When Things Aren't What You Expect
In December of 2009 I began my first full-time position in the church, and I was excited to take this next step in my journey through ministry. It was while working here over the next 18 months that I completed my clinical pastoral education (on top of working), planned a wedding, got married, and survived my first foot surgery. It was while working with the middle and high school students that I was able to give the all time that I had wanted to give youth (that I knew they needed). It was while working at this church that I began to question my call to parrish (church) ministry and my time spent in seminary.
Through months of discernment, tears, and tough conversations with my husband and mentors, I realized that my calling wasn't exactly what I thought it was or should be. My call wasn't cookie cutter like my seminary classmates. My call wasn't that I should be confined to the four walls of a church. I wasn't completely sure how it would all shake out, but I knew I needed to do something different. In May of 2011 I resigned from my position at the church to begin something new. In those moments I was afraid that my seminary degree was a waste if I wasn't working in a church, but had to trust what would happen next.
Over the next few years I spent time doing work similar and unlike anything I ever had before. I briefly went back to teaching at the preschool I had worked at through college and my first semester of seminary. I loved working with the children, but the LOW salary wasn't something I could live with long-term. Hats off to those making a career in early childhood, because you survive on pennies! In January of 2012, I began a new chapter for myself. I moved into the not-for--profit sector where I realized that all my education and career experience wasn't for naught. I might not use my biblical and theological (seminary) training in my day-to-day work, but the other skills (public speaking, conflict resolution, listening and caring, etc.) I gained were invaluable. In my personal time, I was able to give back to my church using my biblical and theological training through teaching and leading small groups.
Throughout all of this, I continued through the ordination process of the PCUSA. I did everything I needed to do to get ordained, EXCEPT the last two steps (getting certified ready to receive a call and finding a call). Many move from one step to the next without a pause, but I personally wouldn't allow myself to get certified until I knew exactly and where God was calling me to serve. For FIVE years I continued in this process of trying to understand where and how God was calling me to serve. Through this period of discernment, my husband and I bought our "forever home" and started a family thus establishing roots firmly near our family.
In October of this year, I finally withdrew from the candidacy process for ordination. I did this not because I no longer believe God was calling me to serve. I came to realize that I was not in a place my life that I was ready to pick up and move for the chance to be ordained. You see, in the Presbyterian church, you have to have a call (a JOB) to be ordained to. Though I know the work I'm currently doing professionally and as a volunteer IS where God is calling me to be, it's not the kind for ordination. I don't know if or when this will change, but I knew it wasn't fair to the committee waiting on me and my paperwork. I cried writing that letter of resignation, but I know that this isn't the end.
I hope to share more in the future about all of this, but I'll end for now sharing some things that I've come to realize.
- Questioning my call was by no fault of the congregations I had worked with previously.
- This career journey and change did not reverse whether or not God had called me to serve.
- Questioning and discernment was and is not uncommon for many people of faith.
I'm excited to see what God has in store for me in the future.
I'm excited and grateful for where I am now, the people I work with, and the people I get to volunteer with at my church.
Being called by God is not one size fits all. God uses those around you to speak to you and guide you where you need to be in a given moment. As much as you may try to run or hide from where God is calling you, you cannot get away from the Almighty. You'll never know what's around the corner, but it's usually better than you'd expect.