What will it be? Where will it be? My purpose in life is a mystery.

Yesterday at chapel I had the distinct pleasure to her the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery preach. Some would say it was a lecture, but there was no doubt in my mind that worship and a sermon took place during that time together. I cannot fully give justice to the event in my words, but I do know that I was greatly changed by being able to experience it. Very few people know this, but since I was in elementary school I have extensively read and studied the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. So, to be able to see, listen to, and shake hands with a giant of the movement was extremely meaningful to me.

There were many quotable moments throughout the morning, many of which I am unable to recall completely, but I do remember this one being especially moving.

Integration is not the movement of all things black to all things white; it is the movement of all things wrong to all things right.

As I heard Rev. Lowery speak, I was constantly moved, many times to tears, about all that he and others had done to bring about change to our country and how they have never stopped working for the greater good. He has been committed to his convictions for his entire life, which has spanned an amazing 87 years so far. His stories always had a point whether they seemed to at first or not, and hit home something powerful about humanity and its need to love one another. After the time in chapel I was both comforted and extremely uncomfortable. My discomfort is grounded in the struggle of my purpose and calling in life. Hearing the call for each of us to be “chaplains of the common good” really struck home with me. Rev. Lowery spoke of his recent work in uniting advocacy groups, and how he felt there were some things above the hierarchy of the church. His use of humor in that situation did not stop me from thinking that our institution gets in the way of ministry many times.

I struggle with my own calling each and everyday. I question whether I am called to the direction I’m headed, or to something different. I wonder if I am compromising my calling for the sure deal of itinerant preaching and guaranteed appointments. Am I called to this? Each day I think I may be less and less. First and foremost I want to be a servant leader. Yes, those two terms can go together whether my recent pastoral care book would agree or not. Leading by example, and less by meetings and visioning plans is where I want to be. I want to serve the needs of people and spend less time maintaining and protecting an institution. There is so much need for work in social justice and mercy ministries, that I would hope the church would be open to a calling based entirely on those factors.

Here’s the catch, how do I go about this? How do I determine if this is possible? How do I make sure that I am able to serve in a way that is authentic to my calling, and still be able to make a living to survive? These are all things on my mind right now. I never imagined being almost half done with my MDiv and be thinking that maybe there’s a different path for me when it’s all done. It scares me, causes me discomfort, but also gives me some peace that I know God is still calling me through the doubt and confusion. God’s calling is bigger than a process and bigger than me. Hopefully some answers will come my way soon, and Rev. Lowery was probably a messenger on the path to figuring it all out.

Grace and Peace,
Z

3 Comments

  1. Ben Kaye-Skinner

    i would say that questioning your calling will have one of two good benefits: either you will strengthen your position in the ministry or you will find that your life can be best served elsewhere.

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  2. Sue Tamilio

    Zach, my friend. One piece of comfort – it is EXTREMELY common that when one is half way through seminary that s/he begins to question and/or doubt his/her calling. Questioning is good. Questioning is healthly. I truly believe that God is still speaking to each and everyone of else, helping us to find our way along this journey. T.S. Eliot once said “doubt and uncertainty are merely a variety of belief!” Listen for God’s voice in your questions and in your doubt. Listen to God’s voice in the voices of others. You are truly called! Are you called into the institutional church? I can’t answer that. Maybe you are called into other non-profit arenas that will fight for social justice. Again, I can’t answer that. But, I do believe that you are where you need to be at this moment – I believe, no matter what direction you ultimately take, the wisdom and knowledge you are gaining now (both inside the classroom and out) will prepare you to travel whatever path where god will lead you. I am honored to call you my friend and I am honored to call you a colleague in ministry.

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  3. Stephanie

    Zach, I appreciate your honesty. I stumble around with this notion of “calling” every day. Somehow I find it comforting to know there are others who share this struggle.I see one thing in you that is certain, you are called to faithfulness, and you embody that calling by studying, adoring, and serving everything you can that is God. That is why you boil inside when it comes to your allegiance. Are you willing to sell your soul to prop up an institution you love? What if God says it’s time for it to die? Is God calling us to help it go out gracefully, to the bitter end? Or is God calling us to command it forth from the grave? Or is God calling us to let the dead bury their dead, and follow Christ somewhere else? I think we are both as much in love with the UMC as we are hacked off at it most days, and so these questions frighten us. At the very end of the day, for you it’s not about being “somebody.” It’s about being faithful. You have to believe in what you are doing. This is the fuel that keeps you pressing forward. God to you is not some abstract being up in the sky. God is in the least of these, and there seems to be a fire that burns in you when you see the potential for political change. You are one of those people, while everyone around you (like me) sits on their hands complaining about the way things are, who rolls up his sleeves and does something about it. You are not afraid to be the prophetic voice AND the hands and feet that bring change.So I don’t know if you will end up in the church or politics, but I am certainly one who will be watching and waiting quietly from the stands. I look forward to witnessing the work of God as it continues to unfold in your life.

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