Friday, January 26, 2007

Fighting the Call

It seems like I spent a good part of my life fighting the pull to be a minister. Then, a few years ago, I had my Road to Damascus moment and I felt that I could fight no longer. It felt scary, but it felt right. I felt that God was giving me clear messages to become a trained-and-ordained minister. I knew it would take me longer than most. That gave me no pause; I figured it was for a reason and would ultimately help me.

And then ... diagnosis.

Funny, but even in all that fear of the first few days, the thought of ministry didn't disappear. In fact, I very cynically thought, "Well, this is just like in a book ... the heroine experiences a huge crisis that alters her faith, she turns her back on God and is done with religion."

Of course, I am a Unitarian, so even if I turned my back on God (I would argue I didn't, I just began to define God in a different way), that doesn't mean I'm done with religion.

Sidenote: Isn't it great to be part of a religion where our changing beliefs about God don't mean that we must exit out the side door of the chapel?

I had to put all seminary studies on hold to take care of LW. As time went on, and my thoughts about God and prayer changed, the thought of going back to seminary seemed to me distasteful. Being around surgeons and oncologists, it felt that for me to be a minister was frightfully self-indulgent. Especially a UU minister, who would serve such a tiny part of the population.

(This is where I am aware that this is a public blog ... I am fighting the urge to delete those words, because I don't want to offend any UU ministers. But the most important part of this blog, to me, is that I be honest about my feelings.)

And, ultimately, it's the case of the starfish. "I made a difference to *that one*." I have been blessed to have several UU ministers make a difference to me via their blogs and my blog. I can only imagine what a gift it would have been to have my own minister.

I think that the biggest issue is one of circular logic. Very soon after Little Warrior was diagnosed, I began hearing the refrain, "... this will make you a better minister."

Perhaps it will; I think all of our life experiences help us to be better ministers. I will go out on a limb here and say that I think a minister with 20 years experience will be a better minister than one with 6 months experience, assuming that s/he has learned something in that time, and is still willing to learn.

But the whole argument is so distasteful to me. For me to benefit in some way from LW having cancer ... I feel nauseated. Yes, I have learned from the experience. Yes, it has affected me in many different ways. But there is no lesson I learned that was worth an innocent baby going through that.

I guess I am still angry at the universe. Before, I saw messages from The Source in everything. I would be thinking about something, a song would come on the radio; I felt it was a message.

I am a petulant child. I fight against becoming a minister. Because LW's journey WILL have made me a better minister. And I don't want to reward the universe by allowing her pain to make me a better anything. I know that I sound like a spoiled child, even as I write those words. But the feeling remains.

I want to go back to seminary. To learn and argue and be exposed to new ideas. I just don't want to be a minister.


UU Soul said...

I'm glad you didn't delete. I have thought about writing comments a few times and always fear that my comment might be... not just the wrong thing to say... but a sense of "how dare I speak when I haven't been through anything remotely similar." I had been thinking about how adult cancer survivors sometimes say they feel having cancer had been a gift because of the ways their lives have changed. Clearly it isn't possible for a little child to have that experience... to respond, to transform in response to it. I can't think of any way to "spin" it into a spiritual journey and who would want to. It is hard to be anything but angry.

I hope you would one day want to be a minister again, not because you would be a better one now... just a different one. I imagine that you have already been ministering through your blog to those who are going through similar experiences... I don't think we need to put a positive spin on terrible things that happen. We can just use the pain that has shredded our heart and our soul to help others who suffer too... just thoughts of an unworthy reader who cares about your pain and anger, but knows she can't begin to touch it.

Anonymous said...

This is a brave post that shows your struggle in the moment. The mom in me says immediately, "go to seminary," as if you've asked for my advice.

You are already ministering to people here, whether you know it or not. I ache for a strong minister who can help me navigate my feelings about my own stupid crises, but who can also inspire me to become a part of the larger world. You've done that here, on your blog.

I'm not a minister; I don't even play one on tv. All I can say is from my experience in the pews, whatever is put in your path will make you a better minister but only if you pay attention to it, pay attention to how you react to it, and keep your heart open in the midst of it. A good minister does this with the good, the bad, and the simply horrendous.

Whether you heed this call or not; whether you go to seminary or not; whether you stay nauseated or not, you have, in my so very humbled opinion, become a person in touch with the importance of that which is here and now. How that cannot make you a better minister, I don't know. But do know that you are a minister, already.

May you find peace in this moment.

MadPriest said...

It will make you a better minister BUT that doesn't mean it will benefit you. It will benefit the people you minister to. In my religion we call it redemption. The way a bad thing is redeemed is always a surprise. So at this stage there is no reason to feel guilty about benefiting from the cancer because chances are you won't. Being a minister is not a reward. On the whole it's a burden with a few good bits.

Anonymous said...

I understand the frustration of someone saying you will benefit from this struggle and challenge and if you chose to become a minister, it would deepen your abilities due to the growth that has developed as a result. No one wants to pay a price so dear, even if others may benefit in some way, whether you are a formal "minister" or not. I agree with the other bloggers- you are already ministering- to your daughter, to your family, to your friends, to those reading your blog. I think philosophically this is about the nature of suffering- is suffering good or bad? I think it just is. When we are in the middle of it, it is horrible. When it is over, we are so glad, and there are lessons we can take away. I think you have a gift for ministry no matter how or if you choose to pursue it. There are many ways to minister, and the options and choices are yours. As your blogging audience, we see a lot of talent there in ministry if you decide to pursue that path in some way. Think of it this way, if you yourself had fought cancer, taken care of an elderly relative, or.... You would have had a growth experience and learned about yourself and the universe and experienced the grace and anger and ups and downs in some way.

Thank you for sharing yourself throughout this struggle- it has been a gift for us readers out here in blogland.

I have shared this with a family with a daughter fighting Wilms (my brother-in-laws relatives) and a friend undergoing a devastating end to a relationship. So your words have traveled.

I hope that the coming year brings health and peace and happiness to you and your family.

Take care of yourself and each other.

Cincy mom