So that happened this weekend.
It was an end of a long, often frustrating journey that began in 2007 and a journey I often blogged about. (I just realized I’m almost tall as the Bishop kneeling… but I digress). Each time I was continued (read: didn’t pass/failed) I wondered why I was going through all this and contemplated pursuing ordination elsewhere. This year, I entered the process for what I really believed would be the last time. I resolved that I would always be Wesleyan at heart no matter where I ended up and more importantly, I firmly believed that God had called me into ministry and that can take place anywhere, even if it meant outside of the UMC.
Maybe it was all in my head, but this time, the exams and interviews weren’t as draining as they were in the previous 2 years. And you know what they say, 3rd time is a charm. Or whatever.
I understand that when I was eligible for full connection, I entered the process very angry and with a huge chip on my shoulder accompanied by an air of arrogance and an ego the size of … something big. (I’m tired… )
I entered the first year of examinations with a closed fist ready to fight. I entered this year’s examination with open hands and heart, not in the sense that I was willing to really “listen” to what the Board of Ordained Ministry had to say and sell my soul for their acceptance (not that that’s ever the case), but in the sense I turned everything over to God and said, “Where you lead, I will go.”
During my commissioned years, I joked (read: threatened) that when I finally get ordained, I’m going to no longer hold back my words, but instead, say everything that has eaten at my heart since I started this journey in 2007. Everything that I saw wrong with our system and our methodology, I was going to vocalize it, maybe through this blog, maybe through emails, maybe to people who would be willing to listen. I had a lot on my chest, and I couldn’t wait to get that weight off my mind.
So. Now that it’s all said and done and I’m ordained, well… I have nothing to say. Well, no, more truthfully, I have nothing constructive to say.
Sure, we know that our church is broken. Anyone who steps into a UM church can see that something may be wrong. We’re not as big and strong as we used to be. We insiders know that our system and methodology is flawed and a lot of it, broken.
There’s no point of beating a dead horse with a stick.
And I sure as hell don’t want to be “THAT GUY” who does nothing but criticizes his ’employer’ but isn’t willing to do anything about it.
Instead, I’m filled with gratitude. I’m thankful for all the people who helped me along this long journey. From all the mentors I had to my senior pastors to all the lay folks who encouraged me and then were so excited for me that I (finally) passed, to the ‘unofficial’ mentors, to my friends and colleagues who let me bitch about things and gave me solid words of comfort, advice and critique, to my family, and especially to my wife, who really … well, I know that I couldn’t have gotten through any of it without her. She saw it all. The anger, the frustrations, the lows, the ups… she encouraged me when I needed, scolded me when that was needed, pushed me, made sure I was sharply dressed for my interviews… she kept me sane in moments where I wanted to bounce off walls. Or more truthfully, bounce other people’s heads off walls.
And of course, I’m humbled that God would still call me into ministry; that for some reason, God has faith in me to lead His people.
In the end, words are cheap. Any Joe the Plumber can host a blog and point out everything wrong with the world today.
So really, the time has come for me to do more than just talk.
Come July, I no longer have the safety net of the Senior Pastor covering my ass. As someone said, “You won’t have a higher pay check to defer to” which has been my favorite thing to do as an associate pastor.
As the days approach closer, the butterflies in my stomach grow bigger. At times I feel inadequate. Other times I feel ill-equipped, to the fault of no one. I mean, all the books and classes in the world can’t fully prepare you for the real life thing. Experience has always been the best (and often cruelest) teacher. We learn as we go. Mistakes will be made. But one hopes that we learn from our mistakes and that it propels us forward instead of chaining us inside a cage of fear, insecurity and/or indecision.
And of course, I’m excited. I’m excited to see what God has plans for me and St. Mark.
I’m excited to go back to where I lived as an early teenager.
I find peace in the midst of my anxiety and excitement in the faith and knowledge that God has truly called me to this church, and that God has a plan for me and for the church– that all of this is God’s plan for this part of my life.
And I come in without too much greed in the sense that I want to go and add numbers to our pew. Instead, my hopes and dreams is to be a place where transformation through faith, grace and love happens. I don’t have desires to become one of the biggest churches in our city and our conference. But I have a deep desire in being a relevant and effective church that works with its community to bring transformation through God’s message of hope, love and grace. Simply put, my hope and prayer is to “make disciples for the transformation of the world.”
Now that I have the “freedom” to say anything I want without the fear of someone on the BOOM being angry with me, it’s funny that I don’t want to say anything without any warrant. Past Me might be a little annoyed with Present Me…
My wife, a few years ago, got me this art thing and hung it in my office so that I would see it everyday as I sit in front of my desk. It’s a often quoted quote from Gandhi: You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
What a fitting quote for the start of this new chapter in my life.
3 thoughts on “So… Now What?”
Congrats Joe. I’m very happy for you, and wish you the best!
I am looking forward with excitement to your coming to St. Mark.