Choose Your Own Adventure

Shoes She knew it was over. She knew it was over.  Right then as she followed the Head Deacon out of the narthex toward her office, Lexi knew that this was the end.  Her heels clicked across the floor with an unexpected certainty.  It was then she knew that her days in Corinth were over.  She had served this small congregation faithfully.  They had tried to make it work.  She had tried to be the pastor they so desperately wanted but she couldn’t be that person – not for them or herself.  Lexi didn’t know what awaited her once her office door was closed.  She couldn’t think of anything that she had done wrong – but already knew that whatever she had done had not been right.

Her office door slammed like something out of a horror film.  “Oops.  Sorry about that,” giggled Naomi.  “I didn’t mean to do that.”  Lexi’s head started spin as this giggling Head Deacon crossed her ankles in the chair before her.  She watched Naomi’s trembling hand smooth her skirt before she looked into Lexi’s eyes and cleared her throat.  Twice.  “You must be curious why I wanted to talk you so badly.”

Lexi thought that the answer to this question was too obvious to vocalize but she nodded to encourage Naomi to continue.  Still, Naomi stammered.  The stern look in her eye had evaporated after leaving the Sanctuary.  Instead, she was playing with the hem of her skirt like a scolded child.  “Yes, well, where to start?  I guess I should just get to it, right?  Well, we had a meeting this week with the Deacons.  It wasn’t an official meeting otherwise we would have asked you to be there – but it just happened that we were in Alice’s home with half of the board.”

Lexi swallowed in a desperate effort to rearrange her face in a loving, supportive, pastoral smile for this Head Deacon.

“Anyhow, we discovered that in the year that you have been here, our church has not had a Personnel Committee in place.  You probably know this.  I’m sure you do.  Well, yes.  It goes without saying that we’re all sorry about this, doesn’t it?  Yes I hope so.  I really do.”

“Thank you Naomi,” Lexi offered in this pause.  “I appreciate your concern.  Is that what you wanted to talk about?  The creation of a new Personnel Board?”

“Oh.  Not exactly.  You see, we also realized that … Well … There’s no easy way to say this is there?”  Lexi was about to speak again when the Head Deacon continued, “Well, we realized that you’re not really a good fit here.  We thought that maybe you would be happier somewhere else.  We can’t imagine that you are very happy in Corinth with us.  It’s obvious you need something else than we can offer you, don’t you think?”

If Lexi chose to accept what Naomi had said, the adventure would continue like this:

It was as if Naomi had dropped her skirt right there in Lexi’s office and asked what she thought.  Lexi was stunned into shocked silence.  It wasn’t the words.  She was not startled by what Naomi had said.  Instead, Lexi was surprised to discover that she felt naked – as if a secret too dark and too honest had been exposed.  Naomi was right.  Lexi didn’t want to race back into this costume.  She was free to admit that this was not the right place for her.  Corinth was not where God was calling her to be – and Naomi had heard it too.  Half of the Board of Deacons knew it. 

“Lexi?” Naomi squinted at her just as she had that awful morning she had overslept worship.

“I’m sorry Naomi.  It’s hard to know what to say.  I have so many thoughts jumbling in my head, but I have to say that I’m relieved.  It’s not what I would have expected – but I am – I’m relieved.  It sounds like we all are.” 

“Well, isn’t that nice?  I’m glad that this is all working out so well.  So what do you think should happen from here?”

Or if Lexi refused to accept Naomi’s words, she would have chosen to take her adventure in another direction.  Instead, it may have gone like this:

“I’m sorry, Naomi.  I’m not sure I understand.  What exactly is so obvious to half of the Deacons but not the rest of the church or the pastor?” exclaimed Lexi in her best preacher’s voice.

“I’m not trying to upset you, dear.  We just think it would be best for the church,” assured Naomi.

“I wouldn’t say that I’m upset.  I’m confused as I don’t quite understand what it is that you are trying to tell me.” 

Naomi perched on the edge of the seat.  While folding her hands properly in her lap, Naomi stared at the spot on the floor below Lexi’s feet.  “Well, a few of our church members are still upset about when you said...  Well, when you… You know what you said during Wednesday night Bible Study.  We just don’t think that’s what our minister should say that especially not when talking about Scripture.”

“I see,” Lexi replied.  “Is there anything else?”

“Well, yes, there are just as many people that don’t think you are that responsible after you almost burned the church down on Easter.  And well, we just think you would be happier somewhere else.”  Naomi smiled brightly.  “Maybe as an Associate Pastor at another church. Maybe you just need some more experience before you serve as a solo pastor.  Anyway, we hope that you won’t leave the ministry, but we just don’t think that you are right for us.”

There was silence between them as Lexi contemplated diving into the spot on the floor below her feet.  The stain must have come from a previous pastor spilling coffee.  She spitefully wondered if he had been asked to leave after the accident.  She imagined the riot that drove him out of the church lead by the same church members that believed coffee hour wasn’t an important ministry of hospitality.  And then, she got a grip on the edge of that stain as she actually allowed herself to wonder what might come if she was to leave Corinth. 

“Lexi?” Naomi squinted at her just as she had that awful morning she had overslept worship. 

“I’m sorry Naomi.  It’s hard to know what to say.  I have so many thoughts jumbling in my head, but I have to say that I’m relieved.  It’s not what I would have expected – but I am – I’m relieved.  It sounds like we all are.” 

“Well, isn’t that nice?  I’m glad that this is all working out so well.  So what do you think should happen from here?”

This is where the adventure requires a decision.  Lexi must determine where God is calling her from here.  The story has three possible endings.  Choose your own ending to Lexi’s adventure.

Ending One

Lexi tried to clear her mind of the thousand of fantasies that now danced in her head to focus on the proper order of events for her departure from Corinth.  Of course, it was impossible but she pushed these thoughts to the back of her mind so that she and Naomi could agree on a date for the entire Board of Deacons to meet and discuss what was best for the church. 

Once this date was penciled into the church calendar, Lexi could hardly wait for Naomi to leave her office so she could open her web browser.  Soon and very soon, her prayers were answered.  Naomi hugged Lexi and left her office.  Lexi closed the door behind her and felt the sudden urge to cartwheel across the floor.  Of course, she didn’t.  She just boogied to the computer, switched it on and waited impatiently for the church’s technology to catch up.  And then, she found it.  There were the denominational listings of churches dreaming about a new pastor.  Lexi had the same dream.  She was going to find that dream that had first called her into the ministry.  She was leaving Corinth but God wasn’t done with her yet.   

Ending Two

Lexi tried to clear her mind of the thousand of fantasies that now danced in her head to focus on the proper order of events for her departure from Corinth.  Of course, it was impossible but she pushed these thoughts to the back of her mind so that she and Naomi could agree on a date for the entire Board of Deacons to meet and discuss what was best for the church.

As this date was added to her calendar, Lexi knew that this would be one of the last church meetings she would ever record.  She put down the pencil and knew that God was calling her to something else.  She didn’t want to think about it right then.  She just wanted a job where work stayed at work.  She wanted to come home and not be burdened by a ringing phone of needs and hopes.  She just wanted to have time to think and maybe write.  She didn’t have to have the answers yet – but she did look forward to moving out of the parsonage and into and apartment with a double bolt.

Lexi was poised over the keyboard.  She was ready.  Google eagerly awaited her search query.  The cursor blinked in anticipation but Lexi didn’t know what to type. 

So she did the only thing she could.  Lexi dug into her purse to unearth her credit card.  Carefully, she entered each digit to purchase an adventure.  She would eat and pray in Italy.  Maybe she would write.   Maybe there would be romance.  Maybe she would just eat.  The details didn’t matter.  Lexi would trust God and go to Rome.   

Ending Three

Lexi tried to clear her mind of the thousand of fantasies that now danced in her head to focus on the proper order of events for her departure from Corinth.  Of course, it was impossible but she pushed these thoughts to the back of her mind so that she and Naomi could agree on a date for the entire Board of Deacons to meet and discuss what was best for the church.

And then, Lexi did what was best for her.  Before Naomi could even pull out of the parking lot, Lexi hopped in her car and drove directly to her favorite shoe store.  She had hesitated before.  Before today, Lexi had convinced herself that she didn’t need these shoes but today she knew that she needed them.  She knew that those tartan heels would be the perfect step out of Corinth.  She slapped her credit card down on the counter and prepared to stride out of the store into an extended sabbatical.  These were the shoes that would allow her heart to sing again – as she knew it would. Lexi just needed a break so that her plaid-clad feet could strut boldly back into the church with confidence.  A sabbatical would do just the trick.

“Amen,” Lexi praised as she drove off into the sun.

Comments

Awww, poor Lexi. But at least she has three excellent futures to choose from! I choose shoe shopping THEN Italy! (If she has a trust fund. :) )

Awesome shoes, Lexi!

If only every pastoral departure went so amicably...sigh...but I'm glad Lexi's did and some others do.

Hm. Sadly, I remember hearing words very similar... "I don't think you are really called to be in parish life". In my situation, it was used to set off the career equivalent of a nuclear bomb. The Sunday afterwards, my then-boyfriend took me far, far out of town and hiking in a place where there was no cell phone reception.

I couldn't have pulled off tartan heels, you see. But at least, two years, four months later, I think I'm finally recovering and getting 'back on track'.

I guess I haven't been following Lexi as closely as I thought... this comes as a bit of a surprise. I suppose I would like to have seen what would have happened if she disagreed with the half of her deacons who wanted her to leave, or if the other half caught wind of this and asked her to stay. I'm in the UMC, so this is totally foreign to how things work for us... but let's just say that a few folks "feeling it's not a good fit" (if only they had been so kind!)was just the start of my ministry at my current church.

It seems the final chapter of Lexi's story here offers two different questions: What do we do with those negative comments? And how do we re-affirm (or perhaps end) our call to ministry? I don't know if Lexi's story seeks to answer either of these questions -- but offers space for them to be asked.

The editors of Fidelia's Sisters have decided to embark on a new direction in the column space that has been reserved for Lexi. We are excited about this new possibility and hope to further dialogue among YCW.

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