today my ISF application made it into the mail and now charts its course across the country to meet the ready hands of my grad admissions counselor.
i must say, it is a relief to have completed this part of the giant marathon we are running to explore the possibility of california in our future, as this application ended up being quite a bit more intensive than i anticipated it would be. it took quite a bit out of me, and parts of it made me sad.
this is because in addition to the four-page application and the three 1000+ word essays that ISF requests of all its applicants (and which were an absolute and complete joy to write), i also needed to include three essays that expounded in great detail some parts of my life that are not so easy to remember. they are parts of my life that i hold close to my heart. they are significant to my journey. they have formed a large part of who i am today, but for the reasons of forging me through fires of grief and pain and darkness and questions.
one essay in particular required entering into years of dark memories and striving for a particular direction in my life that i believed God wanted and the eventual toppling of that effort to the ground. it was a long essay that shared details and dates, efforts and failings, biblical passages and explanations of understanding, expressions of healing and expectations and hopes for the future. it was really, really hard.
this one essay alone was enough to take me out for an entire week. it came on top of the already difficult realization that God has much purifying he wants to do in me, and the shame i could encounter merely by facing the black sins of my heart in that place was doubled by these old places of memory that served to land me in deeper seats of shame.
i am glad i took the time i needed to breathe in the aftermath of writing those three extra essays. when the time came for me to compose the standard 1000-word essays for ISF, essays that asked me to share about my spiritual journey, the significant developments therein, the places in which i find myself growing today, essays that asked me to share what i understand spiritual formation to be, what soul care means to me, and the ministerial goals and interests that now inform my life . . . i had the energy and wherewithal to write them from the fullest places i could find inside, instead of the exhausted, broken place i landed after pouring myself into the other essays. i am glad i honored both sides of my story, the pain-filled side and the hope-filled side, so that the fullness of me could shine out in the best way it knew how.
and now, on wings of prayers, i pray those pages go forth on my behalf in God's grace and truth and love to meet the plans he has for me, whether those plans materialize in the way i have been hoping they will or not. it is a scary and quite vulnerable place in which to stand, but i cannot desire to be standing anyplace else.