October 29, 2013

Searching the Obvious

I never learned fear at home. I had to attend seminary to learn that.

* * *

The more time I spend volunteering in chaplaincy work, the more I recognize the Holy Spirit’s nudging toward continual study of God’s Word.

A year ago I applied to take classes at a seminary close to home. I searched for courses that would complement my chaplaincy ministry. I decided on two courses offered on the same day (afternoon and evening), with a three-hour gap between the courses (for necessary reading). It seemed like a wise selection.

As the spring semester approached, my father offered me the first school supply for seminary, his humble advice:  “Be a Daniel among your colleagues.”

Then, sitting in a graduate seminary course, I found myself looking forward to the discussion. The assigned readings explored several essays regarding Christian worship and the Sabbath day. This will be interesting. Throughout the three-hour lecture there are many questions for the professor. Right before a 10-minute break, a colleague in the front row posed a question to the professor: “I was wondering why some Christian denominations continue to challenge the Sabbath and attend church on Saturdays instead of Sunday.” Silence.

The professor replied, “It’s an interesting question.” (A pause.) “You have a Seventh-day Adventist colleague in this very classroom. You can ask her after class and share with us.” The professor, pointing in my direction, singled me out. I feel as if an unfamiliar emotion has just entered the room and sat right next to me. Except for a handful of peers who look my way, I was the center of attention for a fleeting minute.

After class I decide to leave campus for my three-hour reprieve and head to a small restaurant near campus. What is this uncomfortable feeling? I would like to think I could have answered any questions posed about the Sabbath.

The host walks me past empty tables to a booth hidden in the corner. I wonder if she can tell I have had a rough afternoon. As I wait for my food, I pull out my journal and jot down the Sabbath school lyrics in my head: “Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone! Dare to have a purpose firm! Dare to make it known!” Did I fail at this today? I look at my backpack with my Bible inside. I pray: Heavenly Father, have I made a mistake?

My thoughts are interrupted by a group of police officers entering the restaurant. The host seats them at a table facing me. For the second time this day I feel vulnerable to the sight of others. I inadvertently eavesdrop on their conversation throughout my meal. Suddenly I hear a phrase that makes me stare directly at their table: “Sometimes you need to stand firm and say: ‘I shall not be moved.’ Take a stand.”

I have no idea what they are talking about, but it feels as if they are talking to me. The obvious is not that hidden anymore. The emotion I felt in the seminary class was fear. Listening to someone challenge my beliefs was difficult. Then the realization: This will not be the only time my beliefs will be challenged.

* * *

I stand at the cash register, waiting for the host to tally up my bill. Out of nowhere one of the police officers stands next to me and hands me a piece of paper. “This is for you.” I take the piece of paper, my receipt, and leave. In my car I open the piece of paper. Inside someone has written: “GOD LOVES YOU. Everything will be OK.” It is officially my second school supply for seminary.

Driving back to seminary, I have a new resolve. I may never know who is truly listening or watching, but I must have courage. Courage at any cost; knowing that if others see my faith in God, they might see His amazing grace. With the loyalty of Daniel, facing the lions of this world means lifting our heads in support of the truth.

“I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).