I went to visit Andover Newton Theological School the other day. It was a lousy day for a drive to Boston -- it rained hard most of the way and then I missed a turn and got a little duped by the iPhone navigation lady. I'm pretty sure I ended up going the super-duper roundabout route, with the most construction and deepest potholes.
Which, upon reflection, seems kind of appropriate. As exciting as all these new turns have been on this stretch of the road of my life, I feel a little lost; I'm tired of all the unexpected bumps; it's nearly impossible to see what's up ahead. Most days I wish I had a strong shoulder on which to rest some of my weariness; I want someone else to take the wheel for a while. But I'm trying hard to trust the signs that seem to be guiding me where I'm supposed to go; mystified, largely.
As usual, just when I think I've lost my mind or that all of this is a really bad idea, someone shows up or something happens that restores my belief that this is, in fact, a very lovely ride toward something large and good. A few days before my trek to Andover Newton, an old friend texted me, totally out of the blue: "I'm in Brattleboro...what are you doing?" "Wow...that's weird," I replied, "I'll be in Brattleboro on Wednesday morning." Et voilà...coffee with a good soul to break up the journey.
It turns out that I'm not the only person ever in the history of humankind to have received some sort of baffling call to ministry. Andover Newton Theological School, the oldest graduate seminary in America, is loaded with people like me: "I did not want to do this, believe me...ministry was the last thing in the world I had in mind for myself...and...here I am!" I heard over and over. Interestingly enough, there was also a fair amount of be careful what you wish for coming from these God people.
"My mother once asked God to send her a man who would go out in a snow storm to get her a pint of ice cream," the woman from Admissions told me. "He showed up...and then one day it snowed...and she asked him to go get her some ice cream...and he did."
"Wow. Did she keep him?" I asked.
"Hell no," she laughed, "He turned out to be as boring as sand and my mother wasn't the kind of woman to live her life with sand."
Amen, sister, and, note to self: be wary of overly-eager errand-runners.
Here's what this thing is: it's disruptive, it's scary and it feels mostly absurd. To believe that one is hearing a call to lead a congregation or move forth in the world wearing a clerical collar...wait, I'll own that...for me to believe that I am being called to assume that posture in the world...in this moment it kind of sucks. I am a single mom, I live in northern Vermont, I don't have a cave full of money at the ready for yet another dalliance into higher education. I'm almost 50, for Christ's sake. I'm a little angry that this is happening.
But I'm done putting up resistance. If the big, beautiful world wants me to do this, if God, for some screwy reason, thinks I've got what it takes to lead a congregation or to inspire someone toward greater faith; If God believes that I've got the goods to sit with people who are in medical crisis, if the Celestial Pranskster wants me to officiate at weddings and help people transition from life to death, well then OK, fine. I get that I'm not in control, I'm over myself. I will do this ridiculously hard thing; I'll show up. I won't retreat to the safety of everything I already know and I won't pretend that it isn't happening. I have seen the Path of Least Resistance and I know that it's littered with angry, unsatisfied, bewildered humans. You either live in fear or you live in love, my friend Ruth reminded me recently. I'll take love any hour of any day of the week. But I want a say in this, too, so listen up, Mr. God Pants: There's a tiny little church in Keene Valley that I have my eye on. If you're going to nudge me through this ring of fire, then I want to come out on the other side close to some mountains, close to my beloved Adirondack mountains, specifically, where the world feels very old and calm. If I'm going to take care of people until my days here are done, then I will be needing the woods to take care of me. And I want a river, too. Deal?