It's Still Always Worth It
On the evening of February 11, 2014, the School of Divinity hosted Nadia Bolz-Weber for a free, public lecture. Two students, Analyse Triolo (MDiv ’15) and Erica Walecka (MDiv ’14), initiated Nadia’s visit with us via a tweet.
The first time I heard Nadia Bolz-Weber speak was in the summer of 2011 at the Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina. This was the summer after I had felt my call to go into ministry, and I had told a select few people, who then told what felt like the rest of the universe. I still didn’t really feel that I had any business being in ministry, but what I had learned over the preceding 9 months was that God was nothing if not persistent. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have a plan. The plan I had at that point was to be a mediocre drama teacher and I was fine, if not happy, about that.
I had been invited to Wild Goose by my Pastor and Brian Russell, who at the time was entering his third year at Wake Div. This was where I first felt like one of the team, but I still feared where my journey was taking me. At the encouragement of Pastor Jay I sat in on a talk by this woman who claimed to be a Lutheran Pastor but looked like anything but. Yet, as she spoke about a church she had planted I found myself captivated by the work she was doing. That woman was Nadia Bolz-Weber.
Just over a year later in July of 2012, I found myself in New Orleans for the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) National Youth Gathering, working safety detail in the Superdome, when I found out that Nadia was to be the keynote speaker the first night. There had been mixed feelings about having Nadia speak to the 40,000 high school youth and chaperones assembled there, especially if someone with her past should be speaking to the ELCA’s young and impressionable teens.
At this point I was about four weeks from starting at Wake Div, not knowing how I would handle graduate school and already freaking out about this Greek requirement that the ELCA has for its seminarians. Nadia brought every person in the Dome to their feet as she shared that “This God will use you, this God will use all of you. And not just your strengths, but your failures and your failings, and your brokenness. God’s strength is perfected in human weakness.” I cried in that moment, thankful for the words I had just heard. I was a girl who was terrified of going into something so much bigger than herself. The anxiety of starting a new program was storming violently inside me matching the storm that raged outside on that Wednesday night. But Nadia’s words brought a calm to the storm because my brokenness and my strengths together could be what I brought to my ministry.
Nadia has unknowingly walked with me along my divinity school journey. Even in reading her book Pastrix: The Cranky Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint, I found myself reading about her own anxieties over CPE the night before I started my own internship at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Reading that she too was nervous but managed to find her place in CPE gave me the hope that I would too.
These are the reasons why I wanted Nadia to come to Wake. She is one of the most authentically real people I have ever met. She’s unapologetic about who she is and taught me to speak from my scars rather than my wounds. Her message and her ministry has been such an inspiration for the past few years and helped me realize that (to use her words from Pastrix) “despite the violence and fear, it’s still always worth it to love God and to love people.” If there is nothing else I can do in my ministry I can most certainly do that, and her message was something I couldn’t possibly keep to myself.
Analyse is a 2nd year student who is interning as a Chaplain at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.
Audio from Nadia’s lecture is available online.