My curacy is more than half-way over.* And that means that application season is nearly upon me. It is a season of discernment.
Or, more specifically in my case, over-thinking everything. No one has ever accused me of not thinking enough. I am a chronic, hand-wringing, dramatic over-thinker by nature (and probably nurture).
But, especially when it comes to imagining my future, I find the more I think, the less clarity I have.
Someone recently asked me about my five-year plan. I told them that going through grad school during a pandemic made me hesitant to think ahead. There wasn’t much point in planning for the future when I couldn’t even plan for the next week.
But seasons change. And the pandemic is no longer an excuse for not dreaming and scheming (even though it is still making life difficult). As much as I valued being forced to live in the moment, that’s a hard thing to do now that I actually have to make choices.
My coping mechanism for over-thinking is not thinking at all. I hate making choices. I don’t even like to grocery shop because I just want one option. I can make do with the store brand. Just let me sit here. I can usually grow where I’m planted.
But we’re not getting much rain this year, and I’m not sure I can take it.
So, I’ve already begun looking at open positions. I’ve started trying to imagine myself living somewhere. Making a whole life there.
I can see so many possibilities. But nothing exactly feels like home. In Christian circles, people like to act like following God’s call is some big, dramatic aha moment sort of thing. But even when I think I’ve experienced it, I wake up the next day feeling defeated, too beaten down from years of isolation and months of self-doubt and endless hours of thinking. I open my fists and find I’m holding onto nothing at all.
I came across the below poem by Joy Sullivan last night and the sentiment resonated. Yes, the narratives wreak of American individualism in a way I’m not totally comfortable with. But they also suggest liberation from the status quo. People doing things because their heart is answering a call. It may not make sense to outsiders, but it’s worth the risk to make a whole life.
My parents don’t identity as risk takers, and I guess I don’t either, though people have often told me I’m brave. My parents were always willing to make a big move for the dazzling promise of a new job. In truth, they – we – are idealists to a fault, always thinking something better is just past the horizon. But the new place and the new job have never resulted in a drastically better life. And there’s always grief and hardship in the transition.
I’m so sick of moving. Moving away from Charlottesville for seminary wrecked me. I was embedded there. It was my city, my community, my home.
It’s easy to idealize the past. I couldn’t stay there, because I needed to go to seminary elsewhere. But the wounds of that separation make me hesitant to settle anywhere unless it’s for the long haul. It’s too hard to move on.
Things could have been similar in New Haven had the pandemic not put a damper on things, and even leaving there was hard. I moved to Houston because I couldn’t figure out how to get home. But leaving this place will still rub salt in the wound. I will always be missing what I left behind.
Still, I don’t think I want to stay here forever. I so badly want to find a place to stay. People say my next job should just be a stepping stone. But I’m so tired of walking. I just want to get home.
“There’s only time to turn toward what you truly love.”
I think I have lost track of what I truly love. I had a hard year. I’m sometimes doubtful that I was called here at all.
But what else would I have done? What else could I have imagined? Despite it all, I’m still growing where I’m planted.
If you’re the praying type, pray for me. I don’t know what I truly love. But maybe my moonshot idea is a quiet life, not a resume builder. Maybe it’s ok to put down roots. Maybe I can get back home and stay awhile.
Maybe I’m allowed to dream again. Maybe I’m even allowed to be happy.
*A curacy is a time-limited ministry position for first-time clergy. I often compare it to medical residency. You have the credential, but you’re gaining the experience.