My apologies for missing last week and not letting you know, Reader; I was off visiting another seminary and just got crunched by the pieces of planning travelling, so I forgot to mention the absence. But I’m back! And I have good news! I met with the Regional Committe on People Who Are Considering Ministry and they interviewed me to see if they wanted to support my endeavors toward ordination. They do! I’m official within the denomination! This is very cool, and terribly frightening, and extremely exciting, and utterly nerve-wracking. It’s real now, and getting real-er as I start pulling myself together to apply to seminary. ZOMG, READER.
Since things are rolling on this, of course I stop and question everything (we all need hobbies). And one thing I’ve been mulling over ever since that meeting is the thought I had that “great, now I’m official.”
Here’s where I’m getting hung up: in Christianity, we’re quite fond of poking sticks into “I am” statements. After all, when Moses asked God whose name he should be dropping when he challenged Pharoah, God said, “I am who I am.” That’s it—that’s the officially official name we have for God, simply a statement of being. You have to admire His style, really, and His characteristic refusal to give a straight answer. *sigh* And then Jesus comes along and has all these wacky “I am” statements like “I am the way,” or “I am the Bread of Life,” or “I am the good shepherd,” and others when He clearly was not a road, a loaf, or a guy with sheep.
So when we say “I am” whatever, we’re very much naming ourselves. I balked terribly when I took the job I have now at saying “I am an office manager” because that wasn’t who I was, it was what I did. “My job is” I would say instead, desperate that I had not become an office worker, that I was more than sitting in front of a computer for other people. Yet in this affirmation of my call, I find myself thinking “I am a candidate,” “I am a minister” (in training), “I am a seminary applicant.”
Do you see where I’m getting stuck? At the end of the day, yes, pastoral ministry is a calling and is much more than “just” a job, but it is a job. It is something that will eat me alive if I don’t remember that I am whole and human outside of this job title, outside of this aspect of myself. I worry that I’m reacting to all of what I don’t want to be right now by saying I will be all of this other thing, this new career and opportunity and life that I do honestly want and am very excited about. Yet I will be just as burnt out by losing myself in that job as I would be if I did so in this; I have to be much more than that, especially if I want any leg to stand on to be annoyed when future congregants only see the stole and not the person wearing it. I can’t in any sense be frustrated with their assumption that I am every cardboard cut-out stereotype of pastoral ministry if my primary concept of myself is “I am a pastor.”
I think I’m just using this space and your patience, Reader, to tell my future self to have a hobby. It’s as simple as that, I think, and as complicated as that, to remind myself that on Thursdays I love to watch a Sherlock Holmes show and on Sundays I appreciate American football and in between I like to knit and do calligraphy and write fantasy novels and listen to records with all the lights off, and a thousand other little things that make me different from anybody else and also that aren’t necessarily pastoral. They will be pastoral because I will be and all of that is part of me, but the syllogism only works one direction. (Did I get that right, Magister?)
It is so good to have this next step open up in this journey, Reader, and I so very much appreciate your support and efforts in holding me accountable in it. From this very beginning I need to remember that sure, I am transitioning into a new career, but the only important “being” statement I should ever cling to is that I am a child of God.
The rest is flourishes.
What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it – we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are. (1 John 3:1a-b, MSG)