Over the past several months, God has done some incredible work. And I am humbled to have been a part of it.
It's been more than a little awkward because, as I had suspected, this is a ministry to which God has clearly called me and created in me the gifts to do this work well. Very well. If you want to listen to other people tell it, exceptionally well. But it's been difficult to take any of those comments personally.
Because I know that the only reason I appear to do good work is because God has come before me and prepared the soil. He has entered with me, holding the tools. He has been gracious to share those tools as the situation demands. And He has been insistent I get out of the room before I start to think any different.
The thing about the pastoral education process is that it's not simply getting into rooms and getting out of them; there is a great deal of time devoted to personal growth, both in individual sessions with a supervisor and in whole days spent with a peer group. Over this time, my story has been blessedly revealed and enriched, as I have come to see more clearly how I am knit together and how my story works in God's story to make some good things possible. I see how the experiences I have had, the personality I've been given, the presence I continue to develop may be tremendous assets in this type of work, but here's the key:
I still feel wholly unqualified.
I think that's important, and I would say that must be true for any effective ministry. The minute you start to feel qualified, you aren't any more. Because it's in knowing your weaknesses, your vulnerabilities, your incapable places that you understand how truly what you are doing is God's work. That keeps you coming back to Him, and He fuels both your work and your heart as you do that work. And everyone remembers exactly what's going on here. It's God.
It's hard. Sometimes you leave a thing and you think, how holy was that! but if you try to take holy with you, I'm telling you, it rarely shows up. It's the unexpected, the unanticipated, the unplanned-for moments that become holy because those are the ones that rely on the Spirit. If you walk in thinking it must be holy, you're also thinking you're about to make it holy, and you have never made anything holy. I have never made anything holy. God has always made everything holy. It's important to remember that.
So everything right now kind of has this unreal quality to it, and I treasure that. It's real because I know I've been here; I know I've been doing the work. And yet, I cannot escape that on my own, there is no good reason I should be able to do such good work. It feels like I have been there, and I have not been there. I have done it, and I have not done it. I am good at it, and I am not good at it. I was created for it, yet I am wholly unqualified for it. It is holy, and I am so decidedly not holy.
I've settled on a synthesis: holy unqualified. And I kind of like it that way. If ever my ministry, or my attitude toward ministry, or my belief in myself regarding ministry, is something else, I should think I should not be doing that ministry.