An Awakening: How I Found Myself in Tübingen

I wrote the following on ‘changing faith’ four years ago, reflecting on the year I studied at Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, in southwestern Germany. A piece of this was published in the May 2006 issue of The Lutheran, a magazine publication of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (the full text appeared online and I moderated a forum discussion about changing faith). Another post reflecting about what has changed since 2006 and where my faith life is presently will be posted here sometime soon. Until then, enjoy this piece…

An Awakening: How I Found Myself in Tübingen

14 October 2001
I picked up a leaf and started walking. I noticed the leaves as they fell, how some fell straight down to the ground, others fell on top of branches and bushes, and yet still more floated gracefully and gently to the earth. Every leaf that fell to the ground covered the ground and would someday become a part of the earth. This is a cycle, this is a season. My life has changed seasons…

It was a beautiful autumn day when I wrote the leaf meditation–almost two months after I had moved to Tübingen, Germany. Indeed, the entire 11-month journey was a seasonal change in my young adult life and defies any simple description. I could fill pages with stories of travel, study, and culture—but often untold is how Tübingen changed my faith.

As an undergraduate, my dream to study meteorology ended with a failure in calculus. Overwhelmed and depressed, I abandoned meteorology for German and applied to study in Tübingen the following year (2001-2002). With the guidance of a mentor, I began the process of discerning what, if not meteorology, was my vocational calling.

In Tübingen, I attended classes in German and imbibed on local culture. I wrote to family and friends about travel adventures, German culture, and living through September 11 in Germany. Untold, however, are the stories of spiritual soul-searching.

Every day began with several Psalms. Centering myself with breath prayer, I meditated on Scripture and wrote my deepest thoughts in journals. My worship life flourished not inside, but rather outside church walls. I prayerfully walked along the Neckar river and through the forest. The physical act of running became prayer as I visualized Jesus running with me.

This intimate relationship with God (and with myself) nurtured my soul, and cultivated an intense discernment process where I wrestled with a call into ministry. My life had more in common with the mystics than I am often willing to acknowledge. It was truly an awakening.

Reflecting back, I don’t think I would have been as open to deep soul-searching had I not painfully struggled with calculus. Neither would I have had such an intense faith journey without someone to mentor me through.

This journey–now four years ago–lives in me, ever guiding and sustaining my spirit. It has helped me be a light for others as I have engaged in more public forms of faith sharing and ministry. Now a city-dweller in Seattle, my faith is changing again. And I look forward to what this second seasonal change will bring.


Early Morning Relfections

Driven by restlessness, I arise early.  Alone, with a candle next to me, I write as the sun comes up somewhere unseen.  It was a late night as well; I guess I shall face the day with but five hours of sleep and as many hours of internal reflection and prayer from the previous night.  There’s something deep inside that is both driving me mad and driving me closer to God.  This week I have been particularly reflective about my life–present, future, and past.  It’s swirling around me, and sometimes a little too much.  This morning I am deep into the past, swimming around in the years of college that were tumultuous, amazing, and among the lowest and highest I have been emotionally.

I am writing a paper on discernment, a decision I have made.  Well, there are many…but I chose a particularly intense period of my life to write about.  I am reading through the journals I kept…I wrote a lot then, and I am amazed at how much time and energy I was able to devote to that.  There is enough written to formulate a paper, yet I still want to write.  I still want to go back into my experience and explore (it’s been an amazing journey!).  There’s so much life and pain from this time in my life.  And because I wrote so much I am now able to use it to heal from the present.  Or maybe I’m hiding.  That, too, I suppose.  So somehow I have to leave this internal world of mine and face some things that are bringing discomfort to the present.