There was a point in my life where I felt strongly about my call to ministry. I knew it was what I wanted to do. It was what I studied for and it was what I was pursuing.
These days I’m not as sure any more. Maybe it’s been the disappointments that I’ve faced over the last 10+ years that I’ve been in ministry (in some form or another). Maybe it’s that I’m not really called to ministry. Maybe it’s just the fact that I haven’t found my “place” in the ministry world.
I’m broken, beat up, and scarred. And the longest stint I’ve done is 18months in ministry. And that was technically “part-time”. I know many the pastors who are beat up after years of being in full-time ministry, and need healing and reconciliation.
I’m not saying I fully know what it is like to experience the hurt that comes from giving years of your life to a congregation then to be hung on a cross by them. Though more and more I’m wondering if I would be able to go through such an ordeal.
In my preparation for ministry I have made it a point to deeply know those who are in active ministry. To learn from them, to listen to them and to be a friend to them. Many of my closest friends and people who I cherish deeply are pastors (or were pastors). Maybe it’s because I am too deeply involved with this group of people, that I hear the stories of hurt, betrayal, and loss that comes with being in full-time ministry. Maybe I am scaring myself too much. Or maybe I am too aware of the reality that awaits me if I choose to live a life of service to others in a church setting.
The reality is, that I don’t want to enter into ministry unless I am sure it’s what I am being called to. I don’t want to go to seminary unless I know I am going to use it to it’s fullest.
Is it a cop-out? Maybe. Is it truth? Yes.
Too often I have heard the phrase “If there’s anything else in the world you want to do that is NOT ministry and you enjoy it, then do it.” Some days that rings true. And some days I know how hard ministry is. I’ve been there myself and I’ve seen what it has done to others and I want nothing to do with it. I have enough hurt and misgivings in my own life. Do I really want to voluntarily subject myself to it as my job.
I know there are great rewards for self-sacrifice. And I whole-heartily believe it is the best possible way for one to live their life. Serving God and serving others is the end goal for man. I love doing it, when it’s at it’s best. I really love the satisfaction that I get from knowing that I’m investing in others, and I mean that in the least self-serving way possible.
Yet I have deep doubts and reservations. I have people affirming gifts in me. I know enough to do it. Yet I do not feel it deep down. At least for now.
Which brings me back to the idea of discerning the sense of call. If I am to truly and fully understand the principal of a call then it is doing the work that God sets forth for us. Each individually and specifically. How much is our call based on our participation in the process? Do we really ever get to a point where we know “this” is what we should be doing and brings us the most fulfillment. Isn’t that what a call is about, fulfillment, both in the sense of knowing what we are supposed to be doing and receiving joy in doing it? Or can we be called to do things that bring us no satisfaction?
I know part of the process of entering into ministry (at least through the Presbyterian means) is the committee on ministry being the discerning body that examines a candidate and evaluates their sense of call. I know of committees that have let people through they probably shouldn’t have and then I know of committees that have denied people that I think have a great call. Just one more reason I’m not ready to subject myself to such things.
I’m putting my call on hold. I’m not giving up on it. I’m not stopping thinking about it. I just want to be sure about what I’m getting into. That doesn’t mean, others will stop prodding me about it, or that I will heed every piece of advice that I’m given. I really want to understand a sense of peace about the situation. There are still too many questions and “what ifs” in my head. I’m still searching for my sense of belonging and still searching for my “place” within the ministry structure and the church structure. While I value the journey of getting places, I still find a underlying need to have a sense of destination. Correct me if I am wrong, but off the top of my head, I can’t think of a time when God called someone without having a destination or goal for them.
This is where I stand. Exactly where I am. Straining to hear. Desperately wanting to hear. That thin, faint voice of the God who created me.