Three years ago I knew exactly where I wanted to go with my life. I knew, with near absolute certainty, that I wanted to work for the US government or a Washington DC “think tank” focusing on international politics and American foreign policy. You see, my focus in school was “National Security” which is simply a nicer way saying “war”. For four years it was my job to learn why countries went to war, how they went to war, and how they won/lost those wars. In school I was fascinated with the dynamic personalities of the great generals, the might of history’s most famous armies, and the emotion and context behind mankind’s most colossal wars. Three years ago I was set. I knew what I was interested in, what I was good at, and I thought I knew what that meant for my vocation. However, as is often the case in life, things didn’t end up unfolding along those lines.
The summer before my senior year at the Pennsylvania State University I began spending a great deal of time at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in State College, PA. I had been a confirmed Episcopalian for several years at that point, but my church attendance had waned during school as I gave in to the worldly distractions that are ever-present on a massive university campus. My reasons for walking into that church are rather complex and personal, but what I will say is that once I got there, what I thought I knew about the world and who I was as a person fundamentally changed. I became uniquely acquainted with a God that I thought existed, but had not yet intentionally tried to get to know. As I began to finally undertake the process of trying to get to know God, I learned that He said a lot of things in the person of Jesus Christ and through the Bible authors that were not compatible with how I viewed the world. He said that war and violence was a product of our sin and wickedness, he said that we as humans had no right to feel the emotions of vengeance and anger, and he said that one day all the countries and armies and ideologies would be swept away forever. These realizations had (and continue to have) a massive impact on me. I could no longer be comfortable with my original vocation, and I became determined to put myself in a place where, instead of following my own passions, I could be free for God to use me as he would intend.
So enter the Episcopal Service Corps. Enter a year in a new city. Enter a year away from my family and established friends. Enter a year with 5 strangers I would have never interacted with otherwise. I don’t fully know what my “purpose” is in Houston. As comforting as it might be to have a sense of direction or a “path” to follow, these past three months have made it abundantly clear that God does not jive with many of mankind’s own preconceptions about the world and our place in it. All I have right now is the hope that God, as the omnipotent source of all existence, knows exactly what I am supposed to be. So in the absence of my own “wisdom” on the matter, I’ll leave the specifics to him.
Matthew, St. Stephen’s Church & School