A post appeared recently in the closed Facebook network for The Young Clergy Women Project that caught my eye. In this post, a fellow YCW asked about the search process with her husband. He’s a pastor. She’s a pastor. They have a baby. And it’s time for them to search. So, she was looking for wisdom -- as so many of us do -- from her clergy sisters. The married clergy sisters with babies, that is.
That sounds bitter. Maybe it is. Whatever. I’ll talk about it with my therapist. That’s not the point. The point is this: I read this post only to think of another friend who has just completed a search process, a friend that bemoaned the fact that it’s harder to discern God’s call when you’re married. I imagine this is further compounded when you have a baby, but I have neither. I am not married. I have no baby. But I am indeed searching.
I am looking for that place that God calls me next. I am looking for those people that will help me to further realize the dreams I have for the church and the world. I am seeking that place where I am called to serve.
And it’s taking forever.
When I began this search, my colleagues and friends (including the one that has recently settled into her new call) assured me that I would be snatched up quickly. That hasn’t happened. Instead, I have found myself courting a series of bad dates. I met the church that doesn’t want to commit. I dated the church that was horribly wounded by its ex-pastor. I courted with the church that wants a Savior. (They seemed to have missed that we already have one.) I said “no” to the church that wasn’t meant to be mine. I have been disappointed by the church that chose someone else. I have waited and waited until God would finally part the heavens and say, “This is where you are called.”
But the heavens have not parted. I have heard no such voice. And so, I find myself filling the void. I ask my colleagues, “How do you know?” I ask my friends, “When will it finally happen?” I wonder aloud to anyone that anyone that will listen, “Is it me?” I’m doing all of the talking but they’re all good people. They listen. They nod. They assure me that it will be fine. They tell me that it will all work out. They insist that God has a plan. This may all be true. It may be so.
I just think it would be easier to go through this transition with that life partner I’ve always imagined might be by my side. It’d be awesome if there was one person -- that one person with whom I’ve committed to sharing the ups and downs of life -- that could answer all of these questions, assure me of all that grace and comfort me in love. But I have no such life partner. So I feel whiny. And I don’t want to feel whiny. I want to feel called. I want to feel empowered. I want to be that pastor that all of the churches fight over. (I don’t really want the churches to fight, mind you.) I want to be a leader. But I can’t fully claim those things. I’m too overwhelmed by my insecurities. Instead of hearing the good news that I am created by God and loved just as I am, I am the single girl that will never, ever find a partner. I’m the single girl that would be a better pastor if only she had a partner that would love and support her (and maybe even cook dinner for her while she’s at church meetings late at night). I’m the single girl who never knows quite how to answer the question, “So, you don’t have a family. How will you know how to pastor to families?” I’m the single girl that can’t find the image of God within her own flesh. I’m the single girl that refuses to see the love around her.
I’m doing what I tell every single (or married or babied) church member not to do. I’m not being silent. I’m not waiting for God to speak. I’m doing all of the talking. I’m forgetting the art of discernment is about opening yourself to the movement of the Holy Spirit. I’m not giving her space to do. I’m freaking out and leaving her to scratch her head on the sidelines. So, maybe it’s time that I do that. Maybe it’s time that I just let God do the talking. Maybe that’s how I’ll find my way to the people that I am supposed to serve.
I worked that out for myself but I kinda left you hanging, didn’t I? I haven’t resolved whether or not its easier to search when you’re married (and have a baby). As this article appears in this particular column, I would obviously be far too biased to draw any conclusions. So I can simply say: I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s easier to search for your next call when you’re married with a baby. I don’t know if that idealized nuclear family is what the Church really wants in its leadership. I’m not positive this would be easier if I did have a partner -- after all, my partner would have the nerve to have his own opinions. I do know that it’s always hard to know where God wants us to be and sometimes it’s just hard to listen.
Photograph by Hugh Chevalier used under a Creative Commons License