For the last week I have been in a funk of self-doubt. It doesn’t take much for me to wonder what I am really doing with this whole discernment for ordination thing. Sure, it’s true I have felt a calling for darn near my entire life to some form of ordained ministry, but way too often I can’t help but to think maybe I’m just hanging onto the desires of a young boy who was too naïve to fully grasp what that means.
When I’m asked why, I have a thousand answers and at the same time I have no answers. The discernment process is tricky business (remember, I’ve been through this before 23 years ago), and one of the main questions that occurs over and over again during the process is, “Why do you need to be ordained to follow your call to ministry?” Trust me, just saying because I’ve always wanted it since I was 8 years old isn’t really an acceptable answer.
I am not in the habit of focusing on myself when thinking about matters of faith, or at least not out loud. When I try to explain to someone why I feel called it always comes out awkward and, to my ears at least, sounds silly and juvenile. I want to take my ministry past the invisible line that separates the laity from the ordained, because I know with the credentials of ordination I can break past the “velvet rope” of a prison where a lay person has limited access.
Perhaps much of what the ordained can accomplish in the eyes of a lay person is more perception than it is reality, but those perceptions matter. When I sit and pray with a grieving family, tend to a dying patient, or seek to give comfort to a memory impaired person my status as an ordained minister will matter more to them than it will to me. Perhaps I’m wrong for seeing it this way, and maybe this is where my self-doubt kicks in.
Any ministry I have had to date has been sporadic and inconsistent at best, if you don’t count my years of service as an active choir member of my parish and all the various functions I have served in both my parish and my diocese over the years, mostly which had to do with using my skills as a professional communicator. I have spent most my life as a very busy professional ad man and single income earner for my family. After the massive recession which included my career coming to an end and the struggle to hold onto a house I could no longer afford it has been hard to make much room for outside ministry. Only as of February of this year has that all changed, and I am now finally free to make room for whatever comes next, which is why I re-entered into discernment.
But the doubt continues to eat at me. How can I make this work? Am I not sure I haven’t made this all about me rather than about what God wants? Am I lost in some kind of spiritual narcissism? Do I use self-pity to protect myself from being exposed as a fraud? Yeah, these are the nagging questions that follow me through the process.
Then today, I looked at the readings of the Daily Office. I also get daily devotionals from contributors to Living Church. Today’s contributor reflects on Matthew 3:13-17. Near the end of his reflection he wrote:
“We cannot foresee all the stops along the way, nor can we always comprehend the rhyme or reason for certain people, places, and events. But so long as the journey’s end is found in Christ, so long as the signpost of the way is the Cross, when God asks us to take a detour from the roadmap we’ve laid out for ourselves, then we can do so with confidence and step out boldly in faith.”
This was my wakeup call. Once again, I have to return to my mantra which is “Trust the Process.” I still don’t know where this will lead, and right now I feel like the further I get into this the less I know. Like John the Baptist, I need to let go and let Jesus direct the journey, even if, or should I say, ESPECIALLY if it doesn’t make sense to me right now.
Quote attributed to: Rev. Ben Hankinson
[Image: Baptism of Christ, Verrocchio, Leonardo da Vinci, Galleria degli Uffizi]