Thursday, March 22, 2012

Moving Toward My Call

As of July 1, my wife Laurie has been reappointed to Good Shepherd UMC in Waldorf[1]. That means our family will be moving from our present home in Southeast Baltimore to Charles County. Overall, I think this is a good move for a lot of reasons. We think the church will be a good one for my wife to pastor; it seems to be vital congregation with good worship, lots of children and youth, and a variety of outreach ministries. We think the kids can attend daycare at the church (with over 200 children!) and get into a good school system in Charles County, which is a definite plus. We will be closer to both Laurie’s mom and my parents—all of whom are over 75 at this point—and we will also be closer to other family members.

Moving places us in an uncomfortable space between two communities—beginning to disengage from one but not yet part of the other. It is a stressful time!

On one hand, we still live in our present community where my wife will serve her current parish for three more months, but on the other our family must begin to plan for and anticipate life in a new community and at a new church. We’ve already met representatives of our new church and begun to search for a place to live—we’re excited that for the first time we can be homeowners! Even as we conclude our time in Baltimore, begin to say goodbye to longtime friends in our churches, and try to finish well, it is inevitable that we begin to peer over the horizon, and try to sneak glimpses of what things will be like on the “other side” in Waldorf—and prepare to greet that new reality as best we can. We aren’t ready to go there quite yet—but on the other hand, July 1 will be here before you know it!

As challenging as it is for us to make this move, we strongly believe God calls us to do it at this time. Obviously, the Bishop and Cabinet have discerned that this is where Laurie should go. So in one sense, this move definitely is “for her”—i.e., a career advancement and new ministry opportunity for Laurie that necessitates our move.

But the other night as I stood up and gazed at the vastness of space and thought about the future that lies ahead for us I heard God say: This move is for you Alan. When I shared that with my wife the next evening, she pretty much said she sensed the same thing.

God is calling, not just my wife, but also me to make this move.

For some time, I’ve sensed I have a call. In fact, I think all of us have a call—sometimes also referred to as vocation. I don’t think it leads me (or many of us) to ordained ministry as it did for my wife, but that doesn’t make the call any less “real” or “authentic.”

I think there is something unique that God calls each of us to do they may or may not have anything to do with what we do for a living.

My own sense of call haunts me; it won’t let me go. I have some ideas about what my calling is; I have done some things to pursue it; but parts of it still remain elusive. (In some ways, it’s less obvious when your job and calling don’t match the way it does for professional clergy.) I feel that my job writing about Science for NASA lets me live out aspects of my call. Furthermore, being husband to my wife and father to my two children is also part of my calling—God reminds me frequently that I serve Him when I serve them. But I also sense there is something more—something that my life to this point has uniquely prepared me to do.

I know that what I search for is not really found out there; it’s found in me.

In other words, a change in geography alone probably won’t lead to a fulfilled sense of call for me. No, unless I come to terms with and am at peace with the unique creation that God has made me to be, I’ll still struggle to feel fulfilled in what I do. I’ve got to come to a point where I begin to see myself as God sees me. This not only means discerning my gifts and graces, but also the flipside—and honest look at my weaknesses and wounds—and allowing God to heal them and help me become whole and holy. It takes a long time—maybe a lifetime—to reckon with what we are; in Christ, we are always called to become something more than we are right now.

I begin to realize that the good, bad, and the ugly are all part of me; I can’t really have one without the other. They work together to form the unique creation that is me, and the unique image of God that I project to the world.

Having said all that, I do sense that our new church and new community may open up opportunities to use my specific gifts and graces that I have not had in our present setting, and this should enable me to more fully live out my calling. As our family embarks on a new chapter of our story together, I am looking forward to walking with God and discovering more of what I was born to be.


[1] For those who may not know, my wife is a United Methodist pastor meaning she is itinerant and gets moved from time-to-time at the discretion of the Bishop.