My Conversation with Steve

Marlo Thomas
We weren't dating any longer, if we ever really were, but I was doing everything I could to rectify that little bothersome fact. It was my senior year and I was in the middle of tying up my senior public relations project, ordering cap and gown, and applying for jobs.

Therein lie the rub. 

I had lost my fervor for PR, or at least for the idea of practicing it in a high rise building in New York. The passion had first consumed me in high school when I read some 1950s romanticized novel about a young girl moving to New York, working for a PR firm in a high rise, and shopping for cute That Girl (think Marlo Thomas) type suits with matching hats, purses, and shoes. Come to think of it, in my dreams for my future the role of "me" was often played by either Marlo Thomas or Mary Tyler Moore. They definitely had what I wanted -- the flat for one, the career wardrobe, and the flip (you know, the hairstyle). Forget the fact that neither made much money, Mary lived in Detroit (wasn't it?), and That Girl wasn't a journalist at all (I don't think).

But on this particular night as graduation inched closer and closer, my dreams had become more realistic, scary, and ...gray. I could no longer see the future quite as clearly as I once thought I had. And, the truth is, I no longer felt as excited or enthusiastic about pursuing a career in public relations. The field still intrigued me, but the thought of giving my life to helping some mega-corporation or even some non-profit organization stay in the good graces of its various communities no longer felt worthwhile enough.

And so Steve (the boyfriend who never really was a boyfriend...according to him) and I were walking on the campus of the University of Georgia late one evening, when it happened.

I was called into the ministry.

Now, Kay, how do you know you were called? What exactly is a calling? Did you hear a voice?

The only voices I heard were mine and Steve's. I was whining about my lack of direction, my shift in dreams, my need to get a job, my desire to matter. Steve was doing what he usually did. He was asking me questions and offering absolutely no answers. 

That boy had commitment problems all the way around.

I don't remember any of that conversation verbatim, except for one question Steve posed and one very clear answer I provided.

Steve: Kay, if you could do anything you wanted as a career, and money weren't an issue at all, what would it be? 

(I do remember at this point arguing with him for a few seconds about how ludicrous it was to consider a career based on such a proposal. Money not an issue? Of course money is an issue! But he insisted I think beyond the dollar and tell him what I would want to do if I were independently wealthy or money grew on trees.)

I thought for probably less than a minute and then...I knew. I knew exactly what I would want to do. And I had never verbalized this before, not even in my head and certainly not in my dreams. 

And, by the way, it was ridiculous. This was not even a job. Not even a career. Not even something a person could say they were or did or whatever. 

But it came tumbling out of my mouth, with all its insanity and equal amounts of conviction.

Kay: I would want to teach women's Bible studies.

What in the world? As soon as I said it, I covered my mouth with my hand, stopped dead in my tracks, and wondered what idiotic thing I had just confessed to both myself and this aggravating man.

But I knew. 

I knew right then. And I knew an hour later when I was back in my dorm room alone. And I knew the next morning when I woke up with new resolve and dreams and enthusiasm. And I knew when my mom looked at me like I had just told her I wanted to run off and join a harem or a convent, either one. And I knew when I later shared the memories of that moment with my pastor and then my future husband and then my best friends.

I knew I was called to teach, and eventually write, women's Bible studies.

So that's how I was called into the ministry.

That calling has served as an anchor in the storms of doubt and rejection and fear and confusion and frustration and difficulty. And while I've questioned my effectiveness and my skills and the timing and definitely the money thing (should I blame Steve for that one?), I've never once doubted my calling. That calling has taken on different shades, but I've fulfilled it. Am fulfilling it. As a woman whose husband has been able to provide financially for our family (completely by the grace of God), I have been blessed to stay home with my children and invest the time and effort needed to teach multiple women's Bible studies at my church for over 20 years. Finally, about four years ago, I got up the nerve to even write one, then two. And there will be more. But nothing replaces the teaching, the interaction with the women, the thrill of watching them glean and grow and gain.

It was a simple question posed while I was out for an evening stroll with an old boyfriend-that-never-really-was-a-boyfriend-according-to-him. And it was a very simple and strange answer. But it was my calling. It is my calling.

Have you ever felt called to some sort of vocation or ministry or mission? How were you called? Has that calling kept you on track or frustrated you? I'd love to know!

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