As my time at Candler ends, a lot of people have been asking me to reflect. “Did you make the right choice?” “Did you get what you wanted out of this opportunity?” I am very glad that I made the decision to attend Candler and in some ways it was exactly what I wanted and in other ways it was much more. But the memories that come back to me are the ones from the first few weeks at Candler. When I was so excited and nervous about being in a new place. Having grown up living in a mid-size city in Louisiana – this thing called traffic was a whole new experience. I had never visited a stranger in the hospital. I had never had a class with more than 50 people in it.
I remember many times at Candler I have turned and given the “You want me to do what?!” look to professors, mentors and friends. Most recently, I have been interning at Stone Mountain First United Methodist. I have been giving my mentor a lot of those looks. Most recently, she asked me to preach at both services – in which I did not just give the look, I actually asked! But that Sunday one of the members of the church commented to my wonderful mentor – “how wonderful for you to give Marissa this opportunity.” Of course my mentor gave me a knowing look of “I know this does not quite feel like an opportunity and more like a stressful addition to your already busy week.”
But now that the sermon is all done and said – I can say it was a wonderful opportunity. I was able to practice what I will be doing every Sunday next year with the knowledge that someone who cares about me was being my safety net. At Candler, I have been given opportunity after opportunity to walk out onto the tightrope of ministry — okay sometimes people had to shove me out there! And the best part was that my professors, my mentors, and my friends all had a knowing hand guiding me across — and a soft place to fall if need be.
What I realized yesterday was that those moments will probably never end. I will always be doing things in ministry that I never imagined that I could do. And in some ways facing “full time ministry” is very scary for me! But in another way – it’s really pretty cool because it is in those moments that we learn who we are. Right now I’m pretty excited about my upcoming identity: Candler Alum and United Methodist Pastor! But don’t call me that in public yet – I am not so used to it that I’ll answer to it or anything! So I ask you — who are you right now? Who are you becoming? Who has helped you get here? Now go give those people a hug and get ready for your next adventure!