By Linda Hall
As a young adult, I was privileged to be a spectator of textbook history, seeing up-close-and-personal a member of one of America’s most prominent, and certainly most inspirational and influential, families. The backdrop was an internship and then official employment in the Washington, D.C., office of Senator Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy (D-Mass) during a two-year time period, 1973-1975. It was a national, and even a global, position, as the senator’s leadership in the United States Senate grew in scope.
His recent death caused me to review that time in my personal history and God’s hand in it. He gave me what I believed to be the desires of my heart, and they came up short. Even so, I will always treasure the time I spent in Washington, D.C., the small part I played in Senator Kennedy’s office, and the people I met there, including the Senator himself.
Looking back on my original profession of faith at the age of 13, I recognize it may have been rather lukewarm and driven by others who cared about me – my mother, whose health issues prevented her from attending church, but who professed her faith in the Lord; and an aunt who took me with her to church, first to the Wooster Baptist Temple and then to what was then the First Brethren Church on Burbank Road in Wooster, Ohio.
My mother’s ill health through much of my childhood and her death at the age of 50, when I was 17, tested my faith and found it lacking.
As a student at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, I pursued a path of my own making. I transferred my allegiance from my childhood heroes – John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy – to Senator Ted Kennedy.
A political science and history major, I attended the Washington Semester Program at American University in Washington, D.C., and then transferred temporarily to George Washington University so I could continue the job I had garnered in Ted Kennedy’s office. My dream was to rise in the ranks from a mail clerk and receptionist to a caseworker or legislative aide.
I quickly discovered how enticing life in a big city could be, how glamorous it was to be envied because of the person for whom I worked, and how easily I could put aside values I learned as a child in favor of questionable ways of spending my time. I do not blame my failure to live as a Christian on Senator Kennedy or anyone else in his office, but on my own “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and boastful pride of life.”
Years later, I told my children, when they wondered why I left behind a seemingly auspicious career start-up in Washington, D.C., to return home, that the opportunity to develop a career on Capitol Hill might have worked better for someone more spiritually grounded than I was at the time.
God’s plan was to use the life I had believed would fulfill and complete me to highlight a void in the very depths of my soul. He spoke in a still, small voice, which I recall as almost reverberating through my head, to make me question whether He had something else, something much better, planned for me.
The rest is history, as people like to say. I made a recommitment to follow the Lord at the Grace Brethren Church in Ashland, Ohio, where I met my husband, Jonathan. (He had completed an internship there and was attending Ashland Theological Seminary.) Although we have served in several churches across the country, we have returned to that congregation, where Jonathan now serves as an assistant pastor.
I appreciate the time I spent in Washington, D.C., getting to know people, including Ted Kennedy, who diligently pursued their convictions. While at times their ideals differed from mine, they provided role models of service to their country. On the other hand, I am eternally grateful that the Lord intervened in my life, teaching me to cling to the only One whose leadership is completely trustworthy and without blemish. As most Christians recognize, it is an ongoing lesson.
(Editor’s Note: Linda Hall is the education reporter for the Wooster, Ohio, Daily Record. She is a member of the Grace Brethren Church, Ashland, Ohio, where her husband, Jonathan, is an assistant pastor. The couple has four adult children, including Andrea, who is married to a United Methodist pastor, Phil Hoverstock, and they have two children, Callie and Kirsten; and Christina; Melinda; and Justin.)