Calling; a strange and difficult concept to explain. An idea, that as human beings, we have some kind of role that we were meant to fulfil. This could be a job, a relationship, a decision to emigrate. When people ask me why I went into ministry, I will sometimes answer ‘because God called me’.
When I was working out if ministry was the right thing, someone told me that ‘if I could do anything else, I should’. At the time, I thought this was a strange. I had not long finished university and could have pursued any number of options.
So I started my ministerial training and went forward for ordination. An odd process where you spend half a day with a room full of people trying to convince them that you should be a minister. I got turned down. I was told I clearly had a call to ministry but they weren’t sure if it was as a Baptist. I continued my training and had to endure those who questioned my ability, my right and my call because I was a woman. Perhaps I had a ‘similar but different’ call to the men who attended the college. Had I really ‘heard God’? I am skilled, I have a critical mind, I am perceptive, I think outside the box and I’m good at what I do but that didn’t matter. I would think back to the words ‘if you can do anything else, you should’. I couldn’t do anything else. I had to do ministry. To pretend I could do any other job wouldn’t work, I had tried other things. It wasn’t that I was incapable of doing anything else, it was just this innate sense that I had to do this.
3 years passed and those who held the ‘gate keys’ to ordination changed and a more open team was built. I went back through the system and was accepted; the doors opened. I had made it. I was affirmed, called and others thought so too.
Luke also went through this process alongside me. He was questioned, scrutinised and told no. He studied and continued knowing God was calling him to ministry but the doors were not opened. This is not okay. What happens when we are not able to live the way God made us to live?
One of the earlier posts on this site talked about the call to singleness and how only God can ask us to be celibate. It’s not something another human being can put on you. I wonder, if you can be called to singleness, can you be called to be in a relationship, to be married? What about when a relationship ends that deep down we thought was right? When an organisation tells you that you can’t be the thing you know God made you to be, does it mean that feeling will go away? What happens when our own fear or failure gets in the way? How do we live knowing we aren’t in the place, relationship, vocation that we were made for? I couldn’t do anything else but ministry. Being a minister is what I am supposed to be, but if those from my course had had their way, I would be barred because of something I had no control over.
The Church looks at ordination, priesthood, the setting apart of individuals in an unhealthy way. We set it up on this pedestal. For some to be called is to lose their humanity, to be lacquered in a veneer of expectation and perfection that they can neither live up to nor escape from. There is a difference in esteem for those that are called and those that seem not to be called. There is an ‘us and them’ mentality. There is an inconsistency in what we call people to. We ask our leaders to hide their imperfections, to lie about their lives to maintain the illusion, and we open the doors to those who are ill equipped, who have swallowed the lie of what it is to be a minister. So when they hit the first hurdle, they crash into it because they thought this was a straight-forward running race. Yet, we bar the doors to those who consistently show that this is what they are supposed to do and ask them to live unfulfilled.
I sit in my manse thinking about what I would be if I weren’t here. I would be a bird, with her wings clipped unable to leave the branch. I wouldn’t be myself. And as we peer through the window from the outside to those who hold the keys, who maintain their right to decide who is in and who is out, all look suspiciously similar to each other, because apparently, some are more equal than others.