December 18, 2017

Wilderness Update: Time to Get Real

I and the Village, Chagall

I and the Village, Chagall

This discovery of Christ is never genuine if it is nothing but a flight from ourselves. On the contrary, it cannot be an escape. It must be a fulfillment. I cannot discover God in myself and myself in Him unless I have the courage to face myself exactly as I am, with all my limitations, and to accept others as they are, with all their limitations. The religious answer is not religious if it is not fully real. Evasion is the answer of superstition.

– Thomas Merton
No Man Is an Island

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Wilderness Update: October 29, 2013

On November 16, I will meet with my candidacy committee for my final approval interview. This will culminate my preparation process for ordination in the ELCA. If approved, I am cleared to take the next step in ministry. I would be eligible to consider a call from a congregation. But I also want to talk to the committee to get their wisdom on whether I should consider staying in chaplaincy work with hospice. This could lead to requesting a special ordination for that ministry, or to some combination of that with congregational work.

When people ask me what I want, I have to confess I don’t really know. I tell them I am in the best of all possible places. I love what I do and would be perfectly happy staying in my current role. I also love the church and would be happy to return to congregational ministry. If a way could be found to combine the two that was workable, it would satisfy me. The problem with being in this place where any choice is acceptable is that it makes the actual choosing difficult.

I tell this to inquirers because these are the things I tell myself. Of course, in doing so I am making a huge assumption that I am telling myself the truth.

Telling ourselves the truth may well be the hardest thing.

This is why we cannot be saved alone, but only in relationship with others. As Merton puts it, I cannot find myself in myself alone, I must find myself in and through others, which ultimately means finding myself in Christ. What matters, Paul said, is faith working through love.

Discovering ourselves always involves losing ourselves. I die, and a new “me” rises. For most of us, that happens not in solitude, but when a sister or brother listens and speaks with us. Solitude is indeed a part of the process — an essential part — but only so that we may reflect upon what life fully engaged in community and with the world is saying to us.

This is why I myself must be part of a denomination, a faith community, in conversation with mentors and other pastors and a candidacy committee. It is why my denomination required me to take a year of studying, serving, and conversing with seminary students and professors, pastors and congregations, and leaders in the denomination. You have been a part of the process too, as we’ve interacted about various matters here on Internet Monk. Now it is all completed, and it is time to process all that and prepare for a final interview.

A few weeks of waiting, a short time of wondering, and it will be over. And then a new beginning, a plain path will emerge. The goal, wherever this all leads, is that I will gain a better grasp on reality and be better equipped to help others get that too.

Time to get real.

 

Comments

  1. CM….You are at the point of having a willing and open heart…..and I know without a doubt that the Lord will put you exactly where He needs you because of this. I have sometimes experienced what I THOUGHT would be His choice between one option or another, only to find that in His wisdom (and with a sense of His humor) that HE had a “Door #3” waiting instead!!! Regardless of which fork in the road He nudges you down, thank you for you sharing here with us, and know you and Jeff and all others who keep this little Ship’0’Faith afloat are deeply appreciated and prayed for!!!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Door # 3 — LET’S MAKE A DEAL!
      Remember “Zonks”?

      Or as one newspaper strip I remember from 1975 put it (character watching TV; all we hear is the TV audio):
      Monty Hall: Now, Lulu, fifty thousand dollars or — the curtain?
      Lulu: I’ll take the curtain.
      Monty Hall: Congratulations, Lulu, you have just won — A GALLON OF CIGAR BUTTS!
      Lulu: WHY YOU…
      Monty Hall: NO, LULU! NO!
      (gunshots)

  2. There are our responses which are derived from being rational. And there is an understanding, which is also calls for a response, and is not an exercise of us, but in reality is a miracle of grace.

  3. Thanks for sharing the story of where you’re at!

  4. Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

    When people ask me what I want, I have to confess I don’t really know. . . . The problem with being in this place where any choice is acceptable is that it makes the actual choosing difficult.

    Oh, Chap, I totally resonate with this! I’ve only been a priest for about 6 months or so, and am serving on a volunteer basis as one of 5 clergymen at a great parish that’s growing and has some great plans for the future. I’m under a great bishop, and really like where I am. On the other hand, I’ve recently gotten a call letter to a smaller parish on a part-time paid basis that only has one priest. Over the summer, I got to fill in at this parish for a month and had an absolute blast, as I got to exercise my ministry in a way that being one-of-five at my home parish doesn’t permit.

    Up until about a week ago, I was completely undecided and had no sense of positive direction either way. I also couldn’t answer the “What do you want, Isaac?” question. Also, either way, I’d be letting some folks down, whether it’s the folks that love me and could really use another priest or the folks who love me and would like to see me as part of their plans for growth.

    With some very wise council that really hinged on looking at how I understand my specific ministry calling, I’ve finally come to a decision. Now comes the hard part of letting down the folks with whom I’m going to not be directly serving.

  5. CM, I congratulate you on reaching this point, and pray wisdom and direction for you in the days ahead. Looking from afar, it seems to me that you are very good in your service to the dying and their families. I would guess that not very many people would be able to do what you do as well, whether ordained or not. I would hope that you can end up ordained not only to continue what you are doing, but to also be able to step in to congregational ministry, whether as fill in or ongoing. God bless you as you and others sort this out.

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    This is why we cannot be saved alone, but only in relationship with others. As Merton puts it, I cannot find myself in myself alone, I must find myself in and through others, which ultimately means finding myself in Christ.

    Which kind of puts paid to the revivalist altar-call Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.

  7. Thanks Chaplain Mike to allow us to watch how you walk out the process by faith. It is OK not to have all our questions answered. I look forward to the rest.

  8. David Cornwell says:

    Something Stanley Hauerwas said always makes me stop and think when I hear of someone doing the work of ordained ministry. So, in whatever context you find yourself, in this statement resides an enormous amount of truth:

    “…ministers live in ordinary time, undramatic time, in which their lives seem to dribble out one grain of sand at a time. But at least ministers know where you are: they are in the time God has made possible, kingdom time, and the work they do is the peace of God. Hence they are called to be patient, practice word-care, keep the conversation going, and may God help them even learn to love our damaged church; which is the only hope we have if we are to endure this damaged time.”

    May God bless you in your calling and in your work.