This month, I begin Master of Divinity studies at Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS). My husband, Ben, and our three children have moved to New Jersey to embark on a new adventure in following God’s call. Prayer has given us the courage to take this leap of faith, with God’s reassurance of being in both the big decisions and little steps along the way.
My four-year seminary discernment process was interrupted by a crisis. Our daughter was born prematurely and we prayed for her to be healed physically. She wasn’t. This disappointment caused me to put up my guard with God, reducing my personal prayers to generalities. If I don’t ask God to do anything in particular, I can’t be let down again.
While discerning where to apply, I scheduled a visit to PTS. I emailed their professor of youth, church, and culture requesting a face-to-face conversation. Well-known in youth ministry circles, Kenda Creasy Dean is a dynamic speaker and insightful author. “I realize your time is in high demand from a variety of people,” I wrote apologetically, not expecting a reply. Furthest from my mind was the idea that God would have a hand in this little step. God, do whatever you want with that email. If you even care about it, that is.
Within 30 minutes, Kenda responded, “Hi, Sarah! I would love to meet with you.” She explained that she was inviting her Mennonite Ph.D. student, Nate Stucky, to join us for coffee. I couldn’t believe it. Are you here, God?
The next week I was working outside and laid my keys on the truck bumper so I wouldn’t drop them. Five hours too late I remembered them, long after Ben had driven the truck to his seminary classes. I searched the driveway and our quarter-mile of road in vain. Keys to my house, vehicle and Virginia Mennonite Conference Center were on that ring! God, I really doubt whether you care about this. But it would really mean a lot if you would help me find my keys.
To my surprise, Ben noticed on EMU’s website that a set of keys had been found. My keys rode five miles on our truck’s bumper, over rolling hills and railroad tracks, finally falling off in the library parking lot. Okay God, are you trying to prove something?
Through these surprises, I recovered a deep sense of God’s desire to be present in the small steps along the way, as well as the big decisions. I discovered that God can do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine, especially when God is working within me.
I pray that Virginia Mennonite Conference will sense God at work in both the big decisions and small steps to come. To God be the glory!
Sarah Bixler concluded her role as Conference Coordinator on August 22. She now attends Princeton Theological Seminary where she is studying for her Master of Divinity with a focus on Christian education.