Part 11: Thou Shalt Not Pass

As the Spring semester plowed ahead, my internship would soon be over. It was time to begin thinking about what the next year would hold. My fellow interns were staring to get some offers from different campuses and were beginning to make decisions: Logan would be returning to Missouri, Nikki was moving on to a be on staff at a campus in Texas, and Dan would be staying on as staff at UL.

I, on the other hand, had a bit of a problem. I had a conversation with our director that basically went like this:

For clarity, I was the balrog.

It wasn’t really a pass-fail thing, I was told. And I did have the option of doing a second year of the internship, but at another campus. However, it was hard not to walk away from that meeting feeling like I had failed. My biggest take away was my director clearly stating he just wasn’t sure if I was called to be in campus ministry. And when someone who has been doing the job for over 20 years tells you that – someone who you very much respect and whose opinion you trust – you just don’t take that lightly.

Really, I had a choice to make. Do I continue to go down this same path, spend another year in the program, at another campus, only to be in this same place next year? Or do I move on, and try to figure out what comes next. It really wasn’t a difficult choice, but it was a very sad choice. I loved being on campus. I loved student ministry. I had loved every moment of my time at Nicholls and felt like I had learned a lot in the year I spent at UL. But now…

I was just ready to go home and use the things I had learned. I didn’t want to move on to an unfamiliar campus for another year and get started all over again. But I also wasn’t ready yet to just completely give up on the idea of campus ministry. I decided I didn’t need to actually be on staff anywhere, and I didn’t need to collect a paycheck. I could return to Nicholls, enroll in grad school, move in the dorms, and spend at least another year doing campus ministry from the ground level. And so, that is ultimately what I did.

Looking back from the perspective of 15 years later, perhaps I should have completely pulled the Band-Aid off at once and moved on. However, that last semester I spent at Nicholls while enrolled in grad school ended up being one of the best ones, ministry wise, I ever spent. I ended up applying for and getting a graduate assistantship in the international admissions office, which helped pay for my tuition and some of my room and housing. I was able to help my good friend Chris Buckel, who was now the new director at Nicholls, continue to grow the ministry. I ran the sound and media for our weekly meetings, held one of the most successful life groups I ever had, and I was able to meet a ton of international students, picking them up from the airport, and helping them transition to their time at Nicholls. And I was even able to do some part-time work for Thibodaux First Assembly putting content weekly up on the website.

But on that day, after that meeting with Eric, I really didn’t know what would happen. I had a heaviness in my heart that I wouldn’t ultimately be doing what I had been planning for years to do. There was a bit of anxiety on not knowing what would be happening next. And, really, just an overall sense of failure. And I probably carried that feeling with me more than I should have.

It was with that feeling that I went to the rec center that night. I walked to the volleyball court and saw our students with a game in progress. I had intended on jumping in as I had many times before, but ultimately I just didn’t feel like it and walked over to the wall, sat down and began to watch the game.

Molly was one of the students playing and must have seen me sitting down. She left the court and walked over, sitting next to me and asking what was wrong. Initially I told her everything was fine, not wanting to divulge the real reason for my despondency. However, she continued to prod. Eventually I told her that I would not be continuing in full-time campus ministry, but that I still didn’t know what I would be doing next, so I was simply contemplating.

I don’t remember much else of that conversation, but I do remember her sitting and listening, not simply taking my conversational deflections on their face. Also, I swear, I think I saw the smallest of smiles on her face, however so briefly.

Cont.…