Shifting ground

...so I consider my past couple of weeks at theological college either the experience of someone having a crisis of calling or the wearing off of a honeymoon period or simply a maturation into the realities of what ministry is really going to be like. I have not decided which one it is yet.

There is this feeling you see that I am never doing anything particularly well. The essay would be better, if I didn't have to deliver that presentation, the presentation would be better if I didn't have to attend that meeting or organise that kids club, the kids club would have been better if I hadn't had to research the history of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms in order to keep up in class and that would have been more through, if I also didn't have a family with whom I need to spend some time once in a while ...so when we are also asked if we want to try being street pastors or deliver goods to the Arches or volunteer for assisting at the table-top sale, the sighs are big and the feelings are worse when we decline.

Is it a crisis of calling? Well, sometimes I forget about God altogether and wonder how I got myself into all this, then I remember the reason for it all, Him and it doesn't seem so bad but I am asking why? I am wondering whether He (God) and them (the Church) got it wrong. I am imagining scenarios where they say, 'Well, good try but perhaps not, after all.'

Has the honeymoon worn off? Maybe. I miss God. Yes, weird. It's just that I am learning so much about God, I miss talking to him and worshipping him. These things happen but the balance seems to be all wrong. There is the formality, the liturgy, the expectation. But it is as if the expectation is placed upon us. What are we going to do?
'What is God going to do?' I want to say and yes, I know it's about him working through us but again it seems a little off kilter.

Am I simply understanding more the realities? The never doing anything brilliantly is about working in the best way you can with the time you have and prioritising. The tensions are those of the inbetween times, the groans are those we all share over our own ineptitudes and the problems of earthly existence in general. We live in the heavenlies too, I know. We have a dual citizenship but the plane I am on seems to have temporarily run out of fuel, I can not get off the ground and the sound of the revving engines and the speed of everything shifting so rapidly around me is giving me a serious case of vertigo.

...so the ground is shifting

...and I am finding it hard to keep my balance...


Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel
Just read this post and wanted to encourage you to keep on going. College is a very weird time, but God uses it to prepare us for the work ahead. He's put you there to know him better. The Vicar found it really helpful to limit his time on college work - just set out how many hours you can realistically spend and then leave it alone. It will never be perfect and the Lord knows all that we're called to do and be. And the class of your degree won't change the work you do when you're out in ministry (it's not like you get to work at a bigger church with a first...). Praying that the fog lifts for you soon...

Rachel Marszalek said...

"The Vicar found it really helpful to limit his time on college work - just set out how many hours you can realistically spend and then leave it alone. It will never be perfect and the Lord knows all that we're called to do and be."

Thank you for the encouragement. Found the above particularly helpful. Reminded that there is a 'coming out of this at the other end', where probably whether we spent that extra day reading that extra book or not seems somehow something very minor in the scheme of things.

Ah, the vertigo is abating.
Bless you.

SueM said...

I'm possibly not the right person to comment as I have a horror of the thought of going into formal ministry ( although we all need to minister in some way, I believe.)I have however had the experience of trying to work, study, bring up a family and (for several stressful months) put together a legal case for a tribunal.Hang in there, there will be good moments, cherish them.

DDDIII said...

Rachel, I have just spent an hour converting Word docs to Publisher docs using differing verisons of Word and Publisher. I am preparing a little Advent candle lighting thing that will take three or four minutes. Where is God in that? I was ordained a priest, not a geek! Yet, hopefully something will click for someone when we do this and maybe they will be drawn a bit into preparing their heart for God instead of Santa Claus/Father Christmas.

So, first I remind you whatever you do in word or deed.....

Secondly, things don't come individually in college or the world. You're really getting that sermon nailed down when someone ups and dies! I remember when I was just ordained and a retired priest of long standing in my parish died a week before Christmas. Yes, hours before the big Christmas eve service I was hosting the Bishop and all the Diocesan clergy. I remarked to the Bishop it was rather inconvenient of the old fellow to die the week before Christmas and the Bishop looked over his shoulder and said, "Well, if it is inconvenient for you, think of how John Howard feels."

The race of ministry is really a steeple chase.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US but the one I remember most was at the Old Cottage across the road from St John's. I will remember you and your blog when I give thanks.


Rachel Marszalek said...


Thank you for your reflections.

We should make a thank-giving of every day!

Sensing the return of the feeling that all we get to do is gift and privilege. Will be more prepared next time for when the questions hit me....or maybe not....inevitably they will be different questions.

Thanks for sharing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gill Stanning said...

My DDO says that 'perfectionism is one of the worst traits we can indulge in ministry'. Sometimes it is helpful to ask 'WHO do I want this thing to be perfect for?' Is it God,the people being ministered to or yourself? I wouldn't mind betting that what you thought was less than the 'best' kids club you could have run was great for the kids who went...academic essays could always be a bit better if we had more time, but we learn from them just the same and there are always other things we could be doing in the life of the Church. I am realising that learning to prioritise is going to be one of the KEY skills for my future ministry because everyone will want a piece of me and the more pieces I cut myself up into, the smaller and less significant my ministry to each individual will become. x

Curate Karen said...

What you are experiencing is TOTALLY normal for ordination training, in my view, and yes, it is 'reality' biting. Additionally, this vocation is SO much more difficult to be obedient to when you are a woman. Especially a woman with children. That is a stark, hard reality. But it is manageable. I have found that the perfectionism (which Gill touched on) simply HAS TO GO. Let it go.

Rachel, God has called you to this, I am certain. 'Keep Calm and Carry On', as the saying goes. The reality of parish ministry will be different to what you expect, but the opportunities are huge, and God will use you.


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