Calling. Purpose. Place. These are all words used a few too many times by youth ministers and seminary professors, in my opinion, when nudging their pupils along to the next destination. These words have been a part of my problem, I think.
You see, growing up spending all my time within the walls on my medium-sized, active, justice oriented church, I heard all too often that I needed to find God’s calling for my life. The issue is that everyone who was telling me to do this worked within the walls of that church, including my pastor father.
As far as I can remember, my mother is the only person who ever told me to think about how much money I will make or job security, health insurance and safety. At the time, her words seemed awfully shallow and materialistic. I didn’t care about money! How easy that is to say as a 12 year-old who has everything bought for her.
Fast forward to today and I have no idea if I work in a church because I was called to do so or because 9/10 of my adult mentors were ministers or seminarians. So perhaps they told me to do so, not the voice of God.
You are supposed to have this sort of identity crisis in high school, or college. Who am I? What do I want to be? But I feel like I am asking myself the question for the first time, because I was always so sure about ministry…but now that I am actually doing it, that certainty is starting to wain.
I remember, vividly, telling my father that I could not possible do anything else but ministry. “If Jesus is really all we say he is and he is the most important thing,” I said, “then how could I do anything else?” He nodded in approval, clearly impressed by my conclusion that was the same as his some twenty years ago.
The same was true when I expressed interest in ministry to my youth and college minister–the looks of approval, the smiles, the utter pride. They urged my to “explore my calling,” whatever that means. But what I heard was “yes this is right. we approve.”
It wasn’t that their actions were negative. I know that I received so much support because these people loved me, saw themselves in me, and noticed gifts and talents that they thought would be helpful in ministry. And they were right. I do okay at this job.
But I look back in frustration that I never explored anything else because I kept “exploring my calling.” I didn’t look into other college majors because my end goal was just seminary.
And now, I want more. I want a career and skills and a talent. I want to contribute to society, be creative, be free to speak what I wish, to travel on the weekends, to do life how I want to—not how the church wants me to.
But that is selfish. Any other career or pathway feels selfish. That coach is still in my head saying how can you choose anything else over Jesus? Over enriching the lives of students? Over Faith–the purpose of living?
The thing I am starting to realize though it that my career could be anything and my purpose would still be Jesus. And that, it seems, is a truer stronger faith than one where I my faith my world because I am too scared not to. That is faith that is shaken just because I am not in the church building 6 days a week. That is a new identity.