As I was explaining to a professor at my seminary why I switched from Master of Divinity to Christian Leadership, she asked me “Well, what do you really want to do?”. Sheepishly I said, “Really, I just want to work and lead in a local church but I don’t want to deal with the uphill battle of being a woman in this calling.” (A little context: I recently resigned from a position at a local church.) We continued our conversation for a bit and one thing she said, has stuck with me:
“Yes, quit a job but don’t quit THAT.”
Don’t quit THAT.
This phrase has been on repeat over a loud speak in my head all week!
I accepted this when I entered seminary: I was going to walk onto a battlefield. I accepted that my position on women in the church is still the minority view. I have searched the scriptures and feel strongly that women can (and should) lead in ALL AREAS of Christian ministry, even eldership (gasp!) I get that in taking this view, there is much against me and I still struggle with the fact that there isn’t a clear path for me to walk unlike my male counterparts. So I freaked out. Jumped ship into a more “appropriate” masters for me (how enneagram six is that?!) I already finished two years of Greek for crying out loud, what’s stopping me from finishing?!
Please enjoy this personal pep-talk. I pray it encourages you as well!
There will always be opposition in your callings.
Just because you’ve given yourself permission to pursue them doesn’t mean that somehow your passion makes you less susceptible to fear and frustration. The moment you turn your passions into a shield that protects rather than guides is the moment you’ve allowed the fear to control you. Your passions make you vulnerable, that’s the only way the art of our calling comes forth. Vulnerability is terrifying, I get it but learn how to cultivate it for the purpose of connection and creativity. Take time to revisit some Brene Brown, sister.
You are NOT your opposition.
This might sound strange but to allow opposing forces to influence your decisions and make you change course, ultimately effects your identity. Our callings are refined by opposition not defined by them. This is how we can navigate the battlefield of our callings: get clear about who the enemy really is. It’s not that person who hurt you or a bad boss or a hard review. It’s fear and shame that creep into your mind taunting you with your own inadequacies and offering “security” in something other than God. When you are able to clarify your opposition, you can begin the real fight. And during the times you don’t know, step back and pause, or else you might end up fighting the wrong thing (or person). Here, I’ll give you one enemy upfront to make things easy: isolation.
Isolation is your enemy
The moment you think you can do it alone or that you are alone, is a losing moment in itself. You may not feel it right away but that poison takes time to work. Even a single person creates community. Like Laurel, your creative friend, who you are able to talk about your passions with and even go on a creative working retreat! You have community. Take the time to reach out and connect with it.
SIDE NOTE: Some of my favorite communities I am apart of is Hope Writers, The Rising Tide Society, and the Feminarians at my Seminary.
God is the one who calls and sustains
We are far to easily influenced by our pain. Instead of allowing it to shape and strengthen us, we handed over the keys and said “Here, you drive!” No more, Colette. Put pain in its rightful place: in the back seat. Our pain will always be in the car with us but it’s not allowed to drive. Jesus is the perfect example of putting pain in its rightful place. Think back to the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus prayed to the Father to remove the cup of suffering he was about to drink (death on a cross, taking on the sins of the whole world) but his calling was greater than his pain. What he didn’t do was dismiss the pain or ignore it, it was in the garden with him, it just didn’t have the last word. Jesus endured the greatest suffering to ultimately extinguish the greatest of pain, our distance from God. His pain lessened our own. So don’t think that the pain of your calling is some single serving, especially prepared for you. No, our pain is communal. Share it. It’s easier to bear. Your pain may just lessen the pain of others.
So, Colette, whether you decide to switch back to M.Div or remain MACL, don’t quit THAT.
That passion, dream, calling (whatever label you give it). Don’t quit THAT.
Opposition and passion can coexist.
Just remember which one is driving you home at the end of the day.