This year I am celebrating the 10th anniversary of my initial application to the Candidacy Process for Ordination in the ELCA. Mind you, most people spend only about 4 years in the Candidacy Process, and despite my 10 years I have a few more to go. But after about two years into the process life caught up with me – the death of a dear friend, the ending of an engagement, and the legacy of divorce and domestic violence. I stepped away from actively pursuing ordained ministry to more intentionally focus on areas of personal growth and health.
There’s part of me that regrets this stepping away. Although I know in my heart of hearts that this time provided me with the chance to grow stronger than I would have otherwise – that I will be a much better pastor for the health and growth and hard work I’ve gone through in these past seven years – the ambitious Old Adam in me laments that I am not yet ordained. This year is my seminary class’ 5th year reunion, and most of my classmates have been pastors for four or five years. I hope to be an intern next year.
And so for much of these past seven years the hope of ordained ministry has been looming on the horizon, beaconing me forward on my trek. In my roles as a youth director, student, teacher, sales representative, it has been the hope and goal of ordained ministry that has brought me through. At times, for sure, I wondered if sales or fundraising or some other occupation might be my life’s vocation. But in the end my heart, my calling, my hopes and dreams have always returned to the parish. I want to be a parish pastor. I’m called to be a parish pastor.
This has created in me an anxiousness, at times, particularly as I approach the "next step" in the process. After being "entranced" by the Candidacy Committee, my days in sales were numbered and my excitement for the "next thing" grew. I got anxious and restless in my lame duck job – even though I would continue to work there for ten months. Now, too, after six months of hospital chaplaincy (a wearying experience, as I write here) and as details for my internship site are being worked out, I’m getting restless. Three months remain in this chaplaincy, but I’m asking, "What’s next, folks? Can’t I move on now?" You see, once I emotionally commit to a new job or role, I want it now. I hate waiting.
We can replay this experience in my other jobs, too. The slow, deliberative process of Candidacy, or the realities of being in one job and interviewing over a period of weeks for another, and then giving a two-weeks notice to a soon-to-be former employer – these are painful for me. I tend to make decisions quickly. That I can’t execute them as quickly can be frustrating for me.
And so I take to heart two bible passages (even if somewhat out of context), creating a paradox of waiting:
Philippians 3:13-14 – Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal . . .