In this post in my series “God and Man at Yale Divinity,” I discuss my thirteenth week at Yale and the process of discerning vocation.
Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes
The semester is quickly drawing to a close. This was the first week back after the Thanksgiving break, and it was a short one. Tuesday was the last day of regular classes, Wednesday was a makeup day for the Labor Day holiday, and Thursday the reading period before finals began.
The highlight of the week was the culmination of our exploring the process of discerning vocation in the Anglican Colloquium. Other than that, everything was mostly housekeeping to wind things up and prepare for the end of the semester.
As I reflect back upon this past semester, I realize how incredibly grateful I am to be here. It has been a wonderful semester, and, while I cannot wait to get through finals and enjoy Christmas break, I also look forward to the start of a new semester soon.
Final Class Meetings
Monday, we had our final class meeting for Early Christianity. There was no new material. It was just a review for the final.
On Monday, we also had our last lecture in New Testament. The last New Testament meeting was on Wednesday, but we did not meet as a class. Instead, we met in our section groups to review for the final.
The Anglican Colloquium met twice this week. We met at our usual time on Monday, but we also met on Wednesday to make up for Labor Day.
New England Snow
We got our first snow of the year this week. It came over the weekend, but it melted off before class started on Monday. Overnight Monday, however, it snowed again, and I was a little concerned about my ability to make it to campus.
I have been excited about experiencing a New England winter, as strange as that may sound. Everywhere I have lived, snow has been a relatively infrequent occurrence. I am hoping to experience a stereotypical northern winter at least once.
I love the snow, and I was excited when the first snow finally came. After driving into class on it, however, I am starting to wish that I lived closer to campus. If I did not have a family, I would definitely have chosen to live in the Divinity School apartments.
Tuesday, my Greek class was supposed to have our last meeting. It was going to be a review for the final exam. Class, however, was canceled due to the snow. Unfortunately, I did not get the message until I had already made it to campus.
It was quite the harrowing drive. (There was one hill in particular that I thought I was going to slide down backward in my car.)
I didn’t want to turn around and go home in the snow, so I stayed on campus and studied in the library for a couple of hours before leaving.
The drive back home at that point was much better, particularly after the sun had had some time to melt the snow on the salted roads and the road crews had had time to clear the streets.
Finally Finishing Papers
I have finally finished all of my papers. I have put untold hours into them, and they are finally done. (If I had to guess, I probably spent, on average, forty hours per paper, and that may be a bit low.)
I turned in my Early Christianity paper on Monday and my New Testament paper on Wednesday. I have finished my World Christianity paper as well, but I have a consultation with the Writing Center next week. (That paper is due later than the others.)
After that consultation, I’ll make whatever edits I need to make, and I’ll turn it in. Then I’ll finally be done with all of these papers.
Preparing for Finals
Fortunately, I only have three finals this semester, which isn’t so bad. I’m excited about finishing up this semester and seeing how well I was able to perform. I am hoping that my final grades end up showing that a top-tiered Ph.D. program is a realistic aspiration.
But, we’ll see, I guess.
I have a lot of studying to do to ensure that I do well on the finals, and I’m not sure how I feel about the papers that I have written. I am anxious to get them back to see my grades.
I have a final in New Testament, Greek, and Early Christianity. World Christianity does not have one, but the grade instead comes from the two papers we wrote and from class participation.
I have a busy week ahead of me. I need to do a lot of studying. Fortunately, except for Greek, I have a pretty clear idea of the material that I need to know. (Greek will just be studying a lot of vocabulary and paradigms to get ready.)
When I finish my last final a week from Friday, I will undoubtedly be pleased. I really plan to enjoy this break.
Anticipating the Break
It has been a good semester, but I am ready for a break.
These last few months have been hectic. Academically, this has been the most time-consuming program in which I have ever participated, even more than law school.
On top of that, I officiated youth football and taught an online undergraduate course at the University of Arkansas. I had very little time to do anything but work and school for the entire semester. I look forward to being able to relax and actually have some leisure time.
Still, I have loved it. While I am excited about having a good break, I nonetheless look forward to starting a new semester soon. I have enjoyed learning all that I have been able to learn over the course of the semester, and I look forward to picking it up again in January.
The Anglican Colloquium
As I mentioned above, the Anglican Colloquium met twice this week. For our final assignment, we had to write a vocational discernment essay. So, the last three meetings of the course involved each of us discussing our essays with the rest of the class.
Discerning Vocation with Classmates
This vocational discernment essay was a five-hundred-word paper describing where we are in discerning our path forward after Yale. After all our classmates read the essays, we spent the entire time talking through each person’s one at a time.
It was an opportunity for us to share we were are and to get feedback and advice from other people. It was a helpful exercise, and it definitely promotes a sense of community in Berkeley.
I do not intend to continue in the program, as my process of discerning vocation now involves an exploration of the Roman Catholic Church. But I will definitely miss the people in the program.
Some of the homilies during morning prayer have been way out in left field—in both the political and ordinary sense. The people in the program, however, have, for the most part, been extraordinary.
They have been exceptionally kind, the types of people you want to work in a church. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to get to know them. I will miss the regular interactions with them through the Berkeley program.
Discerning Vocation Together
I have struggled with discerning vocation most of my life, and I still struggle. My personal failures and vicissitudes have been a constant hindrance to me as I try to do the right thing and to live a life that is pleasing to the Father.
I often grow discouraged and feel like this is a goal that I will never achieve. Below I have pasted a copy of my vocational discernment essay. It reflects where I am right now.
I have also provided a pdf copy below for those who prefer that format.
I have wandered in my professional career and vocational trajectory for many years. I began my college career intending to become a Southern Baptist minister, but I abandoned this plan in my senior year to attend law school.
I bounced around a bit in northwest Arkansas after law school, working in the real estate department at Walmart’s corporate headquarters, at a local law firm and opening my own, and as a prosecuting attorney.
During this time, I also served as a part-time JAG officer in the Army National Guard.
Joining the Air Force
In 2015, I decided that I wanted to return to my original trajectory. As I began looking at seminary with a family, however, I did not know how I would make the finances work.
So, I went active duty Air Force. I had always wanted to do this, and I knew it would make me eligible for the GI Bill to finance my education.
My time in the military, however, sapped me of the desire for ordained ministry.
For one, my experiences left me with a lot of emotional baggage. Watching small children get raped and hearing sexual assault victims describe the physical ramifications of forcible sodomy were part of my daily reality.
For another, I lack denominational loyalty. Though I consider myself an Anglican, I have bounced between Southern Baptist, nondenominational, and Methodist churches as well.
I find this distressing, as the lack of community has frequently reduced my Christian faith to an individualized self-help practice.
As I am intellectually naturally inclined toward atheism, I must choose to believe. Without a strong sense of a community and tradition of faith, that choice becomes harder and harder to make.
Discerning Vocation in the Catholic Church
Finding my place has been difficult. While most would probably deny me the label, I still consider myself an evangelical.
I nonetheless highly value tradition as a means to transcend the limited perspective of myself, my culture, and my generation. Consequently, I feel pushed out of my original church home by evangelicalism, while at the same time, I feel resistance to progressivism.
This makes it challenging to rekindle any desire for ordained ministry, though I still frequently return to the thought.
I grew up in a foster home, and I have spent the last several years fighting for justice for victims. So, the appeal of ministry, with its goal of serving and helping others, is great.
I have, however, begun the initial process of joining the Roman Catholic Church. I anticipate that I will, in fact, follow through on this path, which, with my wife and children in tow, would require a complete rethinking of what ecclesiastical service would look like for me.
Discerning Vocation and Ph.D. Aspirations
I know that I love Scripture and would like to pursue a Ph.D. in some kind of biblical studies. I’d like to spend the next three years focusing in on my interests.
I also hope to use that time to discern where I belong. After years of confusion and indecisiveness, I’ve learned to live with the uncertainty in the perhaps naïve hope that, if I keep making an effort, it will resolve itself.
I hope that Yale will help me along this journey, while at the same time, I hope that I can be an asset to others here making journeys of their own.
A Fitting End
This exercise of discerning vocation was a fitting end to a life-changing semester. I have loved my time here, and I look forward to the next two-and-a-half years as I continue to try to grow and become better.
When I look back over my life, I see a series of personal failures and have many regrets. I hope that this time will help me, in a spirit of repentance, to be the man God wants me to be.
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Yale is a beautiful place. Discerning vocation has been a constant challenge for me, but Yale has put me on the right track as I further explore this path.
I love it here, and I encourage anyone interested in pursuing further theological education to apply to YDS.
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