A few weeks ago I wrote a paper for class that states my understanding about the pastoral vocation and its role in my life. Since I am in the middle of my pastoral internship, I thought it would be a good thing to share. Enjoy part 2.
I have spent a lot of my life trying to figure out if the pastoral ministry was my love. Over time, I developed a lot of knowledge and quite a few ministry skills as a part of different churches and working for different organizations. All of this experience eventually made vocational discernment really difficult, because being a pastor became a job that I could do and could probably be good at it. But such confidence was tempered by the overwhelming complexity of dealing with a community and the weight of holy otherness which seemed to be a part of the pastoral office. The combination of all these pieces has meant that my discernment has always been marked by hot or cold feelings, without any consistent measure of stability. I have metaphorically tried the clerical collar on so many times, that at this point even if it was my vocation, I’m not sure that I would recognize it as such.
This means that the pastoral vocation needs to be put on the shelf for a while. This will be difficult because I have truly enjoyed my experience at my internship site. The feedback that I have gotten from my pastor and from the congregation suggests that I am surpassing expectations and that they really see me as a blessing. In a similar fashion, my peers also suggest that they can see me in a pastoral role. All of these things make me want to question my earlier thoughts about teaching because the path of least resistance seems to be towards a pastoral call. But the path of least resistance, does not tell one what they love, it only helps them settle faster.
Throughout this process one of the things that I am learning about myself is that I desperately want to settle, which is a shift in what I wanted 5 years ago. It makes the process of vocational discernment even more difficult because I feel as though I am running out of time. Finding what I love becomes a lower priority in the face of wanting to get married and be successful at something. This need to be settled comes out of a desire to want to be successful in other people’s eyes, which I imagine has probably been the thing which has most profoundly shaped my vocational journey. Even in the way that I have always conceived of a vocational call as something which is given to an individual and confirmed by community gives a lot of authority to other people. There is a desperate need within me to want to get something right, which means that the question of my vocation is a question of determining whether something is right or wrong in another person’s eyes.
Jon Glenn is the Intern Pastor at Lakeridge Lutheran Church for the 2011-2012 school year. He loves his congregation and thinks you should check it out if you are ever in Seattle.