I struggle deeply in those in-between times of the year, the Lenten fasting, the Advent waiting. The call nags and pokes me, but most church seasons I can stay so busy with ministry ‘stuff’ that I can push it to the back of my mind. Christmas? Easter? No problem, I can get wrapped up in children’s programs, youth service projects and family obligations. I’m busy, I’m clearly needed, I’m where I’m needed to be, just wait. But these time of year, the between times, I’m talking, leading, teaching awareness, taking time to be attentive to God’s presence. Why can’t I practice it myself?
Because I’m afraid, afraid that the nagging, poking, whisper of God’s call will get violent. The Holy Spirit isn’t always known for her subtlety. What am I afraid of? I’m afraid of the reality of God’s call in my life. I talk a good talk, but can I walk the walk?
Am I ready for God’s calling to be a solo pastor? I didn’t want that vocation when I entered seminary 5 years ago. Heck, I didn’t even want it when I graduated.
The back story is this: the big dream five years ago as I sought a seminary after college was Masters of Divinity and Law degrees. I would change the world. I had the support of two loving parents. I had a home to always go home to and their constant support. But seminary is way more than most bargain for; for some it’s the classes, for others it’s the emotional vulnerability, and others it’s the pure loneliness of facing it all alone. I was in the last camp and the individual in me did not know how to handle it. I went home as often as I could. The dreams clarified, the law degree could wait.
Then everything changed. My parents moved forward with their divorce and my stability went into a tailspin, I entered my second year attempting to stand on my own. And I did; the next two years, I found my voice, my circle of support, and I reset my relationship with my parents. Becoming an ordained minster didn’t seem so far fetched. The Holy Spirit was steering me in a new direction. I could do it but as an Associate, there would be others to share the load.
Then I entered the search process, and for any Presbyterians going through the process recently, you know it’s rough. It’s feast or famine. Churches get excited about the initial contact but then they don’t call, they don’t write. So I widened what I could be doing ministry in and what ministry meant; ordination could wait.
A good fit came, I saw myself being part of the ministry of a wonderful church. The beneficial sharing of gifts and growth in Christ truly flourished as I worked as a Director of Christian Education. Staying busy was key, and as I stated earlier, it could all be pushed to the back of my mind.
But the Holy Spirit wasn’t done with me, and the nudges came at inconvenient times. Youth gathered at Montreat, and I felt like the sermons were directed right at me! The opportunities to preach left me aching for more. Then a new interim minister walked in and figuratively grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me, saying, “You are ready, what are you afraid of?”
It took those between times to truly recognize the gift of new beginning, I’m ready to give up that fear. The fear I’m not equipped to be a pastor, especially a solo pastor. I am standing up to the fear of failure. The fear I will never have a home again. I am capable of all that God has called me to do and what I have is enough. I am never alone.
Editor’s Note: Are you a young woman discerning a call to ministry? Tell us your story: email alongtheway(dot)ycw(at)gmail(dot)com for submission guidelines.