Sunday, April 19, 2009

Yes, I do

Anonymous said...

Any thoughts for someone who is in full time ministry and wanting out?

Yes, I do.

It's a big decision to make, one that took me several years. It's a decision that contains multiple layers, and each of them require some serious thought and consideration. Doing so is a revealing process, as it will lead you to motives you may not have been aware of.

Your first point of clarity is knowing why you want to get out. Are you bored? Are you disillusioned, maybe tired of being broke, or are you just fed up with the assholes in your church? These reasons need exploration, and that search needs to be done with a trusted voice who will let you talk it out completely with out judgment. I try my best to be objective, even though I made the choice to leave, I'm smart enough to know that my decision is not the right one for everyone else. Who knows, you may just need a good vacation in order to feel better about your lot in life. But I would doubt it.

A second layer to peel back is knowing where you want to go. Leaving is one thing, having a destination is another. I left because I had a compelling notion to start something new, completely unrelated to what I did before. It pulled me out, and forward. Even though many would not understand, it gave me a justification that I could rely on and defend in my own soul, which is essential, because there will likely be many lonely days ahead once you launch out.

A third aspect of which to be aware is what other people think. The good spiritual answer is that we are only supposed to care about what God thinks, but if you have helped people in their faith development, that is not something to be taken lightly. You will need to be able to communicate to these folks why you are making the shift. You can't just leave and expect them to fully understand without giving them a reason why. People will have to make their own choice about what they think about your decision, but how you consider them is yours.

I know this oversimplifies it, but I wanted to acknowledge your question and say that leaving vocational ministry is not the end of the world, despite what you may have been led to believe. I was always beat over the head with the verses on perseverance, and diligence and how if you take your hand from the plow, you are not fit for the Kingdom. These can be easily taken out of context and made to apply to your vocation and not your deepest soul. Leaving your ministry position may be the very thing to put you back on track toward renewing your faith. I know it did for me.

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Anonymous said...

Hey Watchman,

Thanks for the response. I am bored, for sure. I sit in an office most of the week doing admin tasks or sit in meetings where I get assigned more tasks. I am an associate pastor and so I have some say in the way things should go, but only to a point and then I feel like I have to tow the line.

Disillusioned? Hmmm. Probably with the church as we know it, but not with God.

Finances- I am far from broke and we just received a raise recently, but I am concerned that this is my main motivation for even wanting to stay. Seems messed up to me.

Knowing where I want to go- Up until recently I feel like God has been asking me to step into a black fog and trust him. I feel like I may be getting a little more clarity and now it seems more like a gray haze instead.

Be aware what others think- I really appreciated this point. My main hope is that when I leave that I leave well and don't damage the church in any way.

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my question. Your thoughts are very helpful to me and my family as we pray about what is next.


Regina Terrae said...

Funny ... I'm having a vocational mid-life crisis, too, not quite the same situation but some parallels. I left my secular job about 20 months ago, after having worked there for 19 years -- pretty much my entire adult life. I was unhappy there for years, partly because although it's a public sector organization that's supposed to do good, fight poverty and empower people and all that, I had come to believe that on balance we were doing more harm than good. I wanted to leave but did not have a next goal and felt very insecure about stepping into that black fog. Then I felt guilty about my lack of faith, like Anonymous, it seemed messed up that I was staying just for security.

Finally God did something funny ... just as a major reorganization was on the horizon, and the prospect of a contract buy-out offer, that movie Into Great Silence about the Carthusian monks came out. I had long felt attracted to the monastic life but never found the place or community that felt like "home" to me. The movie stirred up those old feelings and I started looking again, found a convent and fell in love at first sight. I knew it was where I wanted to spend the rest of my life!

I visited, loved it, took the contract buy-out, paid off debts, put my house on the market, and then ....

The house didn't sell. I started to have doubts about going from security to security, from the paternalistic job to the maternalistic convent, if you will -- was this really the leap of faith I felt I was lacking in my character? I started to have doubts about some aspects of the nuns' lifestyle -- would I be happy never gardening in shorts and a tank top, feeling the sun on my skin? always celebrating the liturgy with Gregorian chant, and never the old hymns I love so much? Would it just be way too much community, too much togetherness, not enough silence and solitude? Living with 40 women?!

Now I believe that God put the attraction of the convent before me to give me the courage to leave my job. Once I had taken that step, I mysteriously found the faith I had been missing, the willingness not to jump straight into something else, to let the process unfold, to learn to listen to God in my heart and trust.

Anyway ... work in process. I still don't know where I'll end up, but I'm very grateful for the opportunity to get to know myself and Him better, in peace and quiet.

Just found this blog, by the way ... I'll be following it!