Starting Well: Two Years Later
by Sarah Dodson
It’s been almost two years since I wrapped my time as a fellow in 2016-2017, a year that laid lasting foundations and set a profound trajectory for my life. If Christ in us, by his spirit, gives us eyes that see and ears that hear his truths to believe in him, then my fellows year – through teachers and the twelve fellows at my side -- built an invaluable blueprint for living with legs that walk, too. Here’s how I’ve seen that blueprint at play since:
A Faith Big Enough for the Whole of Life
Even more than cherished friends and memories, my fellows year gave me a sustainable framework by which to approach, process, and engage with the rest of life. It made the long and narrow road to Zion much less daunting in highlighting how all of life – the spiritual, physical, vocational, aspirational – will be used by God to transform me from glory to glory in his likeness. In the call to live sacramentally, there is no area of our lives that won’t matter to God or can’t be redeemed to result in worship of him. Our talents, personalities, networks, intellect, gifts, and time are all purposeful, and have been bestowed upon us to be used for advancement of the kingdom, eventually to be wholly restored by Jesus himself.
Church: A Body with Many Parts
Weekly church attendance has established the habits of heart necessary to be nourished and revitalized by faithful preaching of the Word and worship, both in weeks when that desire is there and in weeks when it is not. I would encourage current fellows to invest in relationships outside of your age group! Partake in full what the church offers to you (Sunday class courses, lay counseling, retreats, etc.) and offer the church your time and investment in ways that challenge and utilize your gifts (mission trips abroad, youth ministry, teaching Sunday school, etc.).
Work: Sowing, Growing
Work has shown me that I will first and foremost only find fulfillment in the Lord. He has used it to weaken idols of mine – perfection, approval of man, comfort. I’ve been humbled in failure, forced to bank on Christ as my perfect righteousness. I’ve been reminded of my call to work toward excellence for the glory of the Lord rather than to merely maintain appearances of competency I want others to see in me. And I’ve seen my utter dependence on the Lord’s strength to labor well when my flesh would rather choose apathy.
I have frequently seen my cubicle transformed into a gathering place for midday laughter and life stories. I’ve learned more about the worker that God made me to be, and likewise the worker he isn’t calling me to be, through relating to coworkers daily. Overall, I would encourage current fellows to remember that work is another (fallen) means by which the Lord will use to point you to himself, and that’s grace. Take note (I keep a vocation journal!) of what excites or shuts you down, what skills you see yourself stepping into naturally, and which might need further development. The people you work with will (sometimes) affect you more than the job itself. Be patient - discerning vocational calling will be much more a process than a singular revelation!
Community: Building Your Battalion
Seek gospel-centered roommates who will walk the road with you, and set rhythmic check-ins with these people. Cultivate environments for gathering with both existing friends and newcomers – think about what elements of the fellows program were most life-giving to you, and implement such models for your new, “real world” community! Overall, I would encourage current fellows to invest in depth more than breadth, and find people who are willing to speak the (sometimes) ugly truth; if you’re not being challenged by your community, you’re likely not growing! Remember that every “yes” to one thing is a “no” to another in a busy schedule, so protect your relational priorities like it’s your job.
And, to all fellows who are sitting in the unknown of what’s around the corner, remember your sovereign and abundantly good God. Appropriately dethroning yourself from your own life will allow you to see every good thing as an undeserved gift that you could never have orchestrated more perfectly had you had the foresight and power to do so. May an awareness of the Father’s personal love for you, his child, be at the forefront of your job, church, roommate, and housing searches. He sees and knows your need and will be glorified in your patient trust of his perfect providing. Trust him for his grace! Again and again, and into your “starting well.”
Let waiting be our work, as it is his. And, if his waiting is nothing but goodness and graciousness, let ours be nothing but a rejoicing in that goodness, and a confident expectancy of that grace. And, let every thought of waiting become to us the simple expression of unmingled and unutterable blessedness, because it brings us to a God who waits that he may make himself known to us perfectly as the gracious One. My soul, wait thou only upon God! The Believer’s Secret of Waiting on God, Andrew Murray
Sarah is an alumna of the Capital Fellows Program at McLean Presbyterian Church in McLean, Virginia.
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