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leaving campus ministry

Today was my last official day as Campus Minister and I’m a little sad. No longer will I get to see amazing student faces every day at work. Their joyful anecdotes made me laugh; their tearful stories hurt my heart; and I will miss every second of my time with them.

Leaving something you love is always difficult, especially when the decision to leave is a surprise, even to yourself. If there is one thing I have learned from my faith, though, it is that when God places a desire on your heart, you listen. Often, those desires are forward-looking and resemble life goals. Mine was the opposite. This particular desire urged me to leave this good thing I had without a view of something better. Stepping out into the unknown is not my particular gift, so listening was hard, but I knew that I needed to try.

This is where prayer matters. Trusting the Holy Spirit has never led me wrong, so even though this particular guidance seemed counter to what I expected, I listened, prayed, and listened some more, finally certain it was to be trusted.

It has taken years for me to re-learn how to pay attention to the longings of my heart. When we are young, we trust who we are and what we want, joyfully throwing ourselves into life with abandon. Somewhere along the way, though, that trust erodes, beaten down by expectations and our need to be accepted. It is no longer enough that God loves us unconditionally, we must now be loved by all the people around us, and so we change, taking baby steps away from our core self and towards a self we think others will accept.

Coming back to ourselves, trusting ourselves, is a return to trusting God. From our earliest days, God guides our life, but at some point we forget how to listen. This return to listening and to trust is one of the primary reasons I pray. I love God and I want to keep hearing that voice, so I do my best to keep the communication lines open.

Prayer is what brought me to today, to a day that looks as if I’m stepping away from a life filled with sharing God’s presence and love with others. What I’ve realized, though, is that working in the church does not necessarily intimate holiness, just as working in the secular world does not necessarily suggest the opposite. Sharing God’s love can be done everywhere at all times.

Even though I will no longer see students every day, my heart is with them now, just as it has always been. I still get to love as God loves, no matter my vocation. Only time will tell what work God is nudging me towards. For now, I pray and listen and hope and love…and trust.

Pray for me, please? And pray for our teens. Having the opportunity to tell them how beautifully unique they are was the gift campus ministry brought to my life, and this is a gift we can share. Reach out to a high schooler you love and remind them how brightly they shine. If this job has taught me anything, it is that our youth do not hear this enough. None of us do.

1 thought on “leaving campus ministry”

  1. This post resonates with me intensely. I hear your every angst- and acceptance-laden word. I still marvel at the intense and sudden pull to move to Wisconsin then the amazing and just as incredible push to return. The only way to have navigated this whole thing was openness, trust, and prayer. While my heart ever aches for the green of upper Midwest trees and soft air of central Wisconsin, I still feel at home back in my beloved cactus-laden desert, certain I am supposed to be influencing and caring for youth, now with an even stronger will to ensure they feel loved, accepted, empowered, and challenged by this incredible world. Your words have profoundly affected me, Holly: your godforevertries posts, our workroom post-lunch conversations, retreat moments, and spontaneous surface-to-deep plunges. You are a testament to living your faith. In your quiet, gentle way, you are one of the strongest pillars I know — of justice, of mercy, of love. I have zero doubt God will direct you exactly where He wants you next. I know that every student you encountered has been “changed for the better” because you are good. Blessings on next steps. Please continue to share your journey. (I was munching on a Holly scone this morning while typing! 😉

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