When I first sensed my call to ministry I was 16.
Now I’m 30.
My call is the same now as it was then… and yet it’s completely and utterly different. Now that I’m 30, I’ve finished puberty (thank God), graduated high school, college and grad-school, had a couple jobs and gotten married (no kids yet).
That same call is different now not merely because I’ve lived life, it’s also because I’m asking different questions about myself, the world and my relation to it. My meaning-making is totally different now than it used to be and it will continue to change.
When I was a teenager I was wrestling with the same question all teens ask, “Who am I?” It’s the lens through which any teen sees the world, I was figuring out who I was and who I was not. So of course the questions about my call would be directly related to the issue of identity.
Just as a kid wanting to be a doctor or teacher is figuring out how to be who they are, I was doing likewise with my call: when do I start working to become who I am (a pastor) and how do I do it?
Coupled with the practical questions of stepping into and living out an identity was the question of what does it mean for me to be called in relation to everyone else? After all, wanting to become a doctor or teacher is one thing, but pastor… in high school that was “weird” (and still kinda is). I was weird enough in high school, how much weirder was it for me to also want to be
an old white guy a pastor?
Understanding myself and my call in high school really came down to the question of, “If this is who I am, am I okay with it? Am I okay with being weird and atypical?”
The answer was yes. I am okay with enjoying God’s belovedness and being called to something more in that.
I wouldn’t say I relished it then like I do now, but there was a strange warmth in knowing that as my identity.
But that seems like ages ago now.
I’ve not dealt with that identity crisis for a while. I am me and I am called; now I’m dealing with a different identity crisis: “How do I belong?”
Being who I am, I am attempting to determine who I associate with and how to do that. It’s a totally different way of meaning-making from “Who am I?”
There are several threads to this question of belonging.
The question of who I must associate with: parishioners, colleagues, the denominational structure and pretty much everyone else.
And the question of how I associate with them: according to cultural and structural norms, according to my personality.
These threads of belonging can get tangled. For me, figuring out how to be myself among various relationships while also navigating cultural and structural norms… Well, let’s just say, I found it to be a college student working as a courier. My role and expectations in relation to my boss and everyone else were simple and pretty stream lined.
For various reasons though, the transition into the role and norms of “pastor” hasn’t been as simple. I don’t know how I could have been prepared for it, but I just sort of rolled with it. Fake it till you make it, they say.
Yet, in addition to belonging is the added question of “How am I called?” How am I called to be in those various associations? How am I called to be pastor to my church, to my colleagues, to my denomination, to the world at large?
You could also phrase it as, “How does my being and my influence to what and how I’m called.”
Not knowing how to associate feels like always being on the outside looking in. In wondering how to belong is the crisis of feeling totally isolated. But, lucky for me, this is all incredibly age appropriate! (I know this thanks to my education, go education!) Figuring out belonging and feeling isolated is what the whole #adulting thing is about.
I am beloved and called to that, and the more I #adult the more I take the authority that comes with that call. I am to call others to the reality their own belovedness in God and I am to called to guide them in spreading the message of our belovedness.
Eventually, one day, I’ll begin wrestling more with the practicalities of “doing” that call. But it is not this day. There’s inklings of it now, but my guess is that it will start in earnest in a few more years (go education!). Frankly, trying to figure out how to be called like this is enough for now. And I’m satisfied with the work I’ve been doing.
I’m satisfied knowing that I am beloved and I am called to something more in that.
I’m satisfied knowing that by knowing my own belovedness and being called to it means that my job is to help others see God desire for them and to lead them in efforts that help the community see it as well.
For now I’m satisfied with this meaning I’ve made.