After Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, Presiding Prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District, appointed me as the Pastor of Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church-Atlanta, a sense of peace came over my spirit. Not the peace that comes from knowing and finally being able to smile about it. It was the epiphany that there is purpose in slammed doors.
I know this may seem a bit dramatic, but I am very clear that since I was a little girl and taught Summer School in my basement to my friends from the Walt Disney World Book Encyclopedia, I have always declared that I was not only going to teach but that my destiny was to be a principal. It was not only something that I felt in my spirit, but also it was assumed when others saw me in any educational setting, colleagues, friends, and family declared it. I was a student-teacher mentor in my 3rd year of teaching. My destiny was to lead somebody's school somewhere. As some would say, "I got it honest." I grew up in school buildings and not only because I was a student. My parents were educators. My great-aunt and several cousins were gifted educators in their own right). My godmother served as a principal, Assistant Superintendent of Baltimore City Public Schools, and even started a middle school for boys after retirement. My best friend's mom and aunt (both educators, mind you) would always say, "Susan is a "Teaching Teacher."
I have been nominated or won civic, local school-based, school district, and national honors as an educator. I was on the right path, walking in my giftedness, and the next step was for me to become a principal.
I applied and journeyed as a viable candidate for a position—one of the top two. I was not selected. I was absolutely devastated. I could not understand how my entire life was education, and I had the acumen. I even compared myself with others I had seen become principal throughout my years, and I knew I was just as if not more qualified and more anointed for the position. Nevertheless, I was not selected, and I was devastated. I learned that I was not selected for the position because I had no actual administrative experience.
So, I became an assistant principal for three years in the same building serving under five different leaders (principals and interim principals. Go figure!). At one point, an interim principal asked the assistant principals if we would want the job as principal since it appeared that the hiring was not going well. When we said yes, our interim principal laughed and said, "Lord, we are scraping the bottom of the barrel." We all laughed, but it added insult to the devastation that I felt. I could not understand why God had taken me on such a productive and successful path, only for me to find so many slammed doors. I was then non-renewed as an assistant principal the next year, and God returned me to my first loves—the classroom and the students. It was the most invigorated I had felt as an educator in several years, and the "Teaching Teacher" emerged. However, it was evident that I was a fish out of water.
One Good Friday, I did not report to work, but I did take off to be the worship leader for the AME Atlanta Ministerial Alliance Seven Last Sayings of Christ service. Unbeknownst to me, the minister who was to do the seventh word left during the fourth word. As the worship leader, the call to preach the seventh word fell to me. The sermon: Let the Spirit Take Control. I retired from education that summer and became the Pastor of Allen Temple AME Church and now serve as the first woman in the church's 154-year history and the first woman to be a lead pastor in the AME Church in the Atlanta North Georgia Conference. The Spirit took control.
Now I see it! All of the gifts I honed formally as an educator are now intently relevant on a larger community scale.
Often, and effusively, we declare, God "causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those whom God calls according to God's purpose" (Romans 8:28). I know I am not alone. Perhaps you can look back and see—and hear—the doors slamming along the path, but through the grace and mercy of hindsight, you can now see how those doors were hastening you to the purpose God had for you.
I am by no means where I thought I would be; however, I am where God had in mind for me in this season. I am empowered all the more by the journey that brought me here.