TylerThe fall term at Candler has drawn to a close, opening fertile space in our minds and hearts for reflection. For first-year students, there is the pondering of: What did I get myself into? For second-years: How can our seminary career already be halfway over? And for third-year students: What is approaching after graduation in one term’s time? Our reflections collectively extend across the gamut of Christian thought and experience. Yet, there appears to be a common thread – we are reflecting, we are growing.

One of the names heard around Candler’s campus quite frequently these days is the late John O’Donohue. The poet’s capacity to articulate the mystical beauty of life is truly breathtaking.

After finals – when our ability to reflect has come back to us – O’Donohue’s inquiry on life transitions acts as a guidepost in our inner discovery. He asks: “At which threshold am I now standing? At this time in my life, what am I leaving? Where am I about to enter? What is preventing me from crossing my next threshold? What gift would enable me to do it?”

We all stand at the threshold of something life-altering, a life transition. For some of us Candler folks it is a subtle change in posture. For others, it is a call to do something never considered, and for yet others it involves grieving what was imagined to be. These transitions, whether labeled or not, do change the direction of our lives. Yet, the question remains – from right here, after finals, this Advent season – do we recognize the thresholds we individually approach?

CannonAt Candler, one of our traditions is the thought that the roof of Cannon Chapel represents a train station. If one looks carefully, they will notice the exaggerated arched roof channels that shoot from one wall to the other, intersecting with one another at right angles. A common saying has thus become: “If you enter seminary heading in one direction, do not be surprised if you depart facing a different direction altogether.”

Maybe I am speaking for myself, but the seminary experience changes us. It makes us consider ancient ideas, confront pastoral concerns we have never imagined, and learn how to practically do the work ahead of us. During all this work – say, a few weeks ago – it can be an overwhelming chore. We can find ourselves so deeply in the weeds that all we see is the cold dirt and our bare hands. Yet, that time has ended.

Now – we stand apart from the academic work and at the end of the Advent season, preparing for the coming of the Christ child. We are thus left pondering this week: Where am I now? What is coming? How do I prepare for that? Am I being called to do something new?

May we find the grace and permission to walk humbly across those thresholds and into those new spaces in this season of expectancy, healing, and wonder.