What Is Real? What Is True?
When I announced to my family that I felt called to ministry, there was a celebration. Tears of joy were followed by warm hugs and statements like “we’re proud of you, and we support you.” It was a cocoon of encouragement, and I could not have felt more validated. Later in seminary, I encountered professors and fellow students who acknowledged my call to ministry and worked to prepare me to serve the church. Working as a ministry coordinator at CWC, I was mentored and given opportunities to live out my call to ministry. Validation of my call was not a problem.
When I was called to be the lead pastor of a congregation, it felt like a culmination of all of those validating experiences. My call was not only confirmed but sought by others who saw it too. I was so excited. This was going to be the best experience of my life!
That didn’t last long. The first day at the church, the question on my mind was, “What am I doing here?” Other doubts crept in slowly. I picked apart my sermons, feeling dejected every Sunday about what I wished I hadn’t preached and about what I should have said instead. I started comparing my ministry to my colleagues and found myself wanting. When struggles and challenges happened at church or in meetings, I thought, “someone really called to ministry would know what to do.” There were and are moments when I wonder, especially when ministry is hard, did I really experience a call to ministry? Was it real? Was it true? Maybe you have felt that way too.
Unfortunately, difficulties and hardships have a way of giving us amnesia, causing us to forget what is real, and what is true. The doubts take hold when we are separated from the constant encouragement of our mentors, cheerleaders, and spiritual directors. So, I share with you what my people shared with me, “Your call is as real and true today as it was when you first felt it bubble up in your soul. It’s not easy, but God is with you, and we’re with you too.” Some days, I need that reminder more than others. Maybe you do too.
Whether you are celebrating your call or questioning it, let me remind you today that God’s call upon your life to serve God’s people is real, and it is true.
Rev. Mary Stephens is the pastor of South Side Church of God in South Bend, Indiana.