Recently, I wrote about processing the process. At the time, I was struggling with penning my endorsement essay (endorsement being the next step towards rostered leadership in the ELCA). At the time, it seemed overwhelming and scary and I wasn't sure I could jump that hurdle. Luckily, I finished the essay the next day, giving me time to sit with it, have colleagues read over it, make the necessary revisions and submit it to my synod. Then, I began the waiting game; for two weeks, I went about my schoolwork, trying not to be nervous about the interview that loomed in the near future.
This past week was particularly stressful. I had a comprehensive exam on Monday, a book to be read and a paper to be written by Tuesday, and on Thursday, I handed in a huge exegetical paper that kept me in the library until 3:35 a.m. I was exhausted by the time Thursday night rolled around, and try as I might, I could not fall asleep for hours. Chalk it up to nerves or the copious amount of coffee I consumed on Thursday, but while I lay awake, all I could think about was my pending interview. I had no idea what to expect and was terrified that I would give an incorrect answer or make an unintentionally heretical theological statement.
Friday came soon enough, and after reading through my essay several times and receiving the affirmations of classmates and professors, I walked confidently to the location of my interview and was delighted to see the two members of my committee with whom I am most comfortable. After talking amongst themselves for a few minutes, I sat down with the members of my committee and a faculty member, and we engaged in one of the most life-giving conversations I've ever had. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post what they asked, so we'll play it safe and just say that we talked about the various areas in which I have grown over the past year, and how my theological education has impacted my understanding of youth ministry. I realized new things about myself during the interview, and it has given me a renewed understanding of my own call to ministry. My personal victory? I didn't cry once. If you know me, you understand the significance!
Going into the interview, as I said, I was scared and overwhelmed. I came out on the other side refreshed and excited. The exact opposite of what I expected to happen. This says something about not letting our expectations dictate our experiences, and I think it was an important lesson to learn. But even more, I think I finally realized the core benefit of the Candidacy process. Certainly, it is in place to evaluate our qualifications to be rostered leaders and track our progress during theological education, but I think it's much deeper than that. The process can edify us. It can point to our baptism and remind us of how deeply it is connected to what we are doing now, and what we will do in the future.
Maybe I have a fantasy-like picture of how endorsement should go, but I can only speak from my own experience. My advice, for what it's worth, is to go into these interviews with an open mind and a willingness to learn new things about yourself, all while being true to who you are. Trust the process and seek the support of the great cloud of witnesses who are praying for you to have a positive experience. Breathe in, breathe out, and remember that you are a child of God.
Oh, and the results of my interview? I was recommended for endorsement by the members of my committee, and they will take their decision back to the full committee, who will vote on it in the near future. God is so faithful :]