By Angie Masters, a student in Spring Arbor University’s online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership program
When I landed in Salt Lake City, I anticipated partaking in the events of the 104th convention of the National Communication Association (themed “Communication at Play”) and Religious Communication Association, two associations which I had joined relatively recently as personal and professional enrichment opportunities. Despite the theme of the convention, I found that I was nervous and unsure. I had attended several academic conferences before, so I had some general sense of the format, but this was different. This wasn’t a work event, in a familiar environment. I had been immersed in those for years, while I developed a personal and professional persona of cool confidence. This time, surrounded by people with far more knowledge and experience than me, I was completely out of my element and I felt uneasy. Stepping out of the cab and onto the driveway at the hotel I shivered, then realized that it was not from the cold — I felt uncertain and apprehensive.
Oddly, I sensed that it was not just the new unfamiliar venue and subject matter that were causing my jangled nerves – I would be meeting with people who had become friendly strangers; it was daunting. Although I had engaged in online and group video discussions with Rena and Drs. Proctor and Woods, I admit that I was more than a little nervous at the prospect of meeting them face-to-face, as these were people who had generously shared their knowledge and experience with me without knowing me. All they knew was what my academic traits had revealed — they saw a student with a reasonable intellect and a sense of humor. I realized, to my chagrin, that the anonymity that online classes afford had become a safety blanket of sorts. It was an arena wherein I could freely share my thoughts, experiences and even personal philosophies, all without worrying about incurring their disapproval or disdain. The fear of losing that security gripped my heart and gave it a squeeze. Yet, I also heard the gentle laugh of Jesus, the Master Gardener, inviting me to trust that he was about the business of the Father, sowing good seeds in me.
Friendly text messages, pointed questions that provoked holy discomfort and face to face meetings over coffee, lunch and dinner filled my days and evenings. Through all of it I was shown that I am not alone in my questions, concerns, celebrations and just plain old ponderings. I learned to listen to my heart, to follow the gentle call of the Master. I learned to expect the breathtakingly unexpected. I discerned that I am being offered a gift, a new beginning. The Father — the Author of dreams — in his abundant love and infinite mercy and compassion, is opening a new door, a fresh dream, which he is planting in my heart. And he used this unlikely venue, this place of uncertainty, to reveal it to me. This was not where I found my feet on solid ground. Yet, it was fertile ground. It is where I planted my alleluia.
This trip would not have been possible, except for the sponsorship of the Communications Department at Spring Arbor University. And, what a trip. I am grateful for the generosity of Dr. Metts, Dr. Proctor, and Dr. Woods. Thank you, all.