written on October 6, 2005 around 5 pm
As of 5 and one-quarter hours ago, it’s official. In case I haven’t yet told you and in case news hasn’t made its way through the grapevine, I’ve submitted my resume for the position of Associate Pastor of the College Heights SDA Church in Lacombe, Alberta.
I’m imagining your various reactions as you read this. One possible reaction is, Amen! Another is, What?!?! Another is, What have I missed? Yet another is, Okay, maybe you need to settle down, rethink things. Your artsy brain needs to be a bit more practical. And my favourite is, But you have English Lit degrees. And if the last option was the first thing to cross your mind, it just goes to show that what God has in mind often has nothing to do with what we have in mind.
In the last seven days, I’ve learned enough to pack into another book. The most important lesson is that when we tell God we’ll do anything He says and we mean it, our lives can change in a moment…we can end up far from where we ever dreamed we’d be and absolutely love it. I recently wrote a poem that holds these words: here’s my number Jesus/call me any time it pleases. When I wrote that, I meant every bit of it. But, I was only thinking about the dreams I have, the hopes I have. I wasn’t devoting any time to my fears or to the things I’ve said no to in the past. (Fear is often hard to label “fear” because we don’t like admitting to having fear. It’s human! Suck it up! )
God has also taught me more about faith, more about devotion, more about time management, more about vision, more about what it takes to know His will…how that foundation takes time to build, though we’ll never be perfect. I couldn’t have had this journey a year or two ago or even 5 months ago because I wouldn’t have known how to approach it…I had other things I needed to deal with first. I probably would have read text after text hoping to find the answer. Should I submit my resume? What does the Bible have to say about submitting resumes for jobs you don’t feel qualified to do? It may sound ridiculous but isn’t this what we do sometimes? We go to the Bible with the wrong question. The question should be, What does the Bible say about submitting to the will of God? And if we’ve been growing in our walk with God, another question should be, how has God spoken to me in the past and how can those experiences help me understand what’s happening now?
But more important than questioning (because thankfully, the Lord is patient with our questions, sees are inadequacies, and helps us regardless) is getting rid of junk. I hate moving because there is always junk that I haven’t yet sorted through that I know shouldn’t go to my next home but probably will because I’m lazy. There doesn’t seem to be any time to deal with it because I’m so afraid of making time. I think it will consume me. And maybe it will. But it’s worth it in the long run because months later, when I have to move again, I’ll spend less time packing and I’ll be much more optimistic about the move. I had to get rid of a lot of emotional junk in order to be ready for this journey. I had a lot of growing up to do. God knew that. (And I’m not saying that I feel $100 adequate to be a pastor. Oh no! But I know God equips those He calls!) And He could have begun this journey before but He wanted my head and heart to be more at ease. I’m not done growing. I’m not the only option; God can use rocks. But if He desires my non-mainstream self to do His will, I’m in.
Let me make this all a little clearer for you. About two months ago, I started m3ministry I promised God that I would use the gifts He has given me to share hope with others. I knew that I would spend the rest of my life doing 3 things: singing, writing, and teaching. I didn’t know exactly where m3ministry would take me. I had no 10-year goal lined up aside from singing at the Ryman and I was prepared for that to simply remain a dream. I only knew for sure that as long as I was doing God’s will, I was on the right track. And I had (and still have) every reason to believe that m3ministry is God’s will.
So last Thursday, when my pastor asked me if I’d consider submitting my resume, I laughed in his face. I honestly thought he was making a joke to transition into some other topic. But he wasn’t joking. He gave me a few more details and I said I’d think on it and pray about it. I spent much of that afternoon laughing about it…one of those nervous laughs that is often accompanied by the words, Oh, this is really crazy and yet it makes sense and freaks me out all at the same time.
I’ve thought about being a pastor before. Some may think it’s only natural since my dad is a pastor and I’m so involved in local church functions. The only thing I think is natural about that is thinking that I’d never do it because of all the politics that I can’t stand. I grew up wanting to be a superstar singer not a local church pastor. As my fascination with interpreting the Bible grew and my love for ministering to young adults grew, it was then somewhat natural for me to ask, Should I be going to the seminary? But I saw the seminary as more of an academic fetish than anything else. I’m a nerd. I love school. I love to be in classes with smart profs and smart classmates. And I love hermeneutics! And I love to hear the sound of my own thoughts ringing through my head and spilling out of my mouth in an amazing display of scholarly prowess. Yes, seminary seemed like more of a potential ego trip than anything else. I want to do a PhD in theology but I don’t want to do another MA so to the back burner that idea went.
Now, the more I work, the more I see the need for God’s light to shine through me in whatever way He chooses. The fact is, I may not get the job…and that’s alright. I’ll be happy either way because I’m confident that for some reason, I needed to submit my resume. By doing so, I didn’t dismiss m3ministry; I simply said, Okay God. I have faith that You’re in this. I wanted some assurance that I was doing the right thing. I didn’t need to know whether or not I’ll be chosen. I just wanted to know if God even wanted the resume.
But He put me in my place, reminding me that I don’t always have to know in order to do…otherwise, there’s no room for faith. I was afraid of being like the young prophet who heard the word of God then listened to the old prophet and disobeyed God…and died. I didn’t think I would die (I’m not that melodramatic) and I didn’t doubt my pastor’s motivation but I got so caught up in doing the right thing that I almost didn’t do it. And I finally admitted the truth, that I was scared out of my mind. I’m not at all mainstream in any stream. I’m not a mainstream black person, I’m not a mainstream SDA, I’m not a mainstream singer, writer, teacher. I’m not even a mainstream woman. And I was afraid that my church needs a mainstream female pastor. But that’s not for me to decide. Even though so much of me is against the grain, God uses me for His glory because He gives me what I need as I need it.
When I moved home a year ago, I thought I’d only manage to be here for a year. I had no desire to do anything that would cause me to stay here any longer. Since springtime, I haven’t felt that urgency to leave. I’ve never felt as though I’m settling for less than what I somehow deserve…I’ve been busy. By the time this past summer ended, I was even more involved…not just in my church, but in my community. A year ago I would have said, Sorry, I’m just passing through. If I’m given this job, I’ve already committed to at least 2 years here. And I’m fine with that because it’s not about where you live (even though I often talk about how hard it would be to leave beautiful Alberta); it’s about what you’re doing.
Oh dear, this is now much longer than I ever intended. I wanted to fill all of you in at the same time but in my head, this was only 3 paragraphs and it made perfect sense. I’m sure there’s a sentence above that has someone wondering if I really studied English all these years.
But here’s the real deal folks. I’m asking that you pray for God’s will to be done so that College Heights SDA church can have the associate pastor it needs to have, period. Thanks in advance.