Who do I think I am, anyway?

16 06 2008

Over the past few weeks I’ve been having something of a sort-of kind-of maybe “crisis of calling,” so to speak.

Readers will know of the financial angst I’ve been having over going to seminary.  Lately that has become exacerbated to the point so I have been thinking, “you know, I must be really crazy to do this.  What am I doing?  Who do I think that I am that God calling me to a life in the Priesthood?”

These thoughts usually come when I am feeling particularly stretched between the different demands / desires of my time.

Interestingly enough, these thought NEVER come up when I’m actually doing the work of the Church and doing my small bit to advance the Kingdom whether it’s doing altar guild duties at Immaculate Contraption, or running an Integrity meeting.  When those things are happening, there is no where else I’d rather be.  There is a sense of fulfillment, a sense of flow that is unlike anything else (well, except when I’m with SIR, but that’s a whole different kind of fulfillment and flow).

What does get frustrating are the Hoops and what seems to be an ever-increasing number of boxes which needs checks by them.  It started with …

See a therapist

See a Spiritual Director

Get involved in a Leadership position

Get involved in a Diocesan Committee

Pay down debt considerably, if not totally

And has now increased by these suggestions from different quarters ….

While you’re doing all this stuff, don’t let your current parish obligations slip too much

Keep a pastoral journal

I am sure there are very good reasons for all of this and why it is so tough, especially for a someone like me who is considered something of a convert since I was raised Baptist.  But still, it’s quite maddening and it just seems INSANE!


I was talking with my Spiritual Director about all of this stuff on Saturday.  The questioning apparently is absolutely normal and she warned me that as I go forward in the process and even through seminary these doubts and questions will arise from time to time and will probably get more intense.

We talked about all those checks in the boxes, and she reminded me that soon after those boxes appear, it seems as if ways open for me to mark checks in them … and she also reminded me that the three people I’m closest with (SIR, my Personal Atheist, and Sista girl) are my biggest cheerleaders and seem to be much more confident in my success than I am, and that these folks are not church-going people or religious by any means.

She asked if I would rather not be doing all the things I have to do to put checks in the boxes, and I remarked that the things I have been doing have been beneficial to me personally and I am seeing good things come out of them for the Body of Christ.  I’m not in a leadership role in iNYC just for the sake of doing it, and I am genuinely enjoying the work I’m doing with them and the subcommittee I’m on … I have examined myself to see WHY am I doing it, and ultimately I am doing them to bring the Church on local and larger levels to a place where I believe it can be. This is stuff I believe in.  The real work of the Church is not in the Church itself, but in the world.  We can’t be like a seminarian who doesn’t  leave the grounds his first year because he wants to be surrounded by Christian community 24/7.

None of this is really about me.  I can’t fix anything.  I am not a healer.  I am not the one who can effect change.  I am just present and want to be in a space to allow room for the Spirit to work and let people’s God-given gifts and talents manifest themselves.

“A-ha!” she says. “That’s the key element.  Don’t ever lose sight of that.  It is never about you or anyone else.  It’s all about being there and making room for God to do his thing in the lives of people.”

So, back to the original questions.

Who do I think I am, anyway?  Why am I doing this?

And the ever popular and “how on earth can I answer this question” question …

What is your ministry and why do you have to be ordained to fulfill that ministry?

All I can say is, it just seems to fit.  Just like a size 40-long suit fits me.  Oh, yes, I could very well focus on the academics and become a professor and write books.  I could contribute my time and talents to the work of the Church and do a lot of good.  But making room for the Spirit to work and being a sort of catalyst for letting folks talents and gifts come through just feels so right.  Being a catalyst.  A life of intercession whether it’s celebrating a eucharist or comforting someone who is bawling their eyes out.

Standing there with people and sharing in their struggles, their joys, their sorrows, just cannot compare with anything else I’ve done. There are very few other times when I feel so alive.

So here I am.  I have gotten in the boat and the river is taking me where the current leads.  The train has left the station and there’s no stopping it.  I don’t know where it will take me,  but I do know there is no where else I’d rather be.

Besides, SIR jokingly tells me I am probably unknowingly causing such a ruckus with the stuff that I’m doing they will put me into seminary just so I will be quiet.



5 responses

16 06 2008

I absolutely love SIR’s perspective!

It sounds like the talk with your Spiritual Director was quite beneficial. Glad to know she’s doing her job well. 😉

16 06 2008
Reverend boy

Hi Jarred,

I have totally enjoyed the time I’ve spent with her and look forward to continue to work with her! She is awesome.

16 06 2008

Welcome to the club baby! 🙂 When I had my shrink meeting for the diocese and after a two day evaluation I asked, “So, am I crazy enough to seek ordination?”
It sounds to me as though you are slowly getting crazy enough to seek ordination. Don’t worry about all the check boxes, just do one at a time, that helped me…one hoop at a time.

To this day, I still ponder the idea of a refiners fire; melting one down until it can be shaped into something new, but still formed from the same elements.


17 06 2008
Robert Thomas

Rev Boy. You are quite correct to assume that you have to be crazy to feel called as a priest. And for many more reasons you will continue to learn as you journey down this path. However it is also an amazing call and opens up amazing opportunities. Quite frankly I’m convinced that the vast majority of what a person is put through on this path of discernment serves no other purpose than to make a whole lot of people feel important or because people feel this is something so important (I agree with this part at least) and you surely must have to do a lot just to make sure that the importance of what you are doing is clear to everyone. And even more (although not designed that way) the most important thing is that it tests your perseverance (which is definitely needed in ministry. I will keep you in my prayers!

17 06 2008
John-Julian, OJN

You know, RB, you don’t really need to “push” a vocation! It’s more like “responding”.

Just do your best and keep your eye peeled for unanticipated doors opening.

It usually happens TO you, rather than BY you.

God knows and takes care of things — even when you aren’t clear about it yourself.

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