Coming Full Circle
by David Calhoun
In 2007 my family moved to Charlottesville, VA. This move would change my life in countless ways but one of the first was becoming involved with the Trinity Fellows program. Our first fellow, Daniel Lautzenheiser, arrived just a year after the move and almost immediately became like family.
From teaching me and my brothers how to play foosball the right way (no spins allowed), introducing us to fantasy football and U2, trying to change the rules of RISK, and showing us how not to nap (under the bed instead of on it) Daniel became a source of joy in our home. He took us on late night ice cream runs, to UVA lacrosse games, and trips to the best spots in Charlottesville. Every day I would hope that he would be back from his fellows commitments in time for us to do something fun together. That was an incredible year and, to this day, I look back fondly on it.
It’s Been a Minute
Since Daniel finished his fellows program life has changed a lot for both of us. He moved to Washing DC to work at the American Enterprise Institute, got married to Jenny (a fellow from his class), and eventually went to law school at Duke. Daniel is now a clerk for a judge in North Carolina and is starting a new stage in his life as a lawyer. While Daniel was doing all of this, I grew up. 12 years of school later, I am now a college graduate and a Capital Fellow. I also work for The Fellows Initiative. Between the fellows we hosted and those I met through Trinity’s Student Ministry, fellows have been instrumental in sustaining my faith as I’ve grown into who I am today.
A couple months ago Daniel and I had the chance to catch up at length over Zoom. As we talked I felt so blessed to be able to hear all the ways his time as a fellow prepared him for the next years of his life because the lessons that have stuck with him are ones I came into this year hoping to explore myself.
One of the lasting lessons of Daniel’s fellows year was developing a heart for the local church. At a breakfast with one of the pastor’s, Daniel learned that on Monday mornings he typically receives voicemails critiquing the previous day's service. This comment, in the context of his fellows experience, convicted Daniel that his posture towards the local church should not be, “I wish the church did this or spoke out about this” but instead, “what role should I personally be playing in the body of Christ?”
As Daniel has lived out the latter question as a fellow, in Washington, D.C., and at Duke, fruit has come from focusing more on how he can serve the church than on how the church can serve him. His experiences have shown that meaningful involvement in a local church is a powerful means to enter into the tough questions and moments of life. More importantly, he has experienced how involvement in a church can lead to actively participating in God’s purposes for the world.
Daniel’s commitment to living a seamless life of faith and work is another way fellows continues to impact his life. In light of his fellows experience, he explored different career avenues and eventually realized he wanted to be a lawyer. After finishing law school, the question he is now asking himself is, “what kind of lawyer do I want to be?” This question has a long term focus but he is living it out now as a clerk. His current work is challenging and tedious because he has to discern how to best process the petitions and pleas of people who don’t want to be in prison but maybe should be in prison. He is just starting out in this role, but can already see how he could become numb because of the repetitive and academic nature of his work. Prayer is how Daniel confronts those challenges. He prays for a heart of wisdom and compassion that sees the humanity in every petition that comes across his desk.
Hearing Daniel talk about this was surreal. Just like his mindset towards church, his posture towards his current and future work is exactly in the mold of what I am learning as a fellow. Hearing his perspective gave me hope for what will come through years of prayerfully approaching issues of faith and work in my own life, starting with my own fellows year.
Prayer and Presence
One of the most important themes of fellows that has stuck with Daniel is commitment to prayer. Throughout our conversation Daniel mentioned the ways praying through the big and small questions he had about relationships, work, faith, etc. led him to where he was supposed to be without him even realizing it. With prayer as the backdrop he has learned to stay rooted in the present by preventing future plans from taking him away from his current situation. As I continue in my own fellows year I know I need to be developing patterns of prayer that, among other things, cause me to treasure the work I am doing now more than thoughts of where I hope to be in the future.
The temptation to look ahead was present for Daniel when he was a fellow just as it is for me today. When we talked, Daniel reminded me that the best way to do fellows, and life in general, is to focus more on the areas God has placed me in the here and now more than on where I am going to be in 6 months. Fellows is best experienced when the focus is on establishing the tools and habits to live well when life gets hectic and not expecting to have all the answers by the end of the year.
It’s been a while since he was in our home but I can’t remember him ever saying no to any of my countless requests to play foosball or RISK. No matter how busy he might have been, Daniel always made sure he was available for us. When I asked him why he was so willing to spend time with us. His first words were, “it was never a chore”. He didn’t have to plan it into his schedule because it was a priority in and of itself. When he said this, I realized that too often I try to think my way into loving God and other people instead of simply doing it. Love is a verb and Daniel authentically lived that out.
Even though much has changed over the years, I am so glad I still carry the memories of the love he showed me and my brothers with me. The joy of having someone interested in my 5th grade concerns and being willing to spend hours playing with me, not out of a pharisaic sense of obligation but because he wanted to, is a permanent gift. Because of his example, I know what it feels like to be made a priority. As a fellow and in the rest of my life, I hope to joyfully and instinctively do the same for others what Daniel did for us. Right now, I get to fully invest in my own fellows year knowing that by God’s grace fruit will come, just like it came for Daniel.
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Being a fellow is an amazing way to launch your career after college! As a fellow you will have a paid job in your field of interest. You will take graduate courses in bible, theology, leadership, and cultural engagement. You will have many opportunities to use your gifts serving in the church and city. You will have a personal mentor.
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