Staring at yourself in a mirror
by Loreen Petzing –
The following is the speech delivered by Cadet Loreen Petzing at the commencement service held Friday, June 12. It has been slightly edited for publication.
As I prepared to enter the College for Officer Training, a friend and seasoned officer told me, “Training college is like staring at yourself in a mirror for two years.” At first, I wondered what she meant, but 22 months ago, when we entered as a session, it became clear. In this place, one’s strengths and weaknesses become obvious. And as we’ve stared into our mirrors for these past two years, we have learned many things—academically, personally and spiritually.
The training college gave us an education. We learned what it means to be a Salvation Army officer. It taught us how to lead worship; to think critically about our personal theology; to counsel men, women and children in our congregations and above all, to love them as Christ loves them.
Education is not always easy. It stretches us in uncomfortable ways because our past beliefs don’t always fit our new knowledge. We came in with ideas that seemed to fit well, but as we learned more it was clear that they didn’t. So we learned a new thing, a new way or a new theology that fit better.
We leave this place with the education that we’ve spent long nights and countless cups of coffee pursuing. It will serve us well in our ministries, our appointments and our continuing education.
We’ll remember that we must know the questions before we can learn the answers. And it’s only when we ask those questions that we’re able to come to any semblance of an answer.
We received not only a vital academic education, but also an education in ourselves. We came in as people certain of who we were and why we were here. Continually looking at ourselves in the mirror, we began to understand these things in a new way. We weren’t bad people when we entered, but we’re no longer the soldiers we were. We came to a new realization of what it means to be an officer. We discovered our struggles and strengths. By understanding more completely who we are and who God created us to be, we are able to minister to others in a way that can show Christ’s love to them without measure and we can treat them as they truly are—children of God.
A spiritual life has its ebbs and flows. Training college is no different. We developed a deeper knowledge of who God is in our lives, in the life of The Salvation Army and in the lives of those we serve.
There were times we wondered if we were walking it on our own, but those feelings were just that—feelings. God never leaves us, and we experienced even greater times when God was so near and so real that we understood his faithfulness in a new way.
God looked into our mirror with us. He built us up where he wanted to strengthen us and refined our words and actions. Sometimes this is painful, but we believe that he knows best. He asks us to remain this way: ready and willing to become who he desires us to be.
Let’s never forget why we came here. Sometimes we must separate from family, friends and familiar places for something new, leaving behind the known and becoming open to change. It’s in these times that God takes our knowledge and burns it deep into our understanding of what he has called us to be.
When God looks at us in the mirror, he doesn’t see our flaws and failures that seem so glaring to us; he sees us as he created us to be. And as we go, we take one more step towards becoming those people he sees in us.