“You are incapable of being okay being still, spinning your wheels,” she said. “You are only happy when you are moving forward.”
She is right. This friend has heard me process all my ups and downs during this year of exploration. She has been a safe place to process all my fears, to talk through off-the-wall dissertation ideas, and has just shown up and said, “I see you” when I feel like no one else does.
Her comment about my need for forward motion came after hearing my voice lilt with sadness all week and then pick up with a note of excitement when I told her about the possibility of some new adventures ahead.
The ache I’d been nursing in my heart came from an answer I didn’t want to hear: wait. I’d been so used to the momentum that the screeching halt sent me reeling down a sideroad to dark places that week.
The word “explore” launched me down a trajectory this year that has been often dizzying. I chose it as my One Word for 2022, perhaps hopeful like most people that this year would be the year the world started moving again after nearly two years of holding our breath.
I knew the Spirit was stirring up something deep in my soul that I couldn’t yet name. So, I was determined to follow the path forward until I figured it out. No part of my life remained untouched this year by change and I was committed to riding that transformation into a new, exciting purpose.
I joined a new church at the same time we moved into our new house at the end of last year. The vulnerability of telling your story to new people, of putting yourself out there again—it never gets easier. But it’s worth it.
That temporary assignment while a co-worker was on maternity leave that turned into a full-time promotion meant learning all kinds of new skills this year. I’m still stretching myself as I work on communications strategy for three clients and manage a small team. Most of the time, I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. Show up afraid. Yep, that’s been my motto this year.
I began the year exploring the possibility of beginning Doctoral studies, taking a few classes to try it on for size. I ended the year with my Master’s degree in Practical Theology under my belt and about 2000 pages of research read for my Dissertation journey. The stack of books next to my desk means I have a couple more years of exploring the topic of contemplation and spiritual formation in the Episcopal church ahead of me.
Ministry / Calling
What felt like the undercurrent of the entire year, the slow and gentle movement under the surface where God quietly nudged me forward—was Discernment.
For those not familiar with the process, Discernment in the Episcopal church is a long inquiry into how God is moving in someone’s life toward a call to ministry. People who believe they are experiencing a call to holy orders (as a priest, deacon, or monastic) place themselves in the hands of others to guide and journey with them in the process.
I spent 8 weeks meeting with a group on Zoom and in weekly meetings with my Priest. Next, I spent the summer in discussion with a small committee in my church, baring our souls to each other and asking the hard questions about life and faith, and calling. My church stood behind me as a Nominee, recommending me to the Diocese—the governing body of all the churches in Middle and North Georgia. The Commission on Ministry, a group of priests and lay people, is appointed to interview Nominees, and we spent a day in in-person interviews and four more weeks on Zoom going even deeper into our stories.
The Mt. Everest of explorations, this is one of the most enlightening processes I’ve ever submitted myself to. I said at the beginning of the year that the word “explore” represented moving forward, overcoming fears, and knowing myself better. Every step of this process embodied those things.
At the end of the interview process, the Commission either recommends Nominees go onto the next step toward ordination, says “no” we do not think this is the right path for you, or—as I discovered—can say “not yet.” I got the “not yet” answer, which sent me into that weeklong detour, seeking to understand my disappointment and despair.
Honestly, I began the process with complete ambivalence. When asked where I thought the journey would end, I kept saying, “I really have no idea and I’m okay with that. I just feel called to the process and however, it ends will be my answer.”
The last few weeks in interviews and the sadness I felt at not being allowed to move forward allowed the Spirit to whisper new revelations to me. One was through my friend who called out my desire to always be moving. Growing, learning, and always going deeper are important to me. Standing still, especially in relation to my faith, is not an option.
Another lesson came through the kind affirmations of people who have walked with me this past year—those who encouraged me to keep exploring and expressed how clear it is that God has a call on my life for ministry. What kind of ministry is not yet clear. And that is okay. I didn’t reach the summit at the end of 2022. I don’t expect I will anytime soon.
So, where does that lead me?
“When you catch a tiny glimpse of the future, be sure not to smother it with your own agenda. Let it breathe. Let it grow at a healthy pace. Admit it’s both delightful and terrifying. As you take your next right step today, trust that God won’t allow you to miss your own future. Follow the arrows.” – Emily Freeman
in conversation: leave a comment below
One word: Did a word for 2022 find you? what has that word taught you? where has it led you? are you surprised by what god showed you through your focus on this word in 2022?
Explore: What did you explore about God, yourself, and the world this year? what lessons did your exploration teach you?
Listen. Learn. Love. is my letter to you, the one who wants to find the places where faith and action intersect. Sign up here.