On the first Sunday in Lent, we hear the reading from Mark where Jesus is sent into the wilderness. Describe a ‘wilderness time’ in your life.
My wilderness experience had to do with determining what my call to ministry would be.
It’s Fall. October. And I’m driving into Pasadena. Mountains sore with burning fires, my mouth sore with a root canal, and me wondering what is next for my life and why it’s so hard to find my focus—my “call”. This was the start of the end of my wilderness experience.
I had been out of seminary for 2 plus years and subbing during the day and teaching at night to pay the bills while I pursued ministerial jobs. The process was grueling and hard. I had thoroughly enjoyed seminary and was convinced it was God’s call for me to go. I naively wanted to “study the Bible” so I pursued an MDiv, not realizing that meant I was signing up to pursue ministry in the church, or so that is how it was interpreted by others.
So off to interviews I went, but these were as uncomfortable as the dress I wore to my piano contests. Nothing is panning out. Was I copping out, disappointing God??
November. Time is marching on. Lots of rain and floods, but I am stuck in proverbial mud, what’s next.
December. January 1st. Time to reevaluate. I’m ready to go back to school to get a teaching certificate, I start the process.
But wait, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church calls!
“We are very interested in having you interview for this position. We’ll contact you this weekend.”
Strange, I sent my information months ago, why are they calling now? Unusual for a church to reach out to a candidate, especially a church like Menlo Park. New call, new contact person, moral crisis, they’ll call next week. Monday. Earthquake—real big one. My world is as shaken as the church’s. It’s over as quick as it came.
“What just happened, what was that all about?” I asked God.
And in a quiet voice I got an answer: “you are good enough for a Menlo Park, but I have a different call for you.” And that was that.
Sometimes it takes a while to find God’s place for you in this world, but the steps that get you there are not wasted time—not to God. They are preparation for what is to come. And my ministry is to teach kids. And all those years in seminary and school? Every bit gets used in making me the teacher I am today.
COLLECT OF THE DAY
Strengthen us, O Lord, by your grace, that in your might we may overcome all spiritual enemies, and with pure hearts serve you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Click on the link below to read Judy Brown's poem from her collection The Sea Accepts All Rivers.
Suggested books to read: Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer and Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Herni J.M. Nouwen. (Amazon links below)
Buy Let Your Life Speak on Amazon