My re-awakening to the spiritual energy always operating in my life through God, and the subsequent re-ordering of my life to enter ordained ministry, can be attributed to a simple desire to learn more about God and give a little of my time to help others (of course, while completely maintaining my life at the time of a broker/owner of a real estate firm.) I had a simple desire to engage casually with a community of faith, not to be transformed by what I would come to know through that engagement.
I recently read the obituary for Rev. Dr. Yvette Victoria Angela Swan who was ordained in Maritime Conference the same day as I was in 2015. She died in 2021. She was wearing a purple stole and a precious pastoral smile in the photo chosen for the occasion, an occasion which made me quite sad. Her accomplishments were amazing and noteworthy. I didn’t know of them, although it was clear Yvette knew who she was and where God was in all of it. But what struck me was the statement that becoming a pastor was the fulfillment of her lifelong dream. That is how it is for many. And I am so happy, alongside my sense of loss, that this champion of social justice, and so much more, left the planet feeling fulfilled in her ultimate vocation as one called by God to pastoral ministry.
Every call is different. And yours is or will be different than Yvette’s or mine.
Not the morning when I was called, nor for the first year of trying to solve the mystery of that call, did I once imagine or dream about or want to be a minister. At all. It was not on the radar because … because there was no reason for it to be. Like much of our faith, it made no sense at all. Not only was I not qualified (terrified of public speaking,) I was happy in a career I had developed over twenty years, recent grandmother, etc. Surrendering the rest of my life to God in Jesus Christ was definitely not a lifelong dream or a dream at all. I have such admiration for those, like Yvette who persevere. I just went to church - mostly in a large church in Boone, North Carolina – as anonymously as I could, other than taking a women’s bible study and a class called, “Experiencing God.” Against all odds, this ended up being almost a tutoring session with our Senior Minister, Rev. Tom Gibson. But I am sure if I tracked him down and he remembered me at all, he would substantiate that I didn’t come into that class with any grand ambitions and I left with him being unimpressed by everything about me but my candor, curiosity and genuine love of Jesus of Nazareth. We had no discussions of me being a potential candidate for ministry. Not even close.
Yet I became a minister in the UCC, against all odds. Because I aligned myself with God’s will. Which was for me to go where my God given gifts and presence were needed. That is a universal call, very biblical really. If you think about it, how could I be expected to see what and where that would be on my own while in the middle of a satisfying life. Only one who has knowledge of the whole picture sees that. Only one who created the whole picture knows that already. And, this One acts, intervenes on our behalf, when necessary, for the achievement of whatever God wants to achieve. In my case, I believe God needed to act boldly because I wasn’t even close to seeing the whole picture and doubt I would have arrived here on my own.
As our Song of Faith begins, God is holy mystery. As Christians we are sometimes uncomfortable with that mystery. Often, we want someone to tell us who God is and what God does and what we should do. And we miss out. Because it is in engaging with the mystery that is God that we discover our true identity and purpose in life. That discovery can be an answer to a lifelong dream or a bolt out of the blue or something in between, but be ready for God to show you just how close God is to you. It is so daunting but it is so good at the same time.