Too many times I’ve felt the complications of relationships choke me. There always seems to be the dangerous line of loyalties to deal with when dating someone. Who deserves more time, the new boyfriend or the many-year friend? Would I be wrong spending more time with him than her? Does it really matter? Even if, in the end, an extra half an hour here or evening there amounts to no great stress on either of the relationships, the moment always seems to make such choices painfully serious.
I think this is one of the reasons why I’ve never been comfortable or happy in a romantic relationship. Part of my own personality wants to make everyone happy, which includes spending the desired amount of time with all of my friends as well as my new semi-significant other. But, of course, this isn’t always possible; even if it were, I would be drained of energy after a week of such a demanding schedule. Another reason why I worry so much about dating is the anticipation of guilt laid upon me by friends and boyfriend alike. If anyone knows me well enough to know guilt is my weakness and exploit it, perhaps they aren’t worthy of my time anyway. But whoever it is and whatever the circumstances, I can be counted on to feel guilty for supposedly neglecting a relationship in some area of my life. When I am romantically involved with someone, there never exists a time whenever everyone is happy. Because of this, I cannot be comfortable; I cannot be happy; I almost always feel guilty.
As I was parsing this in the bathroom this morning, working hard not to cut myself shaving, I found that the only state of true, unadulterated, unfeigned happiness that I have ever felt is when I consider ministry. Some of my friends have heard my thoughts on discernment in this area and I hate to repeat myself, but I’m finding that repetition carries its own clarity, power, and call. Something is not right in my relationship world. It never has been. Even today, I attribute this lack of comfort to elements of a specific situation. I tell myself that my friends aren’t ready for me to have a boyfriend and make him part of our familial group. Or, I recognize that boys would always be a problem in certain friendship because of things that have happened in the past, certain attachments that have made, etc. But I wonder if I avoid the over-arching truth in focusing on the details: relationships aren’t my thing.
So I stare at myself in the mirror. Am I minister material? I can’t tell you how freeing it is to think that, but—there’s always a “but” isn’t there?– which religion? Which denomination? Which congregation? What if I end up in one of the many, many churches in this country that are seemingly devoid of happiness? Would I really want to spend the rest of my life ministering there?
And then the floodgates open with thoughts of all kinds: if ministry is my call, and I make it what I am charged to make it, then there can be no dissatisfaction in a life ministering to others. Also, I should recognize that ministry takes multiple forms. Who is to say I must stay inside the confines of a church? Did Jesus? Perhaps I limit myself and curtail my happy thoughts by fearing more than enjoying. Would ministry be a challenge? Absolutely. Would it be difficult? Perhaps, and perhaps often. Would it be rewarding? That’s up to me. And ultimately, the reasoning winds around to this: if I have honestly discerned my call, then challenges and problems should not deter me from its pursuit.
What, then, about relationships? There are ways to minister officially and be in relationship with someone else. But how? And what would I have to sacrifice on either side for it? Would it lessen the integrity of either if both were lived out? These are the problems that concern me now. Not to mention the fact that my particular love of ministry is inspired by certain people in certain places that form a likely minority of ministers the world over. What are the chances I can enjoy their happy, fulfilling lives?
And so, to preclude the dangers of trouble and discomfort, I shy away to a happy common ground. What is it in ministry I love that can be appreciated and lived with a full, unrestricted heart outside the structures of church hierarchies? Volunteer work? Education ministry? Where should I look? And am I called at any point to forsake relationship for my call to ministry? I know no one can answer these questions but myself, though a mentor and guide who has been through these same trying experiences would be a wonderful thing to have. Right now, I think of Pastor Kevin – I believe him to be perfect for such a thing. First, he shares my sexuality. Second, he shares my love of ministry. Third, he is older, more mature, and wiser than I am with much to offer someone still discerning religious vocation. I need to talk to him; I need to hear what he went through.
Forgive the rambling nature of this post. It doesn’t bear the marks of a neat story or a prophetic poem – it doesn’t even have a conclusion! Still, it is more real to my current thoughts and feelings than many of my other pieces tend to be. It is cathartic and visceral; I hope it is appreciated.