Early Saturday, the last day of my 44th year

It's Saturday at the end of a lonnnng week. So, why did I wake up at 6AM with no hope of going back to sleep? Hell if I know.

Dan and I went to our local brewpub for a little pre-birthday dinner for me, since he leaves for the Detroit auto show early tomorrow morning (on my actual birthday--I'm pouting). Our friends Vicki and Mike met us there, which was a nice little surprise. The beer was good, but the forgettable pizza might be partly to blame for my early start to the day.

Due do a little schedule malfunction, the anticipated meeting with my spiritual director didn't happen yesterday as scheduled--we're delayed until later this month. However, it wasn't a total loss. Just as one does an extra-good job of brushing and flossing before a trip to the dentist, I tend to spend some time organizing my thoughts before a direction meeting.

The last time I met with Margaret we spent time talking about life in general terms and about our shared wonder at the demise of Advent. (It's hard to watch and wait in comparative quiet with Santa Claus breathing down your neck and a million Christmas things to do.) For yesterday's meeting I was going in with my courage screwed-up to deal directly with the perennial topic at hand: priestly discernment. (Um... if you're new to my blog and need to catch up on this topic, you might want to read a couple of the posts tagged "discernment/ministry".) This is where I am in my discernment distilled down into sort of bullet list/timeline:

  • I grew up attending church.
  • I wandered away during college, but never lost my faith, just my practice.
  • I went back because I wanted more than a general sort of abstract experience of God.
  • The Episcopal church's 3-part balance of scripture, tradition, and reason offered me a way to explore my faith that I'd never experienced before.
  • I've sent the last 8 years reading, studying, and participating in a vibrant church community.
  • In that time I've also felt an increasing sense that I am supposed to be doing something different or more with my life. That's a totally inadequate expression of what the church most often refers to as "Call." Have you ever had the experience of hearing a clear voice saying something to you just as you drift off to sleep? It's something like that.
  • I've spent the last two years in conversation with priests and my director talking about this sense of call and about my thought that it might be a call to ordained ministry.
  • In that time I've never felt that I was willing to lie, cheat, steal, do whatever I have to do to be a priest because I want it more than anything else in the world. I know that's dramatic language, but the point is that I have been been consistently tentative about this. Not tentative about the sense of call, but about priesthood.
  • Along the way I've had some very illuminating experiences that caused me to step back and look at the course of my life and own the fact that I'm an artist. My most vivid memories are of painting, drawing, sewing; of museums and great colorful walks in the woods or the desert. I've heard that great cooks have taste memory. I'm beginning to think that I have textile memory.
  • Trusted and respected friends have suggested to me that there might be a middle way between ordained priesthood and some sort of life as an artist. That might be true, and I've spent more than a year contemplating that.
  • I've never spoken to a single person about my discernment journey who has not made the observation that when I talk about art my voice is strong, quicker, brighter, and my body opens up. Discussions about ordination are quiet, tentative, halting, and tight.

So, where does that leave me?

  • I'm not going to be a priest any time in the foreseeable future, or a deacon either, for that matter.
  • I don't know if I'm ever going to attempt to make a living as a full-time artist, but I know that developing as an artist is important to me and that's the path that I'm on today. That's what feels right; that's what feels like a response to the call.
  • I've been building up to this conclusion (not the right word) for some time how. All the while I've been hoping for sense of closure, but there isn't one. How do you tell your friends that you're considering ordained ministry, then turn around and say, "Well, maybe not."?
  • There is no closure here. There's only making course adjustments and moving forward with God's help.

If you made it all the way to the end of this post then I congratulate you for persevering through my stream-of-consciousness brain dump, and more importantly, I thank you for listening.

Have a great day. The sun is shining here in Maryland and it looks like a day full of promise.