“When they [Paul and his companions] approached the province of Mysia, they tried to enter the province of Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them.” (Acts 16: 7)
When I was a senior at Culver-Stockton College, I was 2+ years removed from deciding God called me to become a minister (or as some people call it, a pastor). Part of the requirements the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has for ordination is a Master’s of Divinity, which meant I had to continue my schooling.
During that last year, I planned to and visited three seminaries around the country. The first school I visited was Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. Now, my grandpa, the former congregational minister, lived in Colorado, so it had a special appeal to me. The school was great: a wonderful place of learning, took learning the Bible seriously, and big on social justice. I had a fantastic talk with the admissions counselor and even to got to meet the President of the school. I was pretty sure this was the place for me.
The next seminary I visited didn’t really sway my mind. I visited Eden Theological Seminary. I met with a professor who gave a little class to me and the other visiting student which was fantastic, but the professor was retiring! And I met with some of the students and didn’t really feel a connection. I don’t know how to explain it, but it just didn’t feel right.
The final school I visited was Brite Divinity School in Texas. Now, I was born and grew up in the Midwest and had all sorts of preconceived notions about how Texas was going to be. I mean, I watched “Walker, Texas Ranger” and I thought I knew all about it. But by the time my whirlwind of a tour which included a class, a lunch, an interview, and a tour, ended, I was left with a question: was this really where God was calling me to?
Paul and his companions wanted to Bithynia. They wanted to preach there. They wanted to spend time there. They wanted Bithynia, but Jesus said no. The Spirit kept them from going where they wanted to go. Paul wants to hunker down in Bithynia for awhile, but the Spirit said: “no, I’ve got other plans for you.”
There have been times in my life where I’ve experienced this Spirit doing this to me: preventing me from going one place because there are different plans for me. It happened when I was trying to figure out where to go to seminary. I wanted to go to Denver, CO, but I ended up in Ft. Worth, TX. And you know what? The Spirit was right. Texas was where I was meant to be.
Sometimes the Spirit says no to one thing, so we can flourish in another.
Thanks be to God.