The Disappointed Disciple

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When something happens that fails to fulfill our hopes, then we experience the pain of disappointment.  We also discover the suffering of disappointment when something does not happen, and our hope remains unfulfilled.  This past week I had the unfortunate experience of both.  I had traveled to my parents’ home to celebrate Thanksgiving, but also to get away and finish writing my papers for ordination.  I woke up my first full day there to fever, chills, and a horrible sinus headache.  My heart sank to the depths of my being.  I was not going to be able to write.  I was not going to be able to finish these crucial papers for my ordination.  I was not going to be ordained.

(Image courtesy of stephaniejspencer.com)

(Image courtesy of stephaniejspencer.com)

I am not used to feeling like a failure.  I am getting used to disappointment: miscarriage, a marriage covenant destroyed by adultery, and now yet another setback to ordination.  It honestly hurts.  If I let myself travel down the road of self-doubt, I could easily get depressed.  But I have been there, and I swore that I would never go back.  So what does a disappointed disciple of Jesus Christ do?  We take time to mourn; to use the biblical word, we lament.  We acknowledge our pain, our sorrow, and the failure of our hope to materialize yet.  That’s right, yet.  I know that I am called to ordained ministry.  I spent too many years trying to argue about it with God, then I ran from it, before accepting it, and now I embrace it as my own.  So I take one more year, even if I take ten more, it does not diminish that I have been in pastoral ministry since 2006.  I have been doing what I am called by God to do for God’s people, even if I don’t have the broad stole, the certificate, or the status of the Church.  I don’t forsake the path to ordination, I just don’t let it detract from the good I have been able to do in service to Christ.  I am sad that the day when the Church affirms that call has been postponed, but I know that I will get there.

During the times I was able to write before the illness that took me out, I would have this vision.  It was incredible, and visceral.  I was kneeling at the Service for Ordering Ministry where clergy are ordained with the Bishop before me and my son beside me.  In my hands was the very same Bible from which I preach, given to me by my former husband’s parents when I received my title of Reverend.  I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the moment, the culmination of over half my life’s pursuit of this call I never expected.  As the Bishop lays hands on me, granting me permanent authority, I can feel the gratitude and joy.  Now I prayerfully ask God how I get there.  I can see the destination, but I can’t get there on my own, nor was I ever meant to, because we are a people, called to live and go forth in community.  So now I immerse myself in that same community.  I gather close those that encourage, challenge, and uphold me while I move through this disappointment.  I have to emerge ready and willing to keep going.  Not even Jesus stopped at the cross.  We have further to go.

Disappointment was something from which Jesus was not spared either.  He was disappointed in his disciples’ lack of faith, but not them as persons.  Jesus understood that things happen, but the heart that knows and loves Christ will triumph over any disappointment, and they did just that.  So I have mourned another year of waiting.  How poignant that it comes right at the start of Advent, the liturgical season of waiting in the Church.  I will just work harder.  I will stay the course, and entrust myself into the hands of the God that will never forsake me.  If there is one thing this has taught me, it is that nothing, whether it is illness, the death of a loved one, the destruction of a personal relationship, financial struggle, or any other struggle can overcome the will of God.  God wills that we receive God’s love and love others.  God wills that we take our place in the Kingdom of God Jesus inaugurated at his birth that Christmas day.  God wills joy for us all, and pours out blessings upon us.  So we mourn, and then we move.  We lament, and then live out our call.  By the grace of God, we prepare our hearts, minds, and bodies to see the fruition of the will of God in us and through us.  I have seen the vision God placed in my heart, and it is good.  What vision has God placed in yours, and are you embracing it despite any and all disappointments that may come?

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2 responses »

  1. You have been kicked in the gut again, dear Sarah, but I know your strength and resolve. You WILL be ordained, because God calls the elect to special places. Never doubt yourself. Take some time to grieve, because this is a very real loss, but remember that in grief there is hope; in sorrow, joy; and in Christ, infinite possibilities, We are all with you, sister.

  2. And Sarah…… this too will be a situation in which GOD will use your gained emotional knowledge and fortitude for use in another way with someone else. Just deepening the leadership he needs you to provide and the complete understanding needed to do it! One less day away from getting there next year!! Miss you everyday.

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