This blog post is a reblog of a post I wrote four years ago as I reflected on the 12th anniversary of my ordination. Here I stand at 16 years of ministry, and while what I said four years ago holds true I am struck by one overwhelming fact that has come into even clearer focus. That is the fact that even after 16 years of highs and lows I am so very thankful to God for giving me such a wonderful calling in life to fulfill. I said something to Sheila the other day that reminded me of how blessed I am. I told her “I am so glad that being a pastor is who I am and not what I do.” Thanks Be To God.
Yesterday was a day like any other. I got up, argued with Colin about what he was going to have for breakfast and what he would wear to school. There was a lot to get done before taking a field trip to the Cokesbury bookstore with Sue Ferguson and making final preparations for the evenings’ Session meeting. While all these “normal” activities were on my schedule, there was something special about the day, actually.
No, I’m not talking about Valentine’s Day, although I did express my love to Sheila. In fact for me February fourteenth, holds special meaning. Yesterday, marked the twelfth anniversary of my ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. I remember the joy of that day, as my home church celebrated the culmination of a journey we had been on for many years. During the morning worship service I was ordained just as we will do in a few weeks for our new Elders.
I think back to that moment and have a hard time imagining that God was leading me to this moment. The man I was then was younger, slimmer and filled with ideas. I, like many who begin any vocation, was trained in the best theory and practices. Little did I know that none of the classes or experiences that led to my ordination would truly prepare me for the journey that was ahead of me.
Yet, even with my own faults and foibles God was going to be a partner in that journey. The laying on of hands at ordination has always held a special spiritual meaning to me because it is a great affirmation on the part of the church that we don’t enter our ministries alone but are partners with God and those in the church.
Over the past twelve years I have been formed by God through life experiences and by the people who have been in my life. The young man I began ministry as has been transformed by failure, success, tragedy and triumph. These changes are more than just a surface change; I have had my very spirit transformed. I attribute some of the greatest spiritual growth in my life to times of deep struggle. Ministry is, as Eugene Peterson calls it, “An Unpredictable Plant.” There have been times in ministry where nothing has gone as planned and yet deep blessings were found.
There have also been times of risk-taking that have led to both high and low moments. I have grown into a leader that is willing to put myself at risk. Like many new ministers, early on in my ministry I found myself looking to make people happy even if what I was being asked to do was contrary to my own identity or what I felt God was calling us to do. Today, I have discovered a far more balanced approach to pleasing people. There are times in our life as a church that we need to have healthy dialogue and, dare I say, conflict. I have discovered that if we want to be in real and lasting relationships, we cannot compromise our ideals. At times we have to confront in order to get closer in our relationships.
I have lost track of how many weddings, funerals, baptisms and session meetings I have participated in. I don’t know how many sermons I have preached. I don’t remember every conversation that occurred in times of sadness or loss. With all that said, the particulars of those experiences may have faded but the lasting effect has led to deep spiritual growth and, I pray, maturity. While this is my journey, it is no different than everyone else who seeks to follow Christ. Your spiritual life is formed and informed by the experiences that you have. Your life is filled with the Holy Spirit and God is a partner in all you do. Take time to reflect on all that you have seen, heard and done. After all, it is the stuff that has made you who you are today.