I graduated from seminary 30 years ago this month (I was quite young at the time, really!). I have just completed my 30th academic year in campus ministry. At times it is hard to believe that 30 years have gone by so quickly. Then again, when I look back at those early days, it is very clear that it was a long, long time ago – maybe even a lifetime or two – especially when I see how much I have changed in those years.
|Original glassart based on "storm at sea" quilt block pattern|
I must say that the last few years I have been struggling at several levels with my life and ministry. I wonder whether or not I am still effective in ministry. I look at the weeks at a time when it feels like I am on a roller coaster ride and I am just looking ahead to the day when it will be done and I can get enough sleep and some time to just sit and rest. It seems like those periods of time are more frequent and that I am frazzled more than I am not.
There are books that I have read that seem to identify the place that I am spiritually and in ministry. I resonate with the authors and I strive to be able to move into the place of peace and harmony in the midst of ordinary and extraordinary chaos. There are three of these writers that I can think of off the top of my head. We will call them Bob, Babbs and Mac. The reason that I started reading their stuff was because they were like me, active pastors… except for the fact that they were pastors of big churches, and they were able to find time to write inspiring and insightful books, and they were famous… But now, I look at Babbs and Mac and Bob and all three of them are no longer actively pastoring in churches. The answer to their struggles with how ministry got in the way of their relationship with God seems to have been to leave the pastoral ministry. Fortunately for them, they are famous and can make a living on writing and speaking – don’t get me wrong, I still find what they write and speak about very helpful. But in the back of my mind I keep wondering if there is another answer for the pastor who is finding the ministry is getting in the way of her relationship with God, other than leaving the pastoral ministry – especially if she is not famous and hasn’t figure out how to consistently post on her blog, let alone write a book!
After 30 years of pastoring in a university setting I have times that I wonder, do I really want to keep doing this? And then, if I make a change, how big of a change do I want to make? Should I find another campus ministry setting, should I move into a more traditional church pastorate? Should I see if there is an opening at Starbucks? It is when I am wondering these things and I read the wisdom of Mac and Bob and Babbs (and find it helpful) that I feel a little bit betrayed by them. That is also about the time that something exciting happens in the context of my ministry, often along the edges or in the unexpected places, that makes me think that maybe I can keep doing this for another day or two. Meanwhile, I will continue to try to figure out how to keep the ministry from getting in the way of my relationship with God, and trying to do the things that I already know could help.