Spiritual Direction: Discernment Update Edition

25 February 2008

So, as usual, during Lent, my disciplines are the rails on which greater changes run. One of the great blessings of a good Lent (and the “goodness” of a Lent is less in our activity than in what happens to us while we are trying to focus on “important” things, much in the same way that the water we want to boil for the spaghetti we are hungry for will boil over if we answer that third email we needed to get to—end tangent) is getting what you need.

Beth and I had a much needed roadtrip two weekends ago, and on the way back we had an argument. Thankfully, we are both mature enough to not just fight and actually try to get at what the basis of the argument is, what vein or thread of fear, frustration, confusion, or anger is causing the argument. In the course of it, I confessed that in some ways I don’t feel all that “called” anymore, as in to ordained ministry. And the truth is, I haven’t for a few months. It seems too forced, less natural than it has. I had not truly realized or even verbalized to myself how I felt until I said it.

This, of course, is a big shift, but ripe territory for spiritual direction. In the course of our argument-cum-discussion, I said that I had really felt a draw to graduate school again, something I hadn’t felt in the three years since I last applied. Graduate school, it seemed, would derail the ordination process; the five or six years of classwork and dissertation would seem to get in the way. That phase of the conversation ended at the Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, discussing the various programs I thought would be a good fit. Beth and I both admitted that I may be called still to ordained ministry, just not right now.

A week later, I met with my spiritual director. As I always say, he is a wise and wonderful man. And as I also often mention, a theme seems to crop up organically; this time it was “In the meantime,” which both of us kept saying a lot. My SD helped me discern that I had truly become comfortable with the bureaucratic side of the Episcopal Church’s ordination timeline, and that maybe I was ready to take advantage of that time to do some academic work that was exciting to me. It was his feeling that I was never called to “either academic work or ordained ministry” but that it was more of a question of how a vocation of “both academic work and ordained ministry” would work.

When I said that I didn’t mind doing the coursework and then abandoning a program mid-stream, he said I didn’t have to. Achieving postulancy, he said, was the somewhat arduous part in terms of waiting and getting bureaucratic ducks in a row; once there, the postulant doesn’t need to go seminary/divinity school/MDivishness right away. Meaning, fo course, that I’d have a chance to go ahead and finish coursework, begin dissertation, maybe even finish dissertation before starting seminary. And one of the institutions I might go to (Loyola for Philosophy or Theology) has an MDiv program which, very possibly, might be one that the Diocese of Chicago would be inclined to accept.

So there it is.


3 Responses to “Spiritual Direction: Discernment Update Edition”

  1. Tripp Says:


    This is remarkable. Thank you for posting it. I think that this is the kind of conversation that we need to keep having with one another, our spouses etc…

    Let’s try the hookah soon.

  2. Kelly Says:

    I wish so much that I was as in touch with myself and you are. You inspire me. An examined life IS worth living.

  3. Larry Says:

    Reminds me a little of when I realized that I no longer felt the need to go on to do Doctoral work after I completed my M. Div. I was aware of a shift long before I finally articulated it to myself or to Kate.
    Thought that you might also like to know that I regularly keep your process of continuing to discern a call in my prayers.

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