Summary: Listening to God’s voice speak to our hearts
When I was in seminary, I lived in dormitories for four years. I had done that in college, but I was young and stupid then! I wanted to settle down, to have a place that was my own. I wanted to be near friends and family. I was pretty committed to staying in New England, and I really wanted to stay in Massachusetts. So, a month after I finished my last class, when I got a call from the pastor where I had done my internship saying his associate would be moving on to another church and inviting me to apply to replace him, I was thrilled. It seemed like God was just opening the doors.
We worked out a deal where I would essentially be the interim associate, but we called it a “contract” position, which would enable me to apply for the permanent position. I was sure this would be perfect. There was just one little thing. The focus of the position was Christian Education and Youth. I had no background in Christian Education, but I had done Youth Ministry long enough to know that that WASN’T my calling.
But other than that it was so perfect! I got along well with the pastor, I already knew the people and they had been wonderful to me.
But as the days and weeks turned into months, I was increasingly ill at ease in this position. The things that I most liked to do were the things that were essentially the Sr. Pastor’s job, things I did when he wasn’t available – preaching and teaching, hospital visitation, planning adult Bible studies.
What I like the least were the things that were really my job – like trying to start up a Jr. High Youth Group, that kind of thing. The longer I was there, the less competent I felt. It wasn’t that people were unkind to me, but I just knew I wasn’t doing the job I was supposed to be doing. And yet, I wanted desperately to make it work. I was sure I could, somehow.
After 3 or 4 months, a search committee was formed to find the person for the permanent position. Many people in the church assumed this was just a formality, that the committee would review the profiles, and in the end, would call me as the Associate Pastor and we would all live happily ever after.
What fewer people were aware of was that I hadn’t yet submitted my profile to the Committee. And what no one knew was how I was struggling with the decision to even apply for the position.
At one point I was talking to the Chair of the Search Committee, a dear lady who knew me fairly well. I don’t remember the details of the conversation very much, but I remember the impact it had on me. She was telling me what I already knew, which was if I was going to apply, I needed to get my profile to them soon. I shared with her some of my struggle, saying I just wasn’t sure yet. She gently suggested that if God was calling me to that position, it wouldn’t be so hard to take such a simple step as sending my profile to the committee.
Finally in an agonizing conversation with my Sr. Pastor, he said, “Mary, I’m sure you can do this job if you want to, I’m just not sure you want to.” If he’d kicked me in the head it would probably have been easier to take. I realized that he saw through me; he saw clearly what I had refused to see at all. My heart just wasn’t in it. Shortly after that, I told the Committee Chair I would not be submitting my profile to be considered as a candidate for the position.