Epiphanies can be big or small. As my fellow blogger posted earlier this week, Paul and Moses had some big epiphanies. Those were some drastic life changes. While people continue to have those big epiphanies in life, I see my life filled with small and often very subtle epiphanies that have shaped me into the person I am today. And as subtle as one of these epiphanies was, it had a significant impact on my life.
As is the case with most high school seniors, the final year of high school is filled with big decisions about what’s going to happen after high school. Coming into the final month of my high school career, I had no idea what I was going to do afterwards. All of my friends were headed to various colleges in Illinois but upon the advice of my guidance counselor, I never applied to any of those schools. I was told I wasn’t good enough to get in so I shouldn’t waste an application fee. The end of high school brought a lot of unknowns for me in terms of my future. No one from my family, either immediate or extended, had ever attended college so there was no big push from anyone to do that. I saw all of my friends headed to college but had the thought that maybe it wasn’t right for me. I think during the summer following graduation I began to feel sad because all my friends were leaving and what was there for me to do.
Coinciding with the end of high school was my involvement in the youth group at my friend’s church. I had grown up going to church but was not involved in church throughout most of my high school years. I still believed in God and knew Jesus but nothing more. I enjoyed being a part of youth group, some of the people I met there are still my best friends today. Yet, with the end of high school came an end to my involvement with youth group. I was no longer in high school so I couldn’t go to high school youth group. Again, a level of sadness hit me when I realized this. My life seemed to have no direction.
Shortly before the end of the summer, I got a call from my youth leader. He asked me if I wanted to help out with the new junior high group they were starting. Looking for anything to do at the church, I said yes. It was an odd occurrence when I look back on it; I never had any intention of working with kids. I spent the next seven years co-leading the junior high group and as well as the high school youth group. I enjoyed being involved in ministry; I even ended getting paid to do it. During my time as leader, the senior pastor devoted himself to mentoring me. I’m sure it wasn’t always easy for him but I began to learn a lot about leadership in the church.
Outside of church, I was still a jumbled mess. While I continued to lead at church, I also worked various part-time jobs. I also jumped from school to school, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Even though I was in school, I felt like I was going nowhere. By the fall of 2004, I was enrolled in my fourth university which was not looking like a good option in that moment. The teachers at the school I was at decided to go on strike during my first semester there. That event forced my hand to look for something else. As I sat in my living room I pondered what would be next for me. An epiphany hit me that would change the course of my life.
The words North Park University popped into my head, seemingly out of the blue. From the time I began high school I knew about North Park. My family still lives about four or five blocks from it. My church even had interns from North Park. Yet, I had never thought about attending until that moment. I started to look up info about the school, specifically how much it would cost. As a private Christian school, I knew it would be expensive to attend. The finances had to be right or else I couldn’t go.
After filling out all of the paperwork, I was accepted and got the financial assistance I needed to attend North Park. I began that part of my journey in January of 2005, finally graduating with my bachelor’s degree in December of 2007. The first in my family to graduate from college and then the first to earn a master’s degree. The decision to attend North Park was important because something finally clicked for me. I enjoyed going to my Bible and theology classes; I was finally engaged in my own education. That time at North Park, along with my continued involvement as a leader at church, helped me discern the plan that God had for my life. For the longest time, I searched and searched for what I was supposed to do with my life, yet all the time I was doing it. While I transferred from school to school and jumped from major to major, my calling was looking me dead in the eye.
I wonder sometimes if I could go back, would I do it differently. Maybe I wouldn’t have “wasted” so much time, energy, and money at other schools. But all those experiences shaped me and brought me to a place where I was ready for that epiphany. In that moment in the fall of 2004 my heart and mind were both ready to hear that calling from God.