The last time I stood behind that lectern was the spring of 2013, just a few months before I’d graduate from Christian Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity degree. I was standing there because I’d been asked to preach in Chapel. That’s often how these things happen. I don’t necessarily need to preach or speak in public, but if I’m asked I rarely say no. The same was true for today. On Monday I was asked if I’d introduce Dr. Brad Braxton in Chapel before he preached. I wouldn’t have thought of it myself, but I was honored to be asked.
This isn’t about my introduction, though. This is about the space and who I found present on this seemingly normal Wednesday in November.
After saying hello to Martha, a CTS student and acquaintance, I glanced over and saw Josh. I was elated, as was he. We immediately were drawn to each other and had a big hug. Josh was the youth ministry intern at North for my last two years there. We worked together, prayed together, laughed together, commiserated together. We were in ministry together for two years. Since then we’ve stayed in touch, but it’s been quite awhile since we’ve seen each other in person. I loved catching up with him and hearing how his journey continues to move forward. I made sure to get a few more hugs in before we parted ways!
As I was talking with Josh, out of the corner of my eye I saw Bill walk in — I was not expecting to see him today! Bill was my youth minister in high school. Since then he has remained a confidant, mentor and friend. Any time I see Bill or communicate with him, he is always sure to say, “I love you.” He makes me laugh and warms my heart. And, just behind Bill, was Tyler who I haven’t seen since he graduated from seminary a few years before I did. Our friendship was quick but meaningful. I was grateful to see the two of them in that space today.
A few rows in front of them sat my director and a friend of our Institute. In front of them sat Barb — we graduated seminary together and traveled the paths of the Camino together earlier this summer. Near her sat the seminary’s interim president who was also one of my dear professors.
I saw Bray who also graduated with me and we were also in a three year clergy peer cohort, which took us to Italy in the fall of 2014. Between all the classes we shared and our travels, I’ve heard about his “floating along the shores” for so long that I’m fairly certain he would have gotten around the world by now! 😉
Rae, another seminary classmate, is now the Chapel director (and the one to invite me to give the introduction) and sat across from me throughout the service. There were other faces I recognized — some faculty, some alumni.
And, the reason I was there — Brad Braxton. Although we’ve been communicating for several months in preparation for a couple work events yesterday and Chapel today, I just met him in person yesterday and already call him friend.
The relationships in that space spanned from 1995 to yesterday. I had no idea who would show up today and if you had asked me to predict, I never in a million years could have named the combination of people who were present.
The relationships represent my childhood, seminary, former jobs and my current workplace. Life is challenging, for sure. But looking around the Chapel today, looking out the window onto the fall scenery, listening to the voices fill that space with song, hearing a passionate preacher share the Gospel message… well, I am reminded that life is beautiful too. Life is full of surprises everywhere I turn.
I am grateful for the many people who have accompanied me on various stages of my journey. God willing, I’m not even halfway through my life yet… I wonder who else I will meet, what new relationships are on the horizon, what other paths will cross? If the people present today are any indication of what’s to come, I’m eager to keep walking forward to discover what’s next!