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Brave or Foolish?

31 Mar

I have often been described as stoic, which is essentially a pleasant term for one who has successfully created walls to safe-guard against their vulnerabilities. However, I will be pulling back the veil and permitting a quick peek behind the curtain.

While on vacation to Arizona, I re-connected with a friend and old flame who noted his pride in my bravery and determination. It is not a foreign sentiment, but rather one echoed by family, loved ones, and friends during the last decade who have described me as courageous, admirable, and determined. Although I will grant ‘determined’ as a personal trait because it sounds better than ‘stubborn’, I often question the courageous and the admirable.

On Facebook, I recently read a quote that echoes in my mind and heart as I continually discern my situation, my vocation, and my life in light of these descriptions. Unfortunately the exact image and language seems loss to the void that is social media, but the sentiment is simple:

Brave and foolish are similar, which is what makes life hard.

Perhaps this decade has been foolish, or stupid, not courageous and admirable.

Prior to seminary, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) requires a complete psychological evaluation. Although you (and I) might be shocked, I was approved for seminary despite noting my Obsessive Compulsive (OCD) tendencies and Gender Identity/Role confusion (tomboy). However, the psychologist noted that if I was to be ordained he predicted I would switch professions within the first decade. I begun seminary at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, located in Berkeley (California), in September 2009.
Brave or Foolish?

After completing my studies and internship, I was approved for ordination in the ELCA despite expressed concern for the student loan debit I had incurred. The concern was economically valid based on the projected income of clergy, but I was given the impression that it was relieved because my husband (at the time) had dependable employment.

After I was approved for ordination, I continued to live in Washington with my husband (at the time). In order to do so, I removed my name from the assignment process. Fortunately the Southwestern Washington Synod was able to connect me with Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Kelso (WA), who decided to ‘call’ me as their pastor and thus I was ordained in June 2014. Shortly thereafter in August 2014, my husband and I decided to divorce.

  • The perceived challenge of my vocation to his own was a contributing factor to our divorce. I choose to continue in pastoral ministry,
    brave or foolish?
  • In order to honor my commitment to Gloria Dei, I remained dedicated to serving for 3-5 years despite no family and few acquired friends in the area.
    Again, brave or foolish?
  • In order to honor my student loan re-payment while remaining in ordained ministry, I have become enrolled in an income-based repayment plan.
    Again, brave or foolish?

Although Gloria Dei Lutheran is a loving community who gave me great memories, my heart and soul longed to be closer to family in Arizona (preferred) or Indiana. Therefore, I begun to seek a new ‘call’ at the conclusion of my expressed commitment.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Union City (Indiana) is located 30 miles from Richmond (Indiana), which is the hometown of my mother and the birthplace of my sister. I have aunts, uncles, and cousins who still live in Richmond. Trinity Lutheran voted to extend a letter of call (contract) and I was installed as their pastor in November 2017. Although closer to extended family, I moved further from immediate family, dear friends, and the land I am deeply connected.
Again, brave or foolish?

In addition to this timeline, professional ministry is often not beneficial to the mental, physical, or spiritual health of individuals because clergy have a reputation for struggling with:

  • Isolation;
  • Loneliness;
  • Depression;
  • Substance Abuse;
  • Sexual Misconduct;
  • Obesity;
  • Heart Attack/Heart Disease; and
  • Stroke.

The reality is that these concerns are often rooted in the stress and unhealthy cooping methods for the unrealistic standards placed upon clergy (and their family). So, again brave or foolish?

Unfortunately, I do not have the answer and I fear it will be an ever-lasting mystery demanding discernment…

  • Am I courageous?
  • Am I admirable?
  • Am I foolish?
  • Am I too ‘determined’ (or stubborn) for my own good?
 
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Posted by on March 31, 2019 in Discernment

 

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