Struggling on the road to Ordination

Struggle: The distance between Graduation and Ordination

   Having graduated from the School for Deacons in Berkeley I thought the toughest part of this journey was over. Instead I found myself in an in-between phase of "Where am I?" and "Where do I go from here?"
   On June 1st I returned to my home parish of St. Paul's after spending almost a year at my Field Ed parish of St. John's. To my surprise I found St. Paul's had 'moved along' since I was there, as what happens in any organization, particularly one with dynamic leadership and a group of people that are open to growing.
   At the same time I was suffering the loss of all of the parish family I had come to love at St. John's.
   In the midst of this transition I found myself seemingly lost in a heavy fog obscuring the future. What am I supposed to do now? How do I make this work? What are my own expectations and goals? How am I supposed to answer this call?
   At the root of this struggle is the question I couldn't answer when I began this process: How am I supposed to be a Deacon when I already work a
demanding full-time job that involves extensive travel? I felt like I needed to search out the answer to this in order to "begin", but all I could find is frustration, along with what many of us carry in our baggage: self-condemnation.
   I spent months trying to "do something", as if the answer was just in front of
United, SFO
me, or subject to an extensive thought process on my part. While this sounds like a reasonable path to take in the business world, is this what one does pursuing the vocational path??
   After spending months wandering in my 'action mode', I found myself in an airline seat on a flight from North Carolina sitting next to a person who was greatly perturbed. For most of the flight there were heavy sighs, a scowl on the mouth, and constant shifting in the seat. Since I travel so much for work my mind was naturally in work mode--not thinking as a Deacon.
   Nearing the end of the flight, this person started a conversation with me, asking what I do for work. We talked a bit about travel, since we both had occupations requiring many nights away from home.
   He then started telling me how angry he was about the doctors who were forcing him to move his wife out of the house and into a medical care facility. She was suffering from a terminal illness and the care required for her would apparently be less costly in the medical facility. He felt as if they were losing their freedom of choice in managing their own healthcare.
   After he fumed for a bit, I told him about my sister, who had suffered through numerous surgeries and extensive medical care for nearly her entire life. In 2007, at age 46, she received a notice from her insurance company that she had reached the maximum life benefit for health insurance, and was being dropped from coverage. The cost of prescriptions and continuing care far exceeded their monthly income, and rather than leave her spouse bankrupt decided to terminate her treatments. She died three weeks later.
   He had listened intently to my story, and when I had reached the end he said "Well that is certainly a different perspective." Our conversation moved to more mundane things, but clearly the anger against the healthcare professionals had dissipated.
   He was still worried, hurt, and angry at the circumstances of his wife's illness, as any of us are when we struggle with tragedy, but for a short time he was able to voice his hurts with someone else rather than just letting it churn on the inside.
   It was only after I left the aircraft and was rushing to my next gate that I realized "Hey, was that some kind of deaconal moment?" I wrestled with this for weeks afterwards. After all, I hadn't made an appointment to meet this person. I didn't decide "Today I'm not a Deacon, but tomorrow I will be." Instead it just happened in the course of living my life that someone in need was led to me.
   I asked myself "How did that happen?" and then started taking a step back to look at this entire process of becoming a Deacon. I didn't start out thinking "This is what I will do!", but instead was more like "OK, I really don't want to do this--I don't think I can do this--but I will answer your call and just trust in You."

Cedar Swamp Trail,
Cape Cod National Seashore
 I came to the realization that rather than continuing that belief of trusting in God and listening for her voice, which I followed through three years of School, I had moved into 'work mode' trying to make things happen. It is not an easy thing for people to relinquish control, particularly to our God who usually can't be discerned by our physical senses.
   As much as I have lived into this calling since March 2013 when Pastor Kathleen West stopped me to say "You know, you have a call within you!?" I find my most inner, basic self to be like any other person searching for meaning in this world. Sometimes the road ahead is covered with fog, but even in the heaviest of fog one searches for markers, listens for sound, or seeks a light.
   Trusting that God is leading us and is concerned about each one of us helps guide us to inner peace, while opening our hearts to the people God sends our way.
May God's Peace and Love continue to pursue each one of you!

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