Chapter 7: The Rivers of Faith and Life Come Together

The first seeds of awareness that seminary school might be in my future were planted every time we went to Elmbrook Church, where I would be on the edge of my seat, fully engaged with the academic nature of each sermon that brought the Bible to life, and then fertilized one Sunday in 2013 when the senior pastor at the time remarked that as a child, he was terrified of public speaking, and yet God called him to be a pastor, proving that with God, anything is possible. I even visited Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the school I now attend which at that time had an extension site at Elmbrook Church. But after that visit, I determined I wasn’t ready to commit to seminary school at that time. For one thing, I wasn’t mature enough at the time to know what I wanted to study, or what kind of career God was calling me to. Even though the senior pastor’s testimony got me thinking about career possibilities I had never considered before, I still wasn’t feeling called to the demanding career of a pastor. In addition, I was embarrassed when as part of the visit, my mom and I had lunch with an admissions counselor. My family always said grace before dinner at home, but felt awkward praying in public, so at restaurants or school cafeterias, we would just dig right in. So I was embarrassed when I had already started eating, and the admissions counselor wanted to say grace. Maybe I wasn’t even “religious enough” to fit into the culture of seminary school at that present moment. So I decided to focus on gaining real-world work experience.

    During the years I worked at the Social Security disability law firm, I never explicitly talked about God with people outside family or Bible study. Most of my coworkers were not religious, and on the rare occasion when I saw opportunities to mention my faith, like when someone randomly confided to their fear of death on a slow day, I always chickened out, unable to find the right words. But my coworkers respected me for my compassion when handling clients, and one woman told me she admired how she never heard me use profanity. Sometimes people would even apologize to me when they used profanity, as if I were their pastor. But Mom told me that living by example is the best way to attract people to the Gospel, and she said her parents used to say, “if you have to tell someone you are Christian, maybe your faith isn’t authentic. It should be obvious just by the way you live.”

    By this point in the book, readers who don’t know me intimately likely have an inflated view of me, so I think it is time to quell that and confess here that while my example was respected at work, and while I want to live a life that counts for God, by no means is my behavior always becoming of a student in seminary school. Despite intellectually knowing that God has a purpose for everything, including my blindness, sometimes I find myself envious of the freedom and autonomy sighted people take for granted. More on that in the next chapter. Somewhat related to that, despite knowing how blessed I am to live with my parents, especially during this pandemic as I witnessed friends who live alone spiral into depression and anxiety, sometimes I find myself frustrated with God that I am not out in the world living the adult life, contributing to the world like my siblings. Because I don’t pray often enough about this, this frustration sometimes manifests itself in angry outbursts at my parents which I always regret after the fact.

    But while I didn’t talk about faith, and still don’t live out my faith as fully as I should, in recent years I have been filled with inspiration to write about it on my blog. In 2009, I started a blog to chronicle my experience training with Gilbert and navigating college life. In those days, I rarely mentioned my faith. Between June 2013 and February 2018, I did not write at all on my blog. In 2014 and 2015, I felt so devoid of purpose in my life that I couldn’t find the motivation to write, and in 2016 and 2017, I was too emotionally drained from my job to write. But looking back on when I felt inspired to resurrect the blog in 2018, I noticed that my writing had transformed. I felt compelled to share my faith in most of my posts, and on a couple occasions, I would be hit with waves of inspiration to write about faith as it relates to politics, current events or mental health in our society, waves which were so intense that I couldn’t sleep until these thoughts were written.

In 2019, I started feeling restless, longing for a job that was more intellectually stimulating, where I could better utilize the gifts God has given me, and I sensed God nudging me to revisit the idea of taking seminary courses. But since school work takes longer for me, I knew I would need to quit my job to do well, and it took a lot of sweat and tears to get the job I had. Life was humming along smoothly, and I just couldn’t bring myself to resign. But then the pandemic hit, and my family did not want me going to work given that I have underlying medical conditions. I had no idea when it would be safe to return. My manager said he could hold my position for as long as necessary, but after much prayer, I realized the pandemic was just the kick I needed to respond to God’s call. So on April 24, 2020, I officially resigned from the law firm, and now here I am, about to start my second year of seminary school. Like everyone, the forced isolation of this pandemic has driven me crazy to some extent, and occasionally, I find my mind racing down a rabbit hole of anxiety over whether resigning from the law firm was a smart move for my future financial security. But this isolation is different from 2012 because seminary courses have given my days structure and purpose, and even on days when I feel lonely or anxious, it only takes a little prayer to get me back on track. I think the isolation of 2012 prepared me well for this season by strengthening my patience and trust in God. So while this pandemic forced many people to cope with isolation and uncertainty for the first time in their lives, I recognize this pandemic as a season that will one day be a distant memory, a patch of choppy water in a river that will smooth out. As for the uncertainty, I don’t know what direction my life will take after completing my seminary education, but I trust that God has a plan.

Published by Allison Nastoff

As I write this in 2020, I am 30 years old. I am blind, and Gilbert was my first guide dog. He passed away on December 2, 2020, but I decided to keep the title for my blog as a tribute to him because he will always hold a special place in my heart. In 2012, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Communication with a journalism emphasis, and went back to school for a Paralegal certificate in 2014. I worked for five years at a Social Security disability firm. When the pandemic hit, I did some reflecting and decided to resign from this job and take seminary courses. My dream is a career as a teacher or writer where I can be a blessing to others.

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