Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Keep going

The following piece was published in the May issue of The Current, the publication for the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church. The theme of the issue was "Moving: Surviving Pastoral Transitions", something I know a little bit about from a lay-person perspective. You can read the entire issue here: 

Have you ever walked a labyrinth? A labyrinth is an ancient kind of puzzle symbolic of pilgrimage with one unambiguous path from start to finish and no dead ends. Initially, your path to the middle is clear and obvious. But as you move along the path away from the center, it feels as if you're moving farther and farther from your intended target, though your path will again lead to the center in time.  

Life in itinerant ministry can be like a labyrinth.  Though it's cliche, the analogy holds that ministry life is a journey--putting one foot in front of the other in faith. But for the ministry spouse, it can feel like you're on a completely different path from your spouse, though in the same labyrinth. 

Five years ago when my husband began taking seminary classes and pursuing ordained ministry, I had no doubt that God was calling him. But was he calling me and my young children, too? I was not completely convinced.  Add my Catholic upbringing and lack of understanding about itinerant ministry and you can understand how I felt: lost.  But ministry put us on a shared path, working toward a common goal. It gave us people to love, children to teach, situations to learn from, and strategies to use in future appointments. 

Being a ministry family doesn't mean we stay on the same path. As my husband is working his way closer to the center, doing the work of the church and turning hearts and minds toward Jesus, I might be several steps behind, or in a different place entirely. When crisis or confrontation occurs in our charge, sometimes my husband follows my lead as I help navigate sensitive emotions and feelings.  My children are also traveling this labyrinth, and though they mostly follow closely behind us, sometimes they don't. 

Itinerant ministry puts us on a path. Just start where you are. You will experience both the peace of moving closer to the heart of Jesus and the agony of falling away over and again. Keep going. Sometimes you will want to start over, and sometimes the thought of starting over will bring you to your knees. But Jesus guides our steps. My prayer is that you feel the presence of God on your journey, wherever that may take you during this appointment season. But whatever your path, just keep going. 

Image taken from Wikipedia.

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