To reassure anyone who might be worried: my husband is NOT considering a call at this time. He is firmly planted in his current congregation. Besides, we’ve only been here six months. But someone near and dear to us is going through the process right now. I doubt anyone who reads this knows them personally, but because the web is public, and they have not yet shared the news with their congregation, I will keep their identity anonymous.
It is interesting how this knowledge is getting me to think back to where we were almost a year ago. I was perfectly content with our congregation, friends, home (well, maybe not perfectly content with our home, but reasonably so), and what was happening in our lives. I was finished with my DCE (Director of Christian Education) internship, working part-time at our church alongside my husband. Sunday school was starting soon, I was preparing for my certification interview, and Travis was working on a project through his seminary alma mater to help raise funds. I had absolutely no desire to go anywhere or change our lives. Then in September, Travis gets a phone call to set up an interview over the telephone, some church in Ohio. I get a little apprehensive, but we had been down this road before and nothing had come of it. Of course, we were past the one year mark on my DCE certification process – Travis had agreed to not consider any calls for one year so I could complete the program without having to start over – so I knew it was a possibility. But I decided to not worry about it.
After the phone interview, the church in Ohio wanted us to come for an in-person interview. Travis and I talked, and we both agreed that “going through the process” would be a good learning experience. We would go to the interview, get a few days away and have some fun, and maybe learn a few things. But neither of us figured that God was leading us elsewhere. In fact, we were at that point sure that we were staying put.
So we went to Ohio. I had thrown my back out two days before the trip (something that literally never happens to me, but it did at the worst possible time). I had gone to the chiropractor who wanted me to come back again the day we were leaving, so I had to postpone the appointment and instead put my sore back through the pain of sitting in the car for three hours or so. We met the call committee that night for dinner, then went back to the hotel to sleep.
In the morning, Travis and I went our separate ways. He drove to the church for a series of interviews with call committee members and staff, while I was shown the area by two women from the committee. They drove me around to the schools, businesses, and neighborhoods of Hudson. Now, I have this knack for being able to push thoughts to the back of my mind and just stay in the moment. I don’t know why I have this gift, maybe because I’m married to someone who often worries a little too much, so it balances out. Needless to say, I didn’t really think about what was in process at that point.
That night we gathered again with the call committee at one of their homes. It was a lovely, fun-filled dinner with laughter and delicious food. I found myself falling into my shrinking violet routine, because being around crowds of strangers terrifies me. By the time we sat at the table, I was ok, but it helps being at a table where you really only need to focus on three to four people: the person on your left, the one on your right, and the two across from you.
The next morning I slept in while Travis met with a couple of other staff, and then I got picked up and we had a meet-and-greet with members of the congregation. I answered lots of questions about how we met, what I do for a living, and whether we have children. That was probably the hardest part of the trip for me, standing in a receiving line to meet a hundred strangers. After that, we met with a few of the call committee members once more, then headed home.
The trip home was the most significant part of the trip. I’m sure Travis started to sense God calling him to the congregation throughout the trip, but it wasn’t until the ride home that those thoughts came to the surface for me. I remember us looking at each other and saying, “uh-oh!” as in, “what have we gotten ourselves into?” Travis began praying at that point for God to show him clearly where he was supposed to serve.
What I find interesting is that the kinds of things Travis said to me over those weeks that followed are the same kinds of things I am hearing from the couple who are going through this process now. Now, I know that God can do all sorts of things and I don’t claim to be all-knowing or an expert, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they end up moving to this new place of ministry. After all, that’s what happened to us! God has a way of reaching out to His called workers and helping them to see clearly what it is He wants them to do. I don’t think I ever understood that as a kid when my dad was going through it. But then again, how many kids can see beyond their own experiences?
The biggest gift that God gave to me through our experience with this process was peace. I was at peace with relocating, even though I hated the idea of packing and moving, buying and selling houses, and finding new friends. But that peace was there the whole time.
Well, Stephanie, this is a comment not only to the call process but also to the do everything/do nothing. It goes back to the days I would commute from Papillion (Omaha) to Lincoln and listen to Elisabeth Eliot who used to love to talk about people young and old coming to her for insight asking what God wanted them to do. Her response was very simple.
If you’re a pastor, be the best pastor you can be.
If you’re a ditchdigger, be the best ditchdigger you can be.
If you’re a wife, be the best wife you can be.
I am, as you know, sufficiently old fuddy duddy to believe that wifery is quite capable of being a full-time occupation (I actually have one of my mom’s college level textbooks from the 30’s for a 3-hr course she took in how to be a housewife). But beyond the occupation, your love to God with Travis is what drives the situation. Your role as God intends as far as I see it is to do and be what Travis needs you to do. If you need to teach Sunday School, OK. If you need to be following your DCE project, OK. If you need to be unpacking (packing?) boxes with Frodo, OK.
Being called comes from the Lord. Despite the committee and the fun times with the new members of the calling church, it is their invitation but God’s call. As far as His insight has led me to see, He called you as a couple and you responded to His call as a couple, reaching your decision for acceptance as a couple. That’s your job. You’ve done it well.