Wanted: Female, ordained minister for full-time senior pastor position. Must be at least 50 years of age. A divorced mother would be ideal. Must be experienced in life and have a list of sins and experiences you can preach on from personal knowledge. We are especially looking for a woman who answered the call to ministry after working in other professions. If you spent time away from the church for any reason, but especially if you have questioned your faith and/or the church, please apply for this job! Salary and benefits are on your terms because we no longer believe women ministers should be offered only part-time positions with no benefits, nor do we believe that women should be paid less than their male counterparts even through they are equally qualified. Send your resume’ to the First United Church of the Perpetually Imperfect, Nowhere, USA.
If this were ever to be found in a faith-based publication or on a church website or found on the job listing bulletin board at a seminary, I would be a shoo-in for the job. I meet and exceed every single one of these requirements. But, this posting will never be found anywhere. Aside from the many ways it probably doesn’t meet legal requirements for a job listing, it is no secret to those of us who fall into the categories identified above that we are not the ideal candidates search committees hope to find when looking for the called and the chosen.
Now, in fairness to the good people on those search committees, I understand why they might have some concerns about resume’s that read like mine. I get why they might look at a resume’ from one who admits to being a lesser-than version of the life well-lived, well-planned, and well-done and decide the applicant wasn’t exactly what they were looking for. I get that while my resume’ has some impressive information (that isn’t fabricated or exaggerated) that would read, “well qualified to work with congregations, has theological training and a master’s degree from an accredited seminary,” the personal history that includes a divorced female in her early 50’s is still not what they had in mind.
My response to the folks on the search committees is…
Honestly, folks, I don’t need you to tell me how flawed I am or how these flaws will probably eliminate me from positions that might be available to serve a congregation. I am quite capable of pointing out those flaws on my own and in greater detail than you will ever be able to, thank you very much. And, even if I were practically perfect in every way, I am still a woman who wants to serve in ministry. That’s good for a strike or two. And, I’m divorced, which is good for another strike or two. So, maybe we should just quit there for now because counting any more strikes would just be unnecessarily piling on.
Except, I can’t quit being who I am and who I am called to be. And, even though I tried to convince God on any number of occasions that I was not marketable material for the ministry (which has been implied and even said to me straight out on more than one occasion), God still insisted that I accept this calling and do it. No excuses.
Who was I to say “NO” to God?
There can be some very loud voices that will try to drown out the truth. Those are the voices that will toss my resume’ on the “reject” pile along with others deemed “not good enough.” Sinners may be welcome according to the signs out front, but only if you know your place.
I understand that we should expect leaders of churches (although we shouldn’t limit this to only churches) to have standards to follow that are respectful of the calling, respectful of others and self and God. But, too often these expectations are a laundry list of “thou-shalt-not’s” that even Jesus might have a hard time living up to.
So, on my good days, I don’t believe that we humans, well-intentioned though we might be, get to have the last word in this. I see calling to serve in the ways we have been gifted to serve as God-directed rather than decisions that should be manipulated by people.
I have grown weary of those who want others to fit into neat little containers labeled “NEAT, TIDY, CLEAN, PRETTY, NICE, ACCEPTABLE, PROPER–ONLY!” There isn’t anything wrong with being any of these things or even all of these things. I’ve been all of these things, but never ONLY these things. And, I don’t want to be. There is more to us and there is more to what we get to be in life than just these labels.
I know there are women and men in ministry, and in other vocations, who are wondering how we are to serve and live into this life God has asked us to live when it sometimes feels like God is the only one besides us who sees this and accepts us as we are, where we are? When the doors in the places we know aren’t opening, where are the places where those doors are not only open, but we are joyfully welcomed there?
We can waste a lifetime trying to figure out why and understand all the reasons for these doors to remain closed. We can feel defeated by the lack of change, the lack of support, the lack of care, the lack of compassion, and the lack of love. We can and will because sometimes it’s more than we can bear and it wears on our spirits.
Maybe the reason I wanted to write and share this is that I’ve found myself of late in those hurtful, frustrating, lacking, empty places. I’ve been forced to sit with some of the things that needed tending. And, I’ve found over time that by giving solace and care to the soul, the things that trouble our souls can recover from this weariness and God will give us the courage, strength, grace, care and love needed to give us peace and help us persevere.
Unlikely people like Sarah, Abraham, Miriam, Moses, Rahab, Deborah, Ruth, David, Esther, Jeremiah, Mary, Joseph, and the Samaritan woman at the well were not always held in high esteem by their family and neighbors, but they were chosen to lead, teach, give, sacrifice, prophesy, and be a living witness to the power, love and grace of the Creator. Seemingly ordinary human beings were called to do extraordinary things. And, even when they wondered, just as we wonder why they were called, they were also willing to say, “yes!” The call was too powerful to refuse.
The cost of living life in this world is very high. But, the cost of not trying to live and trying to move beyond the hard things is even higher. Life is a precious thing and not to be squandered.
By many standards, Jesus didn’t pick the best and the brightest, the top of the class, the richest, or the people with the best pedigrees to follow him during his time on earth. He picked fishermen and a tax collector and a woman who may or may not have had a questionable reputation and others we don’t know anything about–“common” people (both men and women)–to follow him. And, they did.
I trust that I was given a life to be used for good. And,I go as an imperfect and very messy person, but one who is compelled by extravagant love and grace to joyfully share what I have, just as it has been shared with me.
I wish you peace…