In his autobiography, writer and theologian Frederick Buechner wrote, “Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I, of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity…that God makes [God's self] known to each of us most powerfully and personally.”
I am a minister. Or at least, that is what people tell me and what my job title claims. I have known for years that God was calling me to be a minister, but I had no idea what this calling would look like after I finished a degree that declared me a Master of Divinity–what a misleading name! Ten months of sending out resumes and interviewing with search committees and seven months of interviewing with one particular church, I am now an ordained minister doing all of the things I have known for so long that I am called to do (and many things that I’m probably not terribly called to do and a few things that I would love to make disappear altogether).
I love my job–most days it doesn’t even feel like a job. I love the congregation I serve. But I still occasionally choke on the words, “I am a minister.” They don’t come out naturally quite yet. Some days I feel very “ministerly” as I visit church members who are in the hospital, lead worship and Bible studies, and pray before meetings and meals. Other days I feel more like an event planner as I spend most of the day on the phone coordinating trips and schedules and buses. And then there are the days when I feel like a mediator–breaking up verbal arguments, interrupting gossip, assuring a Sunday School teacher that the chairs in her classroom will be arranged more carefully next week, and gently explaining to a senior adult why the college students don’t want to use the same curriculum as the senior adults. And yet, I am fulfilled by all of this each and every day. Ministry certainly has its mundane moments and problems when there are ants in the hallway and when a lighter cannot be found to light the candles for worship, but the sacred moments–that often happen in the strangest and most unexpected places and times–make every moment worth it.
I have always enjoyed hearing the stories of peoples’ lives and faith journeys–stories full of hopes, sorrows, joys, struggles, and questions–and that is a lot of what I do as a minister. By sharing our stories we create holy moments as we see how God has been at work in whatever life has brought our way. Though I have been honored to be a witness to the stories of many others, I have been hesitant to share my own story. My story is messy, and I like things to be neat and tidy and organized. I have been afraid of my own story. I have been afraid that my story does not belong in God’s call narrative. I’ve always been told that if I can see myself feeling whole and fulfilled doing something else besides ministry, to do the something else. I have tried many times to convince myself and God that I do not have what it takes to be a minister, that I’m not outgoing enough, not religious in the same ways as other people, etc., and something has always pulled me back to the church, back to ministry, back to serving God. Will I always wrestle with myself and God a little bit? Yes. This is how I work through things. But something deep within me won’t let me go. God’s work is messy. Peoples’ lives are messy. And yet, I feel most fulfilled when I can live life in the middle of these messes with people.
I still sometimes wonder how I ended up where I am today as a minister serving a large congregation hundreds of miles from the people I am closest to. I’m still learning to call this place home. It has been and continues to be a journey. A journey full of twists and turns. A journey that includes many holy and holey moments. A journey that won’t let me go until I find wholeness and contentment in who God created me to be. This is my story.