Five years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Middle East. I spent three weeks traveling through Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and Greece with seminary students and some really awesome laity. While we were in Jerusalem, we had the opportunity to do a little shopping in the markets. Several of us went to a little store with lovely hand-embroidered textile products, where we found stoles for sale. I purchased two stoles, one for the pastor of my home church, and one for myself. It was a bit of a gamble, purchasing a stole for myself before I'd even finished seminary, but I decided there would be no better place to get a stole than in the place where Christianity began.
I took the stole back to Atlanta with me. But as I began writing my commissioning papers, I started getting anxious. It's an arduous process, and many candidates get delayed or even removed entirely. I was worried, and the stole seemed like too much pressure. I was afraid I'd never get to wear it. So I hid it from myself. I stashed it in a box and put it out of my mind.
I passed my provisional interviews, moved to Virginia, and started serving a church. As a provisional elder, though, I did not have the authority to wear a stole. For three years, I led worship in a plain robe. After three years of ministry, I was finally eligible to apply for ordination. I wrote another set of papers, survived round of interviews, and was recommended for ordination. I was ecstatic, and I knew I'd finally get to wear the stole from Jerusalem. Except, I couldn't find it.
I am, apparently, very good at hiding things from myself. I searched everywhere in my apartment. I had my parents search my room at their house. For months, I couldn't find it. I got ordained and had the opportunity to wear stoles for each liturgical season: Green for ordinary time, purple for Lent, white and gold for Christmas. But each communion Sunday, I would think of that Jerusalem stole. I would wonder where I'd put it and wish I could wear it. After almost nine months, I gave up the search.
Then, this week, several of my friends passed their ordination interviews. I spent this evening celebrating with one of them. When I got home, I had an epiphany. I remembered one last place where the stole might be. I looked in a closet, in a box within a box, and THERE IT WAS! Apparently, the stole was waiting for my friends to be approved for ordination.
So this Sunday, FINALLY, after five years of waiting, I'll get to wear my Jerusalem stole. I'll preside at the table wearing my much-anticipated white communion stole. And I must say, I'm pretty excited about that.