All of It

I have not reflected theologically in quite some time. Most of the theological structures that I had in place failed me magnificently over the past 2 years. I prayed a lot. I begged for revelations, affirmations, and prophesies, none of which came.

So I am reevaluting everything. All of it. Everything involving faith and spirituality. I am starting completely over at the basics and trying to unlearn my expectations and assumptions. I am not trying to force myself to fit into any systematic theology; I am letting it all fall into place slowly, organically.

So this is my second deconstruction. I went through my first during my freshman and sophomore years of college when I left my fundamentalist upbringing.

That was a decade ago! And I thought I was lucky because I got my great deconstruction done early in my life. But no. A surprise round 2 is upon me.

Something I was able to really feel and celebrate soon after my first deconstruction was how holy everything around me was. I was experiencing so many things in my college years, and it all felt sacred. Late nights with friends. Laughter. The music we made in choir. The plays and musicals we performed in theatre. The theological study I was engaging. Traveling to another country. Chapel services. Conversations in the dining hall. The songs of the crickets and the frogs at night. The way we all took care of each other in our dorm rooms when tornados were touching down nearby. It felt like the Divine was everywhere! The whole earth was full of glory. All of it.

Of course, over time this bliss has faded. I experienced hardship the year after I graduated college. Then in seminary I worked extremely hard and was focused on success. I had beautiful spiritual moments there as well, but I was pressured to follow a ministry path that didn’t fit me at all and pressured to conform to a particular theological framework to satisfy my ministry requirements. I lost a lot of essential parts of myself. I thought I had to sacrifice them to do the right thing of being faithful to seminary and ministry.

This was all bound to fail. In college I was allowed to be fully myself, for the first time ever. In ministry and in seminary I went back to being what others wanted me to be in line with a particular religious ideal.

Now I see that a second deconstruction was inevitable.

As I am reclaiming the parts of myself that were forced to be dormant, I have realized that some of the ideas I had after my first deconstruction are coming back to me.

I am wrtiting and putting my art in the world. That is holy and sacred. The great blue heron I saw a week ago while I was alone in the woods near the lake was a holy moment. The butterfly that grazes my face, the old man sitting on the park bench excitedly describing all the birds he has seen around the lake, the dog that approaches me for a pat and walks with me for a while, the choir I sing in, laughing with coworkers, these moments, this world is full of the Divine. All of it.

Feed Your Soul

I am in a place of discovery right now.

I almost abandoned my love of writing and theatre for the sake of ministry. I have loved both of these artistic elements since I was a child, and I was given opportunities to grow my talents. As a teenager I felt a call to ministry and thought that maybe I could use my creativity in ministry. In college I double majored in theatre and religious studies, and I minored youth ministry. I dreamed about what I could do with my passion and my calling together. I thought that when I went to seminary my vision would come into focus, and I would be inspired to forge a new path for myself.

Unfortunately, this isn’t what happened. My studies were academically rigorous, and while I had a class or two that was focused on creativity, it was within the traditional ministry model that leads to parish ministry as a pastor through which the arts could be used; these classes did not necessarily lend themselves to new ministry ideas. I also had numerous tasks, exams, meetings, and steps to complete for ordination. It was four years of one giant checklist (literally, I had a giant checklist that I checked off my fridge for four years.) After following the traditional model of seminary with little to no creative outlets to feed my soul, I thought my arts days were behind me and that those would be hobbies that would take second place to my “true” calling of being a pastor.

Part of my soul withered because it was starved of creativity. I thought it was a sacrifice I had to make for the greater good. What I learned is that I cannot serve the greater good if my soul is not being nourished. I cannot serve when I am not whole.

And then I realized that I don’t have a separate calling from my passion, my passions were given to me by God as part of my calling. If my calling lacks passion, I cannot serve with joy and energy. If my soul lacks passion, it suffers.

 

I have now published my first book, looking for a publisher for the second one, and writing my third. I am working as a stage manager for a local theatre, and  I hope this is the beginning of being involved with the local theatre circuit. I am on the pulpit supply list for the local presbytery to preach when needed. While this is not how I will be able to sustain career-wise in the long term, it is fertile ground to discover what God is calling me to next. I will need room for creativity, whatever that means, however it looks. I do not know what’s next, but for now I have the freedom to dream, to try, to experiment, to hope, and to grow. I hope something beautiful comes from this.

Sometimes we sacrifice certain things to answer our callings, to do what is good in the world. But we do not have talents so that they might be wasted. If our souls die for lack of what feeds them, what we are able to do for the greater good is limited. We were created unique and gifted for the greater good, not in spite of it. Sometimes we have to blaze our own trails. We have to be brave and navigate uncharted territory. Trying something new, even if it’s scary, can save our souls.