Society is a bitch when it chokes you, and a BFF when it shoots you to the top of the heap.
And when it just doesn’t understand, then you have to reconsider everything. Who’s a bitch, and who’s a BFF?
Humor me for a moment, while I get my theologian on…
Nothing is more uplifting, fulfilling, satisfying, enriching, powerful, humbling, and complete than imparting the living words of God to those riveted with enthusiasm and spiritual dedication. It is even more complete (if that’s possible), when doubters turn from other words to these—not because I am saying them, but because they are finally words they can understand.
I have tried too many times to make my way to school for ordination. The prescribed route for will-be priests and ministers is school, internship, ordination, vows, call, and roster. Who made all this up? When Jesus came down and walked among us, he studied the scriptures but he didn’t jump through bureaucratic hoops to become the Messiah. He jumped through human ones—suffering, conflict, desertion, insult, loneliness, and death.
Without sounding too much like a zealous sycophant, I would gladly take that on in spades. I’m old enough now to have seen and felt pieces of the ministry and I have a fair sense of how it drains the human capacity for patience and peace. I want that, don’t you see? And in the rigamarole of school applications, financial aid, recommendations, and blah blah blah I have been effectively denied the route prescribed for me to preach, teach, and share the good news.
Institutions of power: Who are you to deny me my call? Have you lost sight of what your role is, after all? No, you are not called to adhere to some bland treatise of power, nor to maintain your residence in the halls of academic pride. You are to serve those who would serve. And instead, I feel you are asking to be served. This you justify in saying that those who come to you are paving a life of service.
I am often disheartened by where I am, and where I seem to be going. I fault myself in part for that—my inability to recognize the ministry I can do sans collar, sans robe, sans sermon. But if it is to ordained ministry that I am called, who are you to deny me?
Sunday, I spent most of my afternoon at a retirement party for a Lutheran pastor who had spent more than 20 years serving the same congregation. The testimonies and witnesses to his faith, loyalty, devotion, and love were overwhelming—they really did bring tears to my eyes. And not only because of how many lives he had touched and nurtured, but how many lives I have not yet been able to touch and nurture. Not in that way.
Believe me when I say I am as much a product of society as the next man or woman. If the money were present, if I were in demand, then I would relish the scripted road to ordained ministry. But as it is, I feel the pulsing call and must learn a new language of expression, must dig out new pathways, and find untrodden avenues of service. This is not altogether bad, and yet it is a result of being somehow shunned from the institutions that foster service in faith. You have seen what I have done and what I can do, but you do not call me forth. You have heard me asking for admission to the ranks of the called, but you seem to pay no heed. What do I have to do to earn your favor?
As you can see, I’m still married to the world in which I grew up. I tell myself that I, in some ways like Jesus, have had to be my own minister and my own man—contrary to the voices of society. Perhaps that is too high an elevation, but it saves me from thinking that I am altogether lacking what it takes to be a minister—simply because I have not been called forth by the powers that be.
If a young man or woman’s passion is computer science, and they study and apply themselves, there will be a path for them. If they relish the beat of business and teach themselves its intricacies, there will be someone to take each one under their wing and be a support—financial, academic, and professional.
But our world, unlike what it once was, seldom upholds God’s foot soldiers. Poets have lost their power; literature is a shrunken word; the arts belong too often in a museum. I am somewhat hurt and often jaded—that is true. But tell me I have no right to feel as I do, and I will tell you how I have been pushed back from the door I seek to open.
Jesus said to us, without qualification: “Knock and the door shall be opened unto you.” I am knocking, Jesus. I have been pounding for years, but no ones answers. Do I have the wrong door?