Dropped Calls

I really hate surprises.

This has always been part of my personality, which has led to much frustration when my family surprises me with gifts or announcements or something and my first reaction is that I don’t like them, I’ve never liked them, not even the “good” surprises.  I want to know what’s coming next and be prepared for it; I want to know the details of an upcoming thing so I don’t come up with something different and get disappointed.  It’s a terribly selfish thing, but I don’t like surprises.

It is terribly unfortunate, then, to have gone out to dinner this past week with a friend of mine and gotten two rather major surprises, neither pleasant even by normal people’s standards.  Both, directly and indirectly, had to do with realizing that I don’t have a bleeding clue what I’m getting into by saying yes, I want to go to seminary and be a minister.  Several people have tried to warn me and I kept saying that’s okay, I feel this Call, God will not bring me to something and then leave.

Unless this particular service Provider is One Who drops Calls.

Don’t worry; this isn’t me calling the whole thing off and skipping ministry, not least because I’m not sure I even could turn that battleship around right now if I tried.  But it is the nasty shock of actually hearing all of the people who have been saying that ministry is not what I think it is, that seminary will not adequately train me for it, that there is no God in ministry and only the pettiness of people.  Many have said these sorts of things to me, but I’ve not been hearing them.  But in this moment of doubt, I see their points—why am I going to seminary if nothing I’m going to do in ministry is taught there?  Why am I reading the Call of God as one to an inherently people-driven vocation when I am quite frank about not actually liking people all that much?  Have I, despite myself and my best efforts at being aware and observant, been viewing this career through rose-tinted glasses?

I don’t know.  I don’t know and that freaks me out because it’s a bit late in the game to have these kinds of doubts, but I also know that not doubting is somehow worse.  If there’s one thing this blog can serve to do, Reader, it’s allow you to see that those in the professional ministry—or training to be so—aren’t perfect.  There is no straight line to God, no red phone with perfect coverage and never any static.  We don’t have an inside track…and maybe my future self needs to hear that as much as you might.  To doubt is awful, but to share that doubt in a public forum locked into the eternity of the Internet is horrifying because I want to reassure you and myself that that I am fine, that this is fine, that there is no problem with going forward into this incredibly daunting career that will demand more than I can ever give.  I want to say that ministry is everything I want to do.

And in some senses, I can; don’t worry, I remember how I got this far and I definitely remember the whispers and shouts of God calling my name.  There are weekly moments of ministry that show me the God spark, the living Spirit continually drawing us to Herself.  And I do still believe that God would not bring me this far only to scamper off without me.

But some weeks there is static in this Call.  Some weeks important words get lost; some weeks it feels as though God hung up without telling me.  Some weeks I look at this new career and see only that it will take everything I have and more that I’ve never even known I should offer.  These are hard moments because no one wants to be uncertain about these sorts of things.  We want to know that we are doing what we are meant to do; we want to say we have heard our call clearly and are going in the right direction.

Yet there are tunnels that interrupt service.  There are random flocks of geese and broken towers because humans are weird and hard and a perfect God working with imperfect people is bound to get messy.  I can’t tell you that some wondrous thing happened to restore my faith in myself and in everything about ministry, but I can tell you that one of my high schoolers had a hell of a week and just needed a hug that I could provide yesterday.  I can tell you that that one of the awful pieces of information I got prompted me to reconnect with a friend and understand that his life fell apart but he’s still pressing on in trust in God.  I can tell you that there will totally be all of the frustrating and utterly human pieces of ministry, but they will not be all of it.  Sometimes I will hear the Call loud and clear, and for now that is enough.

I hope.

I’ve never much liked the phone, either.

 

 

Not at all! The word is very close to you. It’s in your mouth and in your heart, waiting for you to do it.  (Deuteronomy 30:14, CEB)

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3 thoughts on “Dropped Calls

  1. Sheila Bigelow says:

    Okay, I laughed out loud at the last line: I’ve never liked the phone either, although I’ve pretty well gotten over that phobia.  When we were frist married, I even made Gary call the hairdresser and the gynecologist to make my appointments.  It’s a wonder we’re still married.  (And yesterday I managed to put a major scratch/dent in the “new” car without even being in it.  Gary just asked how it happened and then called our favorite body shop.  We should have them on speed dial.) No question that what you are embarking on will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, and you’ve faced many challenges.  I also know someone who felt a profound call to ministry, exhibited, exceptional pastoral skills, and then found the path to ordination blocked.  I have heard that in the first year of seminary they break down every belief you ever had and then rebuild (this is strictly hearsay on my part).   I also do believe in your call.  I see the gifts you bring to so my people in so many settings.  It is good that you are so self-aware, because you are going to have to shield yourself in some situations.  But look at it this way:  you found a way to deal with Leadership Team this week, without loosing your sense of humor or perspective.  You’ve got this, and we’ve got your back.  You are loved.  Sheila

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  2. I don’t like talking on the phone at all. That, I suppose, is why I work in a call center. AND I have to listen to recordings of myself and critique my own performance.

    Sorry about the digression. I’m glad you’ve got this blog, because it’s been a great place for you to sort all this out. I don’t know if you ever look back over past entries, but I think it would be interesting to do so. As I recall, you’ve been pretty honest about these concerns all along the way. It’s been a pilgrimage — a holy journey — and you have honored us by sharing it with us.

    I love the stories of the Grail Quest, especially in Malory’s Morte D’Arthur. Maps are useless there, and all the knights who were so good and brave and cunning are suddenly worthless when they go out in search of the Grail. The pettiest things detain them. Gawain is bored. Launcelot has to wade through mud. It’s an amazing leveler, this Quest. It brings us all low — lower than we ever thought we’d be. And to what end? To glimpse a cup? No. . .

    The whole point of the Grail Quest is what it does to US — how it takes us apart, from the inside out, and recreates us. Unfortunately, many of Arthur’s knights aren’t cut out for such things. They regret the time they’ve spent searching for the Grail. Some of them are worse off as a result. The downfall of Camelot can be traced to that Grail Quest and the fact that so many of Arthur’s knights should never have set out to find it in the first place.

    You have been on that Quest for quite a while now, and it matters not whether your journey takes you to seminary or anywhere else. Wherever you go, you’ll be in pursuit of that Grail Castle, which no one can find merely by searching.

    I only hope that you will continue to welcome other travelers to share the journey with you, as you have done in this blog, for that has been a quiet kind of ministry that you’ve been giving all along.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually look back over old entries a lot, and I’m also super glad I’ve kept up with this blog because it is such a gift to see all of the places that have been struggles overcome but also all of the places I keep falling into the same holes and fighting the same fights. Knowing I didn’t just suddenly make up a lot of my understandings of faith (and seeing in what ways I’ve grown in them) is an incredible thing. And I’m so glad you’ve come along with me on this, Magister. Thank you always for your encouragement and your viewpoint that allows me to see what this is for others as well as myself.

      Liked by 1 person

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