Magazine article The Christian Century

One Calling of Many

Magazine article The Christian Century

One Calling of Many

Article excerpt

JILL IS 25 YEARS OLD, one of the sharpest students to blow through our seminary, and very dedicated to her calling to become a pastor. As she wraps up three years of exemplary work at our school she has begun to look for her first parish assignment, and the interviews have gone well. I'm not surprised.

Her professors and field education supervisors affirm her with praise. But Jill doesn't have friends on campus. When she eats in the cafeteria she sits at a table in the corner by herself and does homework between bites of a meal she never notices.

After making an appointment to see me and confirming the time, Jill enters my office, drops her backpack on the floor, and sighs. "I have two job offers," she begins. "They are both for ordained positions at churches. One is in Chicago and the other one is in upstate New York." She goes on to describe the churches and the positions, which sound remarkably similar. There isn't a lot of passion in Jill's speech or countenance. She looks more like a woman lost in a crossword puzzle as one of her hands twirls in her long hair.

Then she says, "I would love to know the opinion of an older pastor [thanks, Jill] about what I should do."

Precisely because I have been at this a while I know better than to answer her question. So instead I begin my response by backing up and commenting that it's wonderful she has two offers when so many graduating students are struggling to find one. This is met by another sigh.

Jill sees this freedom to make a choice not as a blessing but a burden. The more she talks the clearer it becomes that she's approaching this challenge as seriously as she did all of her studies, and I assume most of her life. She very much needs to know the right answer. Where is she supposed to be--Chicago or New York? Or to put it in her words, to which congregation is she being called by God?

We decide to pray about her dilemma. I pray after she does and take another shot at being grateful that she has choices. But as I say those words I get the sense she has dropped out of the holy conversation.

When the hour is over Jill comments that I still haven't told her where I think she should go. I think about saying, "I doubt God is up all night worried about this choice." I even consider: "Do you really believe God is thinking, 'I hope she doesn't go to Chicago because I can't help her there'? …

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