There was no gnashing of teeth or rending of clothes.
No wailing or fits of anger.
But I have experienced an overwhelming sadness. No scratch that. It's not sadness really. But more of a desolateness. A desert time...
I met with the 4 examiners on Friday morning. Each one kind, gracious and welcoming. Basically, the "alternative" exam turned out to be the same written exam everyone gets, but the examiners got to ask follow up questions, clarifying questions, etc. Again, I reiterate, everyone was extremely kind. At the end of the 2+ hours, they all retreated to another room while I waited. After the first 20 minutes, I realized it was all over. I've seen enough Law and Order episodes to know that when juries deliberate too long, it ain't good news.
When they all returned, they had that peculiar expression on their faces - a mixture of sympathy and concern. I was done for.
I wish I could remember everything they said. All four took turns giving me their impressions and reasons why I wasn't "passed". But the message was pretty uniform and as I can best recall it it went something like this:
'Although it is plainly evident that you have a pastor's heart and any church would be blessed to have you serve it, you do not easily use the reformed language to express your theology.'
They then went on to give the example that I had not used the term "sovereignty of God".
All I could think of at that moment was, "but I talked about the omniscience and transcendence of God, I talked about God working in and through everything and everyone to ultimately bring about completion in the fullness of time..." Regardless, I had not delivered what they were they were looking for.
Two of the examiners, local theology professors, offered to meet with me and provide tutoring. Everyone commented on my call to ministry; according to them obvious, infectious and effervescent. And all encouraged me to not give up, to try again, to push forward.
And then we all prayed while I wept.