but there are many farmer’s markets and lots of organic produce available, including CSAs.

By Saturday evening Tami and I were wondering if we’d been a little bit hasty in our assumption that Luther was the place for us. By Sunday evening we were actively evaluating pros and cons, trying to make sense of our growing conviction that we belong at Wartburg, not Luther. On Monday I was actively wondering if I should even bother visiting Luther again or applying there. All the while we were praying, asking God to give us some sort of sign of his will for us. As we were getting ready to leave town, one big remaining question mark was the availability of gluten-free food for Tami and Nessa, so we decided to stop by the largest grocery store in town to see what they had. We were directed to their Health Market, a whole separate section of organic products, including a gluten-free section that is equal or superior to that in any of the La Crosse grocery stores or co-op. Almost all of our favorite products and brands were present, as well as things we have a hard time finding in La Crosse. As I was getting more and more excited about what we were seeing, Tami turned to me and asked “Is this a sign?” I had to concede that I thought it was.

At one point during the weekend, a current student said that when she was visiting Luther someone told her “Well, if you want to be a pastor, go to Wartburg; if you want to be a theologian, come to Luther.” That really resonated with me. I've never had any thoughts of becoming a theologian. I want to be a pastor, in a parish. We could be happy at Luther Seminary, and being closer to our families would be great. But that is the only advantage we can see, and we wonder if we will be too busy while in school to really utilize that advantage much anyway.

I am learning the folly of definitive declarations during this whole process of discerning my call, but I am also learning to trust my feelings, and realizing that when I find something unexpected and wonderful in my heart it’s God’s way of telling me something. Right now, our hearts tell us we belong at Wartburg Seminary, so we’ll trust that until it's no longer true.


Ovidia said...

First of all, Gail says hi. She also says that being a "grownup" is a real advantage in ministry.

Secondly, you are gonna become an Iowan -- ON PURPOSE??? That is counter to everything we ever learned as little southern Minnesota children. And you will STILL have to borrow our Vikings.

Thirdly ... almost (and I stress almost) everything is acceptable in pursuit of the genuinely Funny. It's how we connect -- and I choose to believe the bond we feel over the little chuckle or the tears-squirting-face-contracting-
fall-on-the-floor laughter is a bit the the Divine.

Shawn said...

1) I suppose it will be, but it's still overrated.

2) I was born in Iowa, and have become an Iowan on purpose once already as an adult. Iowa makes Minnesotans nervous because they aren't used to being able to see that far. I became an Illinoisian on purpose once, and that was far worse.

As a follower of the purple since the late 60's--through the Purple People Eaters, 4 Super Bowl losses, the Preston Pearson push-off in the '75 playoffs, Les Steckl, and the Denny Green "what game clock?" debacle in the NFC Championship game--I don't have to BORROW anyone's Vikings. I have earned my scars.

3) Although I agree with you about laughter, my original intention amounted to a cheap joke at the expense of the material, and was thus inappropriate. You'll notice I still used the line...

Hugs back atcha.