It's been too long since I just sat down and wrote. After all, that was my main reason for starting this blog, to sit and write and find out a little more about myself. I really missed it last week, when I was at Avila with no internet connection (can I call it fasting if the internet was simply unavailable?). I found myself journalling on the computer during the reflection time after each session, trying to work some things out.
Here's the revelation of the trip, in essence: I finally figured out that God uses me not in spite of the messiness of my life, but partly because of it. I have always thought that I was called to ministry in spite of some of the things in my past life, things I've done and things that were done to me. Part of me has always, until now, believed that any goodness to my ministry, any confirmation to my calling, any fruit in my spiritual life was a sort of covering over some of the brokenness that I brought with me to my relationship with God. After all, if I was a new person, God could ignore all that, right?
The result of this bad reasoning was a constant sense of waiting to be found out. Any virtue or quality I had, I thought, was a result of God's overcoming the "demon" of "my past." It was something to be hidden, to be ashamed of, to avoid discussing at all costs.
And to be honest, I'm not going to discuss it here. It's not that I am ashamed so much as that it's simply private...God and I have worked it out, and if someday telling the story can be good for someone, maybe then I'll tell it.
Gradually, over the years, I've come to realize that given the choice, I wouldn't change a thing. I am who I am because of all the experiences that shape me...and I don't know who I'd be without them. While I would not want someone else to have some of the experiences I've had, I can't see me without them, and without my faith.
In the past year or so, I've come to realize that God's calling on my life is not in spite of the messiness of my personal history. God's not covering anything up in my life, or overcoming some shameful part of who I am. In some way I don't quite understand, God has called me to the life and ministry I have because of all that I am and have grown to be, as a whole person and not a broken one. God does not whitewash the past, but instead somehow redeems it...redeems me, so that I can accept all of me, and celebrate my call without shame or fear or a sense of inadequacy.
If you read the "Notes from Colleague Forum" post, you can see where I went from there...a renewed sense of calling, and that God's not quite done with me yet (which I have intellectually understood, but which I sort of viscerally understand in a new way). And now, as this whole called person, I am finding that God is calling me to continue to investigate God's call on my life.
Now, let's be perfectly clear here. I am absolutely, without question, called to ministry in local congregations of the United Methodist Church. I am entirely confident that I am serving where I am called to be right now, and that Ann Street is the place for me. I actually believe that my present appointment is a gift from God and maybe even the Cabinet; going into this appointment, I actually asked for some things: to be considered as an associate despite my experience as a pastor, to come out of small rural churches for a time so that I might be better prepared to go back to them when the time comes (please God, not yet!), to have more opportunities for continuing education and more freedom to actually take vacations. All that said, I also believe I'm called to something more than simply continuing to do what I've always done.
I have always wanted to write, but never known what I wanted to write about. The biggest reason for me to start this blog was so that I might practice writing as a sort of spiritual discipline, that I would work out my faith here at the keyboard and on the screen, and maybe find myself with God in a new way.
So here I am. In the last year I have received the unexpected and remarkable gifts of a new appointment that gives me the opportunities I need to continue to grow into this calling from God, of a friend who has listened the the stories of how I came to be me and insisted on seeing me with compassion but not pity, as whole instead of broken, and as a person who has nothing to be ashamed of, but a fair bit to be proud of. (Perfect grammar is not so much one of those things of which I should be proud.) I have received the extraordinary grace of a loving and caring church family, and I am grateful beyond words for all these gifts, and for the freedom to accept them, to live in and with them, and to allow them to support me as I continue to grow as a Christian and a pastor, and maybe as a writer.