A game of chance or Spirit led ministry? How do we get “picked” and why does it matter so much?

Seth Godin offered a great podcast this week called “You’re it” – all about getting picked for things, random happenings, how luck and chance play into what we see as opportunities (and fame and fortune).

I listened to this podcast while in the shower (where I do my best thinking) after getting my kiddo off to school.  This morning’s conversation with her involved me explaining her recently arrived MCAS scores.  Why they were important, why they were NOT important – and what “really matters”.  My kid is a hard worker, a good student, does well on tests.  I found myself sharing the disclaimer however that standardized tests value and assess certain things, but not others.  The comparisons among “average” students, and what school is doing “well” is also problematic.  I didn’t want to discount her high scores, but I found myself wondering what exactly those numbers meant in our “real world experience.”  Those questions are often on my heart as I walk through the world.

I’m in a strange place in my life right now.  I have very few specific, timed commitments.  The obligations I do have (mostly raising our child, being home and available) are clear and regular.  I left a career in teaching that didn’t fit rightly after becoming a mom.  I did paid work for my faith community that was appreciated and good, but restricted me in ways that were eventually too challenging.  I now do part time contract odd jobs, and am looking for employment that is not “career” focused.

I’m still feeling somehow I am in “searching” mode.  I’m called to travel among Friends, primarily in NE and NY Yearly Meetings.  Those visits are often on Sundays, during regularly scheduled meeting for worship (not called meetings or other special events).  I’ve recently been given more messages in worship as I travel – and also as often they words given are to be shared around the edges of worship – with a specific new visitor, a struggling Friend who needs a bit of support, many situations I could not predict.  I am often overwhelmed with the “right place at the right time” feeling.

So what’s my role in this?  Am I the one working to find the “right place” and “right time” – or is that just luck too?  How much agency shall I claim as my own in this direction?  Last year, after a year of waiting per my support committee, I intended to apply to a formal traveling ministry program.  I was crushed to learn it was (for the upcoming year) intended for Young Adult Friends only.  I was told “apply in 2019” – and that was just not even remotely a possibility for me.  Later on, when the deadline was extended, and it was opened to folks “my age” – I’d already met with my support committee about other situations, made alternate arrangements, and I just couldn’t put it back on my plate again (no matter how rightly it had felt for the past two years).  I didn’t get “picked”.  I still wonder sometimes what would have happened if I had been involved in that particular traveling ministry program.  During that year, I was also named by a nominating committee to be asked to serve in a specific way that I had hoped for.  The committee never called to ask me to serve.  My support committee assumed I was simply not their choice.  It turns out they just never got around to calling me.  I’d already discerned that I should approach them and say “yes”, but Way seemed to close.   I didn’t get “picked” then either.  

I’m still in many ways that kid on the sidelines, hoping to get picked” for the team of “ministers who know what they are doing”.  I’m not sure what team that actually is most of the time.  I’m not even sure what we are all playing at…..

Seth Godin brings up a very good point in his podcast – opportunities present themselves in very different ways now in our secular, connected world.  You often don’t need a high level degree, specific training, or complicated qualifications to participate in the work.  Early Friends seem to have gotten this message sooner than most perhaps – rather than years of study and a seminary degree, it was quiet faithfulness and listening to being guided and well used in one’s gifts that was THE important factor.  They went viral before the internet.

And yet… we test those gifts, and our service, in community.  The community is responsible for the listening to our call.  I am asked to trust that I am hearing clearly, and that my support committee, my meeting, and my faith community are as well.

As I look today to so many others I know in faithful ministry – traveling, pastoring, doing Work in “big ways” that seem to fit their gifts so well, I’m not sure where that sweet spot of service and longing and call is for me.

I’ve done a lot of work in the field of creativity.  I know that much of the time, we follow a very twisted path and end up where we are well used.  Maybe it doesn’t really matter what we do, but how we do it.  Maybe we are exactly where we are “supposed” to be – and it doesn’t make logical sense in our limited brain space.  I’m hoping every day to give myself the joy and space and understanding that I hope for my daughter, as she walks through he world not defined by her test scores, or the notion that she needs to be “picked”.

“Most of us are not raised to actively encounter our destiny. We may not know that we have one. As children, we are seldom told we have a place in life that is uniquely ours alone. Instead, we are encouraged to believe that our life should somehow fulfill the expectations of others, that we will (or should) find our satisfactions as they have found theirs. Rather than being taught to ask ourselves who we are, we are schooled to ask others. We are, in effect, trained to listen to others’ versions of ourselves. We are brought up in our life as told to us by someone else! When we survey our lives, seeking to fulfill our creativity, we often see we had a dream that went glimmering because we believed, and those around us believed, that the dream was beyond our reach. Many of us would have been, or at least might have been, done, tried something, if…

If we had known who we really were.” – Julia Cameron



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