By Craig D. Katzenmiller
Craig Katzenmiller, aka Dusty, has been Permissions Assistant at Upper Room Books for the past year. He has eagerly taken on several additional tasks, such as contributing to the forthcoming A Guide to Prayer for All who Walk with God and posting to Facebook. Craig has an MTS from Lipscomb University and enjoys visiting prisoners on the weekends. He recently learned of his acceptance to a PhD program in Germany. We’ll miss him here at Upper Room Books but wish him all the best in his new adventure.
There it was in an official letter from a German university. Glückwunsch! I got in. Faced with this written shout of congratulatory celebration, I felt anything but celebratory. Dozens of “what-ifs” ran through my mind. Anxiety. Worry. Fear. And I was only one word into the letter.
I knew that this “congratulations” was quite literally life changing. To accept this “congratulations” meant facing the daunting task of uprooting my rather comfortable life here in Nashville and traveling to the other side of the world. New setting. New language. New friends.
And that’s scary.
I like my current setting, my current language, and my current friends. The Upper Room, for example, is a wonderful place to work, and my co-workers here in the Book Department have become dear friends. This is just one of the many settings I am nervous to leave. Still, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So, with much fear and trembling, I have accepted the offer.
But fear and trembling is not the end of the story.
As in so many situations in our lives, that which is at first mired in fear can (often quickly) become settled in peace. Disquiet gives way to calm. Anxiety gives way to excitement. I have experienced this shift in the past weeks.
How has this happened?
I am convinced that it is only through the support of friends and loved-ones. My fear, I have since discerned, was primarily caused by the what-ifs that were running through my head. I didn’t want to leave people in a lurch; moreover, I didn’t want to abandon friends and family.
But I have been blessed by the excitement that others have expressed over my news about Germany. “You’ve gotta go!” has been the common refrain from many people. And their excitement has proven to be contagious. My initial fears have gone away and the anticipation I felt when I submitted by application has returned.
We must never underestimate the power of words. If I may tread dangerously close to cliché, words have the power to build up and the power to destroy. We never know how a single, simple sentence will affect those who hear it. My friends who simply said, “You’ve gotta go!” likely had no idea that they were instilling greatly-needed confidence back into me.
And so it is with the spiritual life. While silence and listening are indeed essential, speaking is also important in our pilgrimage together. With words we can express our deepest longings, and we can also offer advice, as well as correction, to friends who ask for help. We can speak in ways that either build firm foundations for the spiritual life or tear down all the solid spiritual ground on which we stand.
Knowing this, we should resolve to become more attuned to the words we use when we speak to others, making sure always to offer words of support to one another. Like my friends who offered a warm “You’ve gotta go!” to me about Germany, you too can offer words of encouragement to your friends. It might just give them the courage to take the next step in their spiritual lives. Our life together is a pilgrimage that never ends; it simply begins anew each day. Let’s help each other on our journey.