I can’t believe it’s been almost a year.
A year away from full time ministry
A year away from a full time profession.
I’ve heard stories.
I’ve read stories.
Stories of abundance growing from a mustard seed.
Stories of finding treasures in trash.
Stories of oasis in the desert.
I have never lived that story.
I have lived the story of life growing from death.
Beauty emerging from destruction.
Phoenix rising from ash.
As redemptive as these stories were, I always felt I need to strive to achieve them. To offer my blood, sweat, and tears to earn them.
This year I have lived a different story.
Almost a year in the wilderness, I believe my life is more full, more whole, more abundant than I ever dreamed possible. I have heard these stories. And I have read them. But the cynic in me thought they were just that. Stories.
Today I find myself at the crossroads of paradox. And I don’t know quite what to make of it. I have survived in the wilderness by working in the secular world and ministering on the margins. I have to say this year has opened me to the joy and challenge of tent-making ministry. A year that has challenged by assumptions and sureness. A year that invites me to continue to listen for the Holy.
There has been so much in this year. So much I still need to wrestle with before I can claim my new name. In the same breath, one of the lessons I have learned is that writing my wrestling–putting it out there–is part of the process of living into life. Part of the reality of incarnating a world that might only live in my head. So here is a very rough and raw list of my current wrestling:
• My secular job is currently in the fastener industry. This field is known to be masculine and “red neck.” Both of these stereotypes I have seen to be true. At the same time, from an “employee” perspective, I have been better treated in this position than in either of my paid ministry positions. I have also witnessed similar treatment of other employees.
• I recently officiated a funeral at a church that has proudly left the United Church of Christ. We sang from the red E&R Hymnal, and the desire was to spend a lot of time looking back and staring at a golden past that I’m not sure ever really existed. This community seeks a spiritual leader and invited me to return. Inside myself, I want to run in the opposite direction.
• In the same week I officiated the wedding of a couple that is deeply spiritual. Both were raised in the church and currently do not have a church home. The guests at the wedding were ethnically, socio-economically, and religiously more diverse than the community I studied with in seminary. I experienced “church” and “worship” celebrating their wedding. This “spiritual but not religious” couple has both a community and a devoted sense of justice.
Honestly, I don’t know what to make of the above bullets. I have been anti-industry for so long, I don’t remember a time I was pro-industry. I have wrestled with the institution of church for a long time. But at the end of the day, I have been an advocate. I serve. I show up. I speak. I affirm that we are both spiritual and religious. I believe in the need for community. Accountability. Generational Wisdom. And yet somehow, I feel called to step out beyond the great beyond. A call to venture into a land unknown and uncharted. As much as I hate to write these words, I feel a call to be a voice in the wilderness.