Suffer from a sense of call

Last year, after visiting my parish a couple Sundays, I made an appointment to talk with the rector before I transferred my membership. I introduced myself to him with the sentence, I suffer from a sense of call. Since this wasn’t the point of the conversation, I didn’t want to delve into this at the time. And while it’s not usually suffering, I definitely struggle with a sense of call. I know we are meant to – we are meant to be actively discerning what God is calling us to all the time. Sometimes the answer is, Beloved child, I’m happy with you right where you are; you just enjoy this place for a time, and soak up the light and life. Most of the time, though, it seems like the answer is that God is calling us to a new place, a place just beyond what feels comfortable and comforting and good. It’s a place of excitement and change, but these often mean hard work. And I often wish God would just hand me the keys to the Porsche already, so I could take the Autobahn into the new life, and not have to slog through all the nonsense.

Several months ago, three different people told me that I should be a spiritual director. I spoke with my spiritual director about this, and she agreed and started recommending training programs. Simultaneously, I got excited at looking at those programs, and I dug in my heels a little bit. They’re costly, they’re time-consuming, and there’s so much going on in my life. I need things to settle down some. And heck, one of them required that you already have people coming to you for direction before you even apply – yeah, like I want to mess around in someone’s spiritual life that way without being trained?!? (Yup, I’m a J-type.)

This morning, a lady at physical therapy said, You need to be a nurse. You always make everyone feel better. Even the people who work here – you make them feel better as soon as you walk in. It was sweet, and it made me smile and hug her, and then I went on with my day. Then, as we were getting lunch orders together, I was talking with our office admin here, talking about my journey over the last ten years, and why I knew I had to get out of the marriage, and why it took so long even after three hospitalizations for depression. While she was in the Navy, she worked for ten years as an advocate for sailors who had been abused or raped. And she said, Heather, you should be an advocate. With everything you know and everything you’ve experienced, you could really help people.

So that same sense of call has gotten all stirred up again, and it’s confusing and unsettling to me, because I don’t know what direction I’m being pulled to. I do like to help people feel better, especially helping them feel better about themselves, which lasts longer than dishing out pills or wrapping sprains. I do like to stick up for those who have no voice or who need help finding their voice. I yearn to preach. I positively ache to administer the sacraments – to celebrate the Eucharist at God’s table (as our rector invites us each week, the gifts of God for the people of God – that’s us!), to pronounce blessings in the name of the Trinity, to get to say those amazing words, Child of God, you are sealed in the sacrament of baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.

But – and it’s a great big huge whopping but – I know me, and I’d be a complete disaster in parish ministry. Or… is this an excuse? Is this something I’ve been hiding behind all this time? Or is it something I’ve been growing out of (or would it be growing into)? Would that parish work – the meetings, the politics, the machinations – cost me, but not destroy me?

Of course, in my diocese, I won’t even be admitted into the discernment process for ordination for several years after the divorce is final – for that matter, for several years after marrying.  And that’s another year or two, even before the three years of seminary.  So what’s up with this feeling of urgency, this big push that I feel?  If it really is a call to ordained ministry, then there’s about a decade ahead of me before that could come to be, at least in the Episcopal Church.

So what is this call?  What is the road that God is setting me on?  Where does it go?  How will I find my way through this confusion?

I’m shrugging here.  It’s okay, though it’s annoying.  It is time to pray, to listen, to sit in the silence, to be still and know that God is God.

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8 thoughts on “Suffer from a sense of call

  1. Ouch, re: divorce–I thought you must be wrong about the several years part but I just looked it up.

    Please let me know if I can be helpful in listening/praying/sitting with you!

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  2. Thank you, Elizabeth! I really appreciate it. I’m kind of wishing I knew someone who’d worked through the discernment program that ACTS offers, or maybe if we have people who are trained to use Listening Hearts – not with a specific anything in mind, just to be open and really listen to what is going on. (Can you tell I’m uncomfortable with uncertainty?)

    Hugs,
    Hedwyg

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  3. I’m struggling with the time frame around the divorce. It seems so….punitive or something.

    Praying for you in your ongoing discernment.

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  4. Yeah, Sue, I know. What the policy says is this:
    4. If divorced, have you been divorced for at least 4 years and demonstrated continuing concern for the well-being of your former spouse and children?
    5. If you have experienced any recent major life transition (death of a close family member, marriage, birth of child, loss of a job), has at least one year passed since this transitional event?

    And I definitely understand that they want you to have some stability in your life before you undergo this process and all the changes it will bring. I also understand that there is some concern here for the vow and sacrament of marriage being broken, and concern about being sure that ordination vows are not similarly cast aside. But, but, but….. I’m sure everyone thinks they deserve an exception, so I wouldn’t want to push for that – at least, not until a year after the marriage, which would be mid-2010. At that point, it would be three years since the separation and two years since the divorce became final. If the sense of call is still there (sigh – hasn’t gone away since I was 14 or so, merely faded in and out of conscious awareness for me), and it still appears to be pointed toward ordination, then I may start asking questions.

    I can’t believe 2010 is only two years away. How on earth did THAT happen?!?

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  5. Have to admit the divorce thing bothers me, too, if only because of the possibility that it’s someonels escape from an abusive situation. How much concern _should_ the abused one have for their ex-abuser? How much energy should go to anything past forgive, and move on, and heal?

    That said, I kinda understand where you’re at — I almost feel as if I might as well get ordained, or trained to be a psychologist, or an exorcist, or something, because I’m doing the job whether I mean to or not! It just sorta happens.

    (Oh, and this is Kate, from When I Was a Boy, just so’s not to be completely mysterious…)

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  6. Interesting thoughts.

    Much to meditate on here.

    I too feel called to “something” – but I’m not sure what.

    I feel like too big of a sinner to be a priest, and I’m with you on the parrish ministry thing. I could see being eaten alive by the politics.

    I could see msyelf being a campus minster….

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