For more than seven weeks now, I've had the blessing of serving at Mayfield Central Presbyterian Church and Nathan Littauer Hospital as a summer seminary intern. When I first arrived, I felt new to everything. I'm originally from a small town in North Carolina and things are a little different, even the word "next" means something other than what I thought it did. Besides that, I'm currently serving in a role I never thought that I would, as a minister and chaplain in training.
As someone seeking to enter the medical field, a pastoral skill set doesn't come naturally to me and so when I was asked to write this article the first thing I wanted to do was thank all of the people who have been able to take me by the hand and guide me through a host of wonderful, difficult new experiences.
But what exactly is it that I am most thankful for? In my own times of trouble as I acclimated to serving this community, what can be pinned down as the thing people have done that has made the real difference? In a word: mercy. I'd love to share all of the amazing opportunities that I've been given, but there is one that best encapsulates and describes the others.
A few weeks ago I was invited to the Mayfield Presbyterian Church golf tournament. I stink at golf. However, because of a complication I was unable to attend. Two gentlemen at the church made it their mission that I not escape spending some time with them playing golf. I was given everything - the clubs, the balls, the cart, all that I needed I had - except the skills to play. We played the first hole, and I hit the top of the ball. I made sure to roll pathetically rather than glide with grace and after about eight strokes I finally got the ball in the hole thinking that a nine-hole golf game would feel like one-thousand.
And yet, at every opportunity when I expected criticism and remorse that my friends would be slowed down or that I wasn't what they had hoped for, I was given charity, empathy, compassion, and approval. I'm not used to slowing people down; I'm not used to falling short of expectations. I'm used to doing my work and doing it well, but when you are learning something new, nothing ever goes right the first time. There is always a learning curve and it is in being patient with others and trying to guide them that people begin to grow and love the opportunities they have been given.
I've struggled to hit the ball with prayers that went on too long, and in not having answers when people wanted them; still, I have loved my time in this community because even when I did not know everything or could not do something quite right, people were right their beside me nudging me along with care and mercy.
I don't know exactly how these columns are supposed to end, so I hope you, the reader, can give some mercy if you didn't enjoy reading this. I guess all that I'm trying to say is that if you have ever tried to help someone and things did not go as planned, I want you to know that I do not think it was in vain. Even if that person is still struggling or isn't even grateful for what you've done, know that I'm grateful and I believe God is grateful too.
Deuteronomy 4:31 says "Because the Lord your God is a merciful God, he will neither abandon you nor destroy you." I used to think that this meant that God is good and I can trust in God - and that is certainly the case. But as I learn more, I see God as my teacher. Today I take this passage as an example of someone teaching me and encouraging me in mercy, showing me how to do things and showing compassion in ways that I have not known before.
So when you are irritated and slowed by the inability or foolishness of others, think of God cheering you on and teaching you something new. I wish all of you the best this day, and I'm grateful for the mercy so many of you have shown to me when you didn't have to. Thank you for welcoming me and guiding me when I struggled.
Taylor Lassiter is a senior at Princeton Theological Seminary and the summer intern with the Rev. Bonnie Orth and the Mayfield Central Presbyterian Church and summer chaplain at Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.