Dear Newly Ordained Me,
It has been 10 years since I’ve been you, a newly ordained minister of Jesus Christ. 10 whole years! I’m looking at a picture of you, and I hardly recognize you as a former me. There’s a lot of growing you will do in your following years, and I would like to take this time to pass my thoughts on to you.
You have a long journey ahead of you and there’s so many changes to encounter before you become me. You will become a reader (shocking!), fall in love with teaching God’s Word (not so shocking!), become a pacifist (no, that isn’t the same thing as being a wimp), be diagnosed with a learning disability (see, you were right all along), enjoy children’s ministries (shocking!), and become someone who can and will confront and stand up for yourself (shocking!), find your self-worth (it will be a hard journey, but one that is worth it), become a feminist (no, they never burned bras), become egalitarian (look it up in the dictionary, it’s a good thing), experience your dream of going to the King Center (I know, exciting, right?), and you’ll go back for a BA in Biblical Studies (I’m just going to celebrate that one on my own, because I know you won’t. ) See what I mean? All of that is jam-packed into one little decade!
So let’s talk about what shapes you into this person…
1. There will be pastors who you work alongside of that will show you how to be a great pastor. There will be pastors who you will work alongside of that will show you how to be a not-so-great pastor. Take good notes on them both. Both categories are great lessons on what to do/what not to do in order for you to do better in building God’s Kingdom.
2. You will close a church. You will be absolutely crushed. You will feel like a failure of a pastor with a failed ministry, but keep your head up. Eventually, you will move on, and you will keep going. Closed doesn’t mean failure. Closed doesn’t mean failed. Keep marching. Keep moving. It will get much better!
3. I’m single just as much as you are, but don’t become discouraged. One day you will wake up and suddenly realize that you have been single for 12 years and it has worked out just fine, so why be so obsessed with marriage and family? You will learn to make friends and congregation your family and they will be your love and support as you will be there’s. It’s still family, it’s just not the kind the culture will acknowledge as a family, and that’s okay.
4. You will become a reader. I know that’s a shock, because I remember how much you HATE–no, LOATHE to read, but you will learn to love it. You will learn all kinds of mysteries, theologies, and go on great adventures, and you’ll wonder how in the heck you ever managed to go 22 years (or so) absolutely hating to sit and read. So unfathomable to think about, really…
5. You will learn through a tough and long lesson that you cannot earn anyone’s love, grace, compassion, mercy, etc… anymore than you can earn God’s love, grace, compassion, mercy, etc… You will significantly know one day, through heartbreak, that these are not only gifts from God, but they are gifts we give to each other. So give freely. Even in the midst of pain and unfairness. Receive freely. Even when you know you don’t deserve it.
6. At some point, you’ll discover your passion for teaching. You will desire to help others learn various theologies and to take holiness and Bible reading seriously and deeply. You will also have some amazing teachers you will learn from as well in life. The teacher must always be the student. Never forget that being a student is key.
7. Still no Deaf Ministry… :-( But… you will make Deaf friends and have ministered to them in some capacity. They are great people and you’ll love them! You still have a ministry, it’s just not the way you are picturing it today. Oh, and you’ll also meet several people along the way who share this passion (I know! Exciting, right?) So keep working on your sign and keep passioning your passion.
I leave you with these bits of advice:
1. You know that scene in “The Lion King” where Mufasa shows up in the clouds and says to Simba, “Remember who you are“? Well, that’s a good lesson for you too, not just Simba. Remember you are God’s daughter. Remember the Holy Spirit lives in you. Remember to reflect Christ in your life. Remember your calling and your purpose in God’s Kingdom. Remember who you are. By remembering, you will be able to get through the joyous and difficult days.
2. Listen to your class song often. It will always give you encouragement. Your class name, Preparers of the Way, will become your personal mission statement. How could it not? You and your stinkin obsession with Eschatology (that never goes away btw, it only grows greater ).
3. Build a support system around you. They don’t get to move with you, so stay connected, and stay in touch. And don’t be afraid to join new groups in town. You’ll meet a lot of interesting and friendly people there.
4. Get a couple of cats to be your stress relievers. Name one Herby. The other Mordecai.
5. Make the choice to love people. It takes strength–absolute strength–to love those who don’t deserve it. Do it anyways. Love is always a better and healthier option. It’s not easy, but it’s always worth it!
6. There are several struggles ahead, but you’ll make it. You’ve always been the type of person that when the lightbulb goes out, you sit in the darkness, and search for the lesson in it. Don’t ever change that about yourself. There are plenty of lightbulbs that will go out. There are plenty of darknesses to sit through. There are also plenty of lessons that will make you a better person, so keep searching out the lessons.
7. Preach hope. Preach love. Preach peace. Preach mercy. Preach compassion. Preach joy. Preach humility. Preach several things, but don’t get stuck on preaching on what we need to do to be better at, all the time. If we understand Universal Atonement we will understand redemption. People need some positivity in their lives. They get enough negative crap in the world. Be the difference.
8. And one more thing before I close this off, go visit Scott and Carol, once if not twice before October 19, 2006. Don’t ask why, just go do it.
Most of all though, love God and follow Him. Love others. And God will be with you always.
The Seasoned You (which always sounds like I’m Curry or Pepper or Dill Weed or something like that.)
Prepare ye the way of the Lord
Make straight paths for Him
Let every nation say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”