Coffee, Climbing, and Calling

Ok, I’m going to admit it. I’m scared.

From the comfort of my campus coffee shop, my favorite mug full of steaming Italian roast, barefoot in an armchair, I still feel scared.

I have no immediate threat, and that is exactly what scares me. You see, I’m caught between an exciting and mysterious time — I’m getting ready to start my senior year of college. I can look around me and see the comfort I’ve experienced in undergraduate academia, and I can see just far enough ahead to know that Real Life is waiting around the corner with a 2×4, poised and ready to smack me upside the head. The thing is, I don’t know what this real life looks like, or exactly where I’m supposed to exit to find this corner that Real Life lingers at.

For the last two years or so, I’ve felt a calling into ministry in the Episcopal Church. From the moment I finally understood the language of the nagging feeling I carried, I was excited beyond words. I’ve talked to as many priests as I can, interned under and shadowed many people, and tried to glean as much information I can about the impending journey. In this process, I’ve heard rumors that young people have a difficult time in ministry and that generally, I need to buckle up because it’s going to be a bumpy ride. I did not fully realize what this could mean until I read this article last night. It may seem a little alarmist, and in fact, I am alarmed. It did not make me doubt my calling, per se. I’m still as starry-eyed and hopeful as ever before, but I did stop and ask, “Hey God, I know you’re still really serious about this whole calling thing, and I’m fine with that, really. But, *gulp* really, dude?” And so I spent most of last night and this morning pondering what the future of the church means, what my role in that could possibly be, and if I’m really just feeding myself to the wolves. Dude, wolves are scary. So is the future. Scary stuff, man.

A dear friend enlightened me and reminded me that all of the great denominational upheavals were preceded by and followed by periods of mass confusion and frustration. Yup, that about hits the nail on the head, from the sounds of it. I guess I’m in disbelief. I can’t fathom being a part of any great church movement. I knew ministry was not a settling career, but man I did not expect to be coming into something like this in my lifetime. I suppose I was naive to think that I would have to so drastically reconcile my own faith with the society around me; that certainly was not anything they told me about in Sunday School and youth group.  I suppose I feel this way about the article because, while I want to remain humble and never want to think I’m helping to usher some magnificent new thing with the church, it feels as though the level of complacency I witnessed with my pastors and priests growing up is far from attainable in what is to come. Not that I ever wanted to be complacent or hum-drum in my ministry, but the task at hand and what we are being called to is daunting.

I’m excited for it, and also in awe. Much like when I stare up at a 60’ wall of rock. I’m excited to climb it, and while I can see a few crevices that I can assume will fit a hand or a ledge I can balance a toe on, I don’t actually know what is up there until I’m there. I can think like I’m planning what moves I’ll do, and once I get there realize I’m going completely the wrong way. Furthermore, I have no idea what grade the rock is, whether it’s an easy 5.7 or a grueling 5.11. (For you non-climbers, that is how rock climbing routes are labeled by difficulty. See Lexicon) I’m in awe and excited to face the rock and see what it has to show me, but paralyzed at the prospect of all of my abilities being humbled to practically nothing.

And perhaps I’m still naive. But what the article alludes to and what I’ve certainly noticed is that many of us feel this way. For that, I think that it is something that should not be ignored, even if it isn’t realized in the way we would expect it to be.

And so I’m still scared. I’m scared because I feel this calling, and yet I do not know what it will mean. So, I am starting this blog to track my sloppy and fumbling understanding of what my ministry will come to be. To track what my scrambling up this rock route of Life will look like, and how my lat muscles will grow and strengthen in the process. Will it mean jumping in (or up?) with both feet, gung-ho and ready to bring more glory to God in a generation that feels no need for organized religion? Will it mean exploring another career, one that can teach me skills seminary will not be able to, all in preparation and anticipation of a ministry someday? Whatever may come, I am going to keep trucking along, prayerful, dazed, confused, and caffeinated. I imagine that sometimes I will feel comfort and validation, and other times, like today!, I will feel scared and apprehensive and jittery. Maybe the lesson here, really, is that I need to drink less coffee.

We’ll see. Climb on.

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