April 20, 2016

Mid-Life Student

During the 20 enjoyable years of my first career as an elementary school teacher and principal, an early dream began to speak more and more persistently. At age 48 I found myself enrolling in college again, this time to become a pastor. Just as full of enthusiasm as thirty years before (possibly with a little less energy), I had  a new vision.

With some trepidation, I re-entered the world of required courses, class syllabi,  due-dates and deadlines. I was excited to begin this new adventure. I had no idea what challenges I would face.


The vintage campus on a hilly acreage had been remodeled to meet ADA requirements, but still included many stairs. I quickly learned to allow extra walking and stair-climbing time so that I could stay on schedule.

Fully half of my classmates were young enough to be my children, so they didn’t need extra time to get from place to place. Bursting with strength and energy, they took the stairs two at a time. I learned to simply step aside as they rushed by.

It took longer to overcome the worry that I wouldn’t be able to keep up  with the demands of this new career pursuit. During one summer session, I was part of an especially large class. As the 70-some of us were making our way to the lecture one morning, I realized that I was in the middle of the queue: not leading the pack, but certainly not being left behind. I knew then that I belonged here and if I kept working hard, I would make it.

As time went on, my knee began to hurt  as I negotiated the stairs. Now heating pads, ice packs and arthritis medication became a new part of my life.  For the first time I needed to carefully plan how to meet the physical demands of the day.  

I also had to  face the difficult realization that I needed  assistive devices and accommodations which had always been for “others.”  As this realization dawned, a new fear grew: I could graduate from seminary, but would I be able to “make it” as a pastor?

I’ve since learned that even though I move a bit more slowly, I can still be helpful and effective. No one expects me to break-dance or do stunts at the neighboring skateboard park.  I spend my days visiting, listening, sympathizing, encouraging and teaching. For fifteen years now that has been working well for both the congregation and their pastor.

Guest Blogger: Alan Flynn


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