Blog, Guest Posts, Ministry + Missions

Purpose in Unexpected Seasons [Guest Post]

I haven’t had a guest writer on the website for a while, so it’s about time! Here’s my wonderful Kiwi friend, Kate Dugdale, sharing some thoughts about the reality of adult life being very different than our childhood expectations. May it encourage and challenge you in your own unexpected life…

[Photo Credit: Kate Dugdale original, author of post]

As I write this, I’m sitting at my small desk – to call it ‘organized’ would be generous. It’s covered in books, pens, highlighters, and a second computer monitor balanced rather precariously on the equally small bookshelf which rests between my desk and the wall. I am possibly breaking the fire code by having my backpack sit in front of the fire escape. The pile of books to go back to the postal library hasn’t moved in about a month and the wall is covered with lists and outlines and calendars. There are three other desks in this small enclosed balcony, all empty at the moment, but often filled by other students who come to study on campus. This is my life for most of the time, five days a week… and is not where the sixteen-year-old version of myself envisioned my twenty-five-year-old self being.

[Photo Credit: Ozyman via photopin cc  with edits by Alison Lam]
I spent most of my teenage years involved in ministry and mission. Almost every vacation period was spent on camps or mission trips, and by the time I was sixteen I had started homeschooling in order to facilitate doing a church internship. Growing up in a YWAM family meant that doing a DTS was a certainty in my own mind. I fully expected to be called into full-time missions in a country outside of where I’d grown up, that life would be full of crazy God-adventures in the nations, and that I’d get caught up in some epic revival or move of the Holy Spirit. I always assumed that the dramatic moment of calling was just around the corner. God had an AMAZING plan, and I was going to be right in the midst of it!

Little did I know what was coming…

Through a strange series of events, I found myself starting at Bible College in 2009, with the expectation that I’d do a single year… and then something else would open up. To my surprise, I’ve been a full-time university student for five years, with another two and a half years to go. I’ve spent the last half decade studying – my diploma turned into a bachelor degree in biblical studies, followed by another postgraduate diploma in theology, which resulted in my enrolment to start a PhD in Systematic Theology. In that time, I haven’t been on a single missions trip, or even left the country except to see family in Sydney. Instead, my focus has been on learning Greek, and exegetical studies, and my time spent reading theologians who rarely agree with each other. I used to denounce academic theologians as people who knew about God without knowing God… and yet as a student, I find myself required to participate in that world. This is far from the life I envisaged.

The fact that I’m still doing this both exhilarates and infuriates me, depending on the day… and yet here I am, still sitting at my desk, attempting to be faithful in my current calling.

As I read yet another book for my thesis, I am learning that God is just as present to me in these moments, as anywhere else. I understand that God is here with me as I struggle with concepts of epistemology and ontology, and what they mean for my understanding of who God is. The Holy Spirit is just as close as he would be if I was proclaiming the Gospel in a country hostile to the Gospel. Instead of preaching to crowds, I teach biblical studies to small classes of five students. I don’t see miracles on a weekly basis, but what I do have is the privilege of journeying alongside a small group of teenagers from my church, and seeing them continue to grow in their own journeys of faith and discipleship. I don’t see miracles of healing, and dramatic conversions, on any sort of regular basis, but I do encounter the goodness and kindness of God on a daily level.

So God is good… and I am slowly learning…

I am learning that God is with me, bringing life and growth and fruit where I least expect it. I continue to discover that regardless of where I worship and work, the Spirit is still present and active. I’m becoming more confident that God is at work in the unseen places of my heart, even when I don’t realize it. I’m still not a hundred percent sure why I have been called into my particular journey, but I do know this: God is working all things out for good, according to his plan, not to mine… and that position of quiet trust is all that is required from me.


About the Author:

Kate Dugdale Bio PicKate spends most of her time in Nelson as a PhD student and teaching theology. When not studying, she can most often be found either drinking a vanilla latte, dreaming about making a perfect cupcake, or trying not to fall off her mountain bike.