The Twisted Path Toward a Calling
When I was a member of the high school youth group at my United Methodist church back in Atlanta, GA, I believed that I knew my calling: I was going to be a minister in the United Methodist church. I had gifts for it, including a love of God and serving others. I had talents for writing and public speaking. Finally, I had an unshakeable belief that I was called to something greater than my own understanding.
In college, I changed my major a few times: Writing, Pre-Theology, Writing again, Business, and back to Writing. By the end of my College years, I was ready to get married, and so that became my new focus. I went back to school to become a paralegal, then took night classes to became an elementary school teacher. I worked in a bank, then settled into a long insurance career. But throughout the years, the call of ministry kept speaking to me. So I eventually enrolled in seminary.
Into the Rabbit Hole
Going back to school was something that always excited me. I love to learn and write and think in different ways, going down philosophical and theological rabbit holes to see where they would lead. I made new friends, uncovered new interests in history and homiletics, and felt a deeper calling to pastoral care and counseling. I was fascinated to learn about the nature of people and relationships and why different groups have turned to God to explain timeless mysteries.
Part of theology, and certainly a big part of seminary, is figuring out how to put these thoughts and ideas into action in the world. Here is where some turmoil started to creep in. On the one hand, I loved my work and enjoyed hospital visitation and speaking and leading classes. But on the other hand, something felt inauthentic.
As a ministry candidate, I had to sit in front of intimidating committees and express my faith and how I was putting it to good use for the church. I knew exactly what to say and how to say it to please others. But it didn’t feel completely real or honest. My studies and faith journey brought me to a place where I had a relationship with God that was beyond time or doctrine or anything that could be easily placed in one box or another. I wrestled with my denominations rules and beliefs but didn’t feel like I could share my deepest concerns without reproach.
One major spark to this change, and what helped me figure out my next step was the book “Leaving Church” by Barbara Brown Taylor. It’s a book about figuring out what your calling truly is, and why it isn’t something that you should sacrifice your greatest joy and peace to obtain. I began to feel like I wrestling between some lofty goal and my freedom. It wasn’t the way it was supposed to be- but how could I say to no to God?
Changing Directions- And Why That’s OK
My path took me out of school and back to the world of insurance. It was a tumultuous time in those early months because although I knew I was doing the right thing, I felt that my friends in the church and clergy world wouldn’t understand. I also wasn’t sure what exactly to do with myself. I’d gone down a path toward becoming an ordained minister, and now all I was left with me.
I’ve come to realize in the years since leaving seminary that my calling is a growing and changing creature. But at the very core, it’s still the same. I was drawn to ministry because of my love for God, loving people, and wanting to share that love and peace with the world. Yes, the calling is there, but it doesn’t look the same. It’s softer and quieter. It makes itself know in so many ways in my life when I think and write and show compassion. I’m still on the journey with a long road yet to travel. I’m happy and at peace.
Calling to Love
I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t saying no to God, or love or even ministry. I just wasn’t meant to do it in the way I thought was my destiny. It was difficult to change directions because I thought I was letting others and myself down, but that wasn’t the case at all. I was opening the road up to a new direction. I feel called to share my story now because I know others have traveled this road, and it can be a scary one. But have faith that when you follow your heart, it will lead you to a new and better place.
Wherever you are on your journey, know that you are not alone! The path may lead you somewhere you never thought you would go. Just follow your heart and enjoy the journey, and all will be well.