Chrysalis is the process in which a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Murry Stein, a Jungian analyst, wrote a book titled: “Transformation: The Emergence of the Self” based on a long process in which humans reach a kind of “fulfillment.” It is this process in my life that I am reflecting on.
I started seminary in the fall of 1995. To say it was intimidating is probably an understatement. Luckily I am a risk taker, a bit of a pollyanna, and really able to just dig in and do something while being a little naive.
And, I had seminary professors who were willing to grade on a wide curve accepting me along with the other students who were recent graduates of Ivy League Universities (Oh, you know, Princeton, Yale…) who were also religion majors. It’s no wonder that I never opened my mouth in class. I just took copious notes and read as much as possible. I do think it was a bit much when our church history professor went through something like 60,000 years of human history in our first class….the same professor who would put in questions on our quizzes from the FOOTNOTES in our books…sigh…
Anyway, I was really blessed to meet some wonderful women, my age. We quickly formed a study group and helped each other along. They remain two of my best friends. The first semester was my biggest learning curve…like how to do research in the library (I did not know how to do that using a computer). And how to write an academic paper (I had NEVER done that in my dance major course work). Once I had the basic understanding that an academic paper is never first person I was on pretty good footing. Understanding the theology, history, liturgy, and church life courses were all challenging but manageable…and after the first semester (all B’s) I started getting a combination of A’s and B’s….not bad, I thought. The main way I worked was: rise early, get the kids ready and off to school or day care, drive an hour to school, finish classes, pick up kids, get home around 6pm, make dinner, put kids to bed, study, sometimes pulling all nighters…The funniest part is, for that first semester I only had a typewriter…no computer….which means my papers were a mess of white outs. By the second semester I had a computer.
The other major thing I did that first semester, aside from learning how to be a student, was find a spiritual director. I saw that SD for 9 years, until she retired and moved away from Chicago.
Now, here’s the weird part. My new home is in a small town just south of where my SD retired too. She is still doing SD and… has become my SD again! Being in a new place it is really great to have someone who knows me really well and vice versa.
Now, all I had left to do was determine if I wanted to consider ordination, and if so, to begin discerning with a parish committee. The problem was my rector, the one who said to me, “Oh go ahead and go to seminary, ordination is not crucial for hospital chaplaincy, so you can decide later if you want to discern a call to ordination” -this priest had left and my parish was searching for a new priest. In that regard I was “Orphaned” to the process.
Thankfully, what happened next was a real blessing.