Heeding My Call…For Today, At Least
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew 5:6).
At an early age, I heard a clear and compelling call to ministry. I still hear and heed its echoes.
It keeps me focused and confused all at once. Passionately I want to serve God with my gifts. That doesn’t waver. But discernment of which gifts to offer in what context and in what role seems never-ending. I take it day by day.
That may sound odd if you know that I’ve been Director of Counseling at Berry College for 29 years with an evening private practice on the side. My first book (the freebie you get if you subscribe to this blog) appeared in 1994, and Skylight Paths will publish my third, Blessed at the Broken Places: Reclaiming Faith and Purpose with the Beatitudes later this summer. Counseling and writing: Looks like I’ve been pretty boringly consistent.
But I haven’t experienced it that way. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you can well imagine how much I wanted to study at seminary. Serving as a pastor always seemed a no-brainer for me. I could have written and delivered a sermon a week and offered a rich listening ministry in pastoral care. I like to teach, and the church could be my school. As a young person hearing that call, it looked like the pigeonhole sat right before me. I needed only to fly in.
My grandfather, Rev. C. Rees Jenkins, told me decades ago that the pastorate is the loneliest profession in the world, and if I can walk away from it, I should. I cannot tell you how much I didn’t want to. I did.
It seems I decided to walk away every day as my hair got grayer and thinner. Occasionally, the desire flamed, but family needs pressed. Or concerns of those to whom I ministered in counseling seemed too compelling. Or an exciting new writing opportunity arose. Just when I started to fill out that seminary application, life interrupted.
Did the devil coax me away from the holy call? How that question dogged me. But no more.
I hope God has a good laugh at my expense because I’m laughing. In my current occupation, I find myself doing most of the things I tried to avoid: Dealing with institutional politics, making decisions about office upkeep and budgets, and facing people who expect me to be Mr. Rogers on days when I feel like Eeyore. But more importantly and happily, I do almost all the same things I wanted to do in pastoral ministry: listening compassionately, writing honestly, and engaging in spiritual conversation.
And I pray. That’s the most important thing pastors do, you know. The more I pray on the way to work, the more I see I’m driving to that place God called me to, that “place where my deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” At least for today. I’ll decide again tomorrow.
 Frederick Buechner, “Vocation,” in Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC. (New York: HarperCollins, 1973, 1993), 118-119.
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