I should start this blog post by saying that I have been discerning the call to ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church. I’ve emailed the Bishop of my home diocese to begin discussing that process. In September, I had an experience that confirmed what others saw in me. At a funeral for someone close to a friend of mine, I felt an overwhelming need to comfort those in grief and to be a vessel of God’s love for others. Not necessarily as in just a friend to others, but a vessel of God’s love in the ordained ministry sense. It’s a hard feeling to describe. It was like God validated something that I had been unsure about and something I had been doubting about myself. Right before I started my service year, I learned that there are people in my life who have seen this call in me before I did. I doubted this because I had a very specific scenario in my head of what the Call would be like. I pictured God opening up the skies, sending a beam of light down upon my face and saying, “Suz, you are Called.” I had heard stories of other ordained or discerning folks talk about their stories, and they all seemed pretty dramatic and wonderful. It made me worried that I wasn’t getting any signal from God like that. And yet, God still called me in God’s own way and I knew it when I felt it.
This feeling led me to think about what this Call is supposed to be – calling me to ordained ministry – what does that mean? What does God want me to do with my Call? This is where the discernment process started for me.
At the beginning of my service year, I felt open to what God wanted me to do. I felt comfortable and confident that everything would be fine. After my “official” Call, I felt God working on my heart. Around the time of our Fall Retreat at the end of October, I felt God opening up my heart and working on things that needed to be worked on. It felt unsettling, but temporary. I had, again, been doubting my ability to fulfil this Call, and then we watched Moana as a part of this retreat. I was reminded that God equips the Called. (Moana wasn’t sure she had all the skills to make the journey, but the Ocean provided. I could write a whole blog post about that alone.) If God is calling me to this ministry, I will be given the tools I will need. What I felt was almost like God opening me up and strengthening things about me, and forcing me to reflect on certain aspects about myself. A cleansing of sorts. God is really good at that. God takes things/people that need work, and God makes them new. It feels like this is part of discernment. Through this journey, God works on our hearts and makes us into a new creation so we are equipped to live into what God is calling us to do. I don’t know everything about discernment, but this is just what I’ve learned so far. I’m still learning.
I’m also learning that discernment is a journey. It is not necessarily a space you travel between Point A and Point B and then finish. It continues. As Christians, we are always asking what we can do next. How can we better ourselves and how can we best use our gifts to glorify God? From what I understand, this is also a part of discernment. With that being said, discernment has had its ebbs and flows. There have been high points and low points for me. Sometimes I have short stretches of doubt where I question why I’m even pursuing this and if I’m even qualified. I compare myself too much. Sometimes it seems like everyone has all the answers but me. Whenever this happens, God sends me something to remind me that all is well and that I’m on the right path. Last week, I walked out of a particularly challenging spiritual direction meeting. There wasn’t anything wrong with what happened, I just wasn’t feeling hopeful about things. I walked out to my car with a lot on my mind. Then, at the edge of the parking lot against the woods, stood a deer. It was raining and dark outside, but there it was. We made eye contact for a brief moment. I started tearing up and looked down at my keys to get ready to leave. I looked back up for the deer and it had gone. I sat in my car for a few minutes before going home and I cried more. Thank you, Lord! In that moment, I felt God’s peace. These are the little moments that keep me going, and I am so thankful for them. Even in our time of complicated discernment, God does not abandon us.
These are things that I’ve learned so far in my discernment process, and I’m still learning. It’ll be an interesting journey, and I am excited to see where it takes me. It seems that all of the ESC-MD Gileads have their own journeys to walk on, and we have the most wonderful support systems for our personal journeys, and the journey of service and intentional community we are walking on together. I thank God for our spiritual mentors, reflection leaders, and our wonderful Program Director for all of the love and support we have been given. I will speak for myself, but I am so glad to have my ESC family (alumni included) along with me in this journey of discernment. I have always believed that we are called to be in community with one another, and I am so glad to have mine.