Sometimes we get a chance to start over. Sometimes we need a chance to start over. Sometimes we have to start over even when we don’t want to.
Twelve days after setting out from California on her circumnavigation of the world, Abby Sunderland had to pull into port in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Equipment malfunctions forced her to into port to make repairs before she could continue on her adventure of sailing around the world alone in a sail boat.
When I was in the 6th grade, I began thinking about being a pastor – due in large part to my teacher, Mr. Lams. But in the 7th grade, I transferred to a public school, a new church, and that, together with noticing girls for the first time as people who were not “yucky,” I got sidetracked. I also discovered something new and exciting – the personal computer. A new technology – one that my father was heavily involved in – made me rethink my career path. Now I wanted to go “in to computers” of some sort. By the end of high school, this would be specifically robotic engineering.
After three days of repairs, Abby was ready to leave port again and start over on her journey around the world. Now she would complete her journey in Cabo San Lucas (according to the “rules” of solo-circumnavigation). She was now ready to face the open ocean with equipment that was working as it should.
After four years of high school and learning what I could on my own about computers, I was ready to head off to college to begin my adventure of robotic engineering. But I was ignoring warning signs that this was not the path for me. My grades in math were average – thanks to a best friend who tutored me in math. If he hadn’t I would have failed math utterly. I did push ahead though. I took a course in computer programming at the local community college my senior year of high school and did well in that class – thanks to a lot of help from my dad (who could have taught the class). My freshman year of college I enrolled at the same community college because I didn’t score high enough on entrance exams to go to a university like Cal Poly or University of Illinois. During that first year, I barely passed freshman math and I failed the introductory engineering class. It was time for me to pull into port and reexamine where I was going and the equipment I had with me.
Seven days out from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Abby is nearly a 1000 miles into her 17,000 mile adventure. All is going well. Equipment is working as it should, weather has been relatively good, she has good winds and is making great progress. Spirits are high as she is doing what she loves, following her heart and passion to be the youngest to sail around the world alone. Yet she isn’t really alone. Nearly everyday she “blogs” her feelings and hundreds – if not thousands – read her blog. In essence, she has thousands of people with her on her journey.
After the debacle of my first semester in college, I had a long talk with my parents and my pastor – John Zellmer – about what I should do with my life. We came back to what Mr. Lams saw in me back in the sixth grade. So for my second semester at community college, I took basic freshman courses and then applied to a small Christian college in Southeastern Wisconsin – Concordia College. In the Autumn of 1984 I began classes in a new school, in a new program – pastoral ministry. I met some wonderful people – who I still count as dear friends today nearly thirty years later.
It wasn’t easy. Just because I had changed direction into pastoral ministry didn’t mean I would have clear sailing to ordination. There were many more obstacles to overcome – most of my own doing. But I was never alone. I was solely responsible for studying and preparing for pastoral ministry, but I was never by myself. I had my friends and family encouraging me – both near and from afar. I also had God by my side every step of the way.
I couldn’t have gotten here – marking the 15th anniversary of my ordination into the pastoral ministry – without the wind of the Holy Spirit, the blood of Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father.
It may have taken a lot longer than I imagined – when I was imagining it at all – but I have gotten here. And what a great adventure it has been and continues to be!