There are many times I discerned God’s direction for my life. Every day I pray that I might follow where God is leading me and the paths I take might be the ones God has prepared for me. But especially as a pastor who is called by congregation and ministries, I have discerned call and direction.
Since I gave in to the call to ministry as an ordained pastor, which was long and hard, I have discerned God leading me to different calls. I am not sure if I ever really was sure of the direction or the path, but there were definite times of less stress.
When we were in the process of working through candidacy and getting ready for seminary, there seemed to be things that were keeping us from going. My pastor was a recent graduate of seminary and was telling me the truth about the church and how political it was and how hard being a pastor was and maybe I should prayerfully consider not going to seminary. We also had just bought a home about 1.5 years earlier so we had to sell a house we had no equity in, and it was not selling. A home on the corner of 2 cul de sacs, within walking distance to an elementary school in the second largest housing market in the country at that point in time, and nothing. And as we were getting ready and working through all of this we were blessed with the coming of our second child. So I was concerned how we would afford seminary with one child who was roughly a year and 3 months old when we would start seminary, still having to make a mortgage payment, and now there was a second child coming. I remember at one point I was saying we can’t go, and my wife looked at me and said, “I’m moving to Gettysburg, with or without you.” That was actually the moment I knew that this is what we needed to be doing. I mean I knew we needed to go to seminary, but that moment was when I was sure this was the time.
And each of my calls has ended with a definite end. My first call voted to cut my pay from full-time to 3/4 time and expected me to still give them 50+ hours a week. That just wasn’t possible. My second call ended because the congregation was going against its constitution and that of the ELCA to leave the ELCA because of the 2009 Church Wide decision to allow congregations to have pastors in life-long monogamous same-sex relationships if they wanted. I was trying to help them leave the way they were supposed to according to the constitution and they didn’t want to do that, so my bishop helped me leave by resigning. That led to a period of almost 2 years before I found another call. I interviewed and discerned where God was calling me. I traveled to many states and talked to many congregations. I prayed that God would help me connect with a place to call home. That led to a 6-year stay in Wisconsin at a place that had a few people that really didn’t want me there. But God had us there for a time and then when that was done we moved to College Station, TX, where I am the campus pastor for the ELCA Campus Ministry for the Brazos Valley, better known as Treehouse, the campus ministry to Texas A&M and Blinn College.
This call was one I was looking at and for before I went to Wisconsin. But it took a while to get here. I can definitely say I knew this was the place when I met with the call committee, but I wasn’t sure they wanted me. I know that God works in and through all things and if we continually and daily talk with God these things will become clearer. Discerning where God is leading is tricky and sometimes our desires get in the way.
How do we know where God is leading? We pray. We trust. We ask spiritual friends. We have faith.
That is it. Faith in our feelings about things and trust in the leading of the Spirit.
I know I will be discerning more of where God is leading and I pray that it will be clear, or I will step out in faith, trusting as I have until now.