This week’s Lenten Reflection is written by Tad Hopp, who served as a YAV in Chicago (2010-2011) doing ministry at a local church with the homeless LGBTQ population. He is currently in his third year of the MDIV program at San Francisco Theological Seminary with hopes to be ordained in the PC(USA).

I kept saying No. I refused to go. I had other dreams, other plans, other interests so I kept putting it on hold. What is the “it” you might be asking? The it, in this case, was the decision to pursue becoming a minister. I kept making excuses for why it couldn’t or shouldn’t or wouldn’t be me. I wanted to be a professional actor. I wanted to become a lawyer. I am openly gay and couldn’t be ordained anyway so why even bother. Then, something happened.

I decided not to finish my applications to law school and instead do something else. I applied for YAV. I ended up in a brand new city living with a bunch of people I had never met. I ended up working at a church. I ended up doing ministry without even realizing I was doing it. I found myself doing the difficult but necessary work of discernment. It was during my YAV year that I decided not to become a professional actor. I realized that that world wasn’t for me. I also realized I didn’t want to be a lawyer.

This meant I had to find a new career path. I had to make a new choice. This was when I finally stopped saying No to God. I decided to follow the path that God had set out for me all along. I decided to pursue seminary and ordination.

Without my YAV year, I might have never done the hard work of discernment and might never have ended up in seminary. Just thinking about where my life could have ended up makes me realize how fortunate I am to have done the hard work of discerning the correct path for my life. Seminary has been a blessing in my life. One that I am grateful for every day. I might not be here studying the Bible, preaching and being a pastoral presence to others had I not done a YAV year.

Discernment is a difficult and sometimes heart-wrenching process. It required me to give up some long held dreams. It required me to make some difficult decisions. It forced me to confront my own internal fears about becoming a pastor. Yet, it also resulted in me ending up in the exact right place I needed to be. What happened when I finally said Yes to God? My life was blessed in so many immeasurable ways.

I’ll always remain grateful to YAV for allowing me the chance to finally say Yes. Yes to opportunities. Yes to life. Yes to God. I encourage you to spend some time this Lenten season discerning where you might need to say Yes. Then, do it. Say Yes. You might just be surprised where it will take you.