Actually, I could have ended that sentence about seven words earlier.
I’m a bit irritated with myself.
Come to think of it, that’s still too much.
I’m a bit irritated.
For the past two-and-a-half years I’ve been working toward a Master’s Degree in Christian Ministry at Asbury Theological Seminary. Up until now I was taking a limited part-time course load, trying to balance work and life and school without unnecessary overload.
But I added an extra class this spring in hopes of finishing by December, slightly ahead of my pre-determined, self-imposed schedule. Half of my 60 hours’ worth of classes are online; the remainder must be completed on campus in the tiny rural village of Wilmore, Kentucky, about 25 miles south of downtown Lexington.
So, yeah, things are a little busier than usual. Juggling course assignments with work, family and church life can be hectic. Add to that a series of four-hour drives to Wilmore for weekend classes on campus, toss in some additional duties I’ve taken on in ministry, and there just hasn’t been any time to write.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. There’s time to write. There’s just no time to think. To concentrate. To focus. To process ideas.
And I find it all a bit irritating.
When I can’t concentrate, when I can’t focus, when I feel like I don’t even have time to think or sort or process ideas, I get stressed. It’s one of the few and very rare instances when it sucks to be me. Sure, things get done, but it’s just an exercise of pinballing from one priority to the next, waiting to hit the flapper and get flung up into the game again, bouncing aimlessly from bumper to bumper.
But I’m starting to think all of this irritation, this lack of focus, this inability to concentrate, is actually a symptom of something else.
When I enrolled at Asbury for the Fall 2011 semester, I had no idea exactly what I was going to do with a seminary degree. I was certain I was being called into some type of vocational ministry. I had been preaching for about six years as a lay speaker, filling in for pastors who were on vacation or accepting invitations to appear as a guest speaker at various church functions, and I was receiving a ton of encouragement and affirmation from people that it was something for which I had a gift.
So while I was sure I was doing what I was supposed to do, I never really had a clear picture of where it was all going.
And now, with the end in sight, I still don’t know.
To be honest, I’m a little anxious about it.
Maybe even a bit irritated.
Now, I know I still need to be patient. I’m as convinced as ever that God placed me on this path for a purpose, and that at the right time the right opportunity will come along and it will all make sense. I’ve been down that road before. That’s the great thing about faith. The more you experience it being rewarded, the more confident you become in it.
But the closer I get, and as I start entering into the “system” of United Methodist ministry, and the more I see that I don’t really fit into any of the boxes that exist in that system, the more I find myself pushing for an answer. And the less I find myself able to really focus. On anything.
And the more irritating it becomes.
Of course, it doesn’t help that perfectly well-meaning people, folks who are genuinely interested in me, keep asking those questions: “How long do you have left?” “What is your degree in?” “Are you going to be a pastor?”
“What are you going to do?”
It also doesn’t help that the UM ministry hierarchy is a fairly tangled and complex one which is difficult to explain. Most people who have been Methodists their entire life don’t understand it. Which makes it that much harder to relate to someone from a different faith background.
And so when I try to answer these good, interested, well-meaning people, it takes me half an hour to just explain the difference between an elder and a deacon and a local pastor, and how all of those different options play out, and how you need an M.Div. for this and an M.A. for that, and how none of them really seem to fit what it is I sense God calling me toward.
They say the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
My line is anything but straight. I have chosen the path of most resistance.
And while I’m absolutely convinced it’s the right path, and while the end of it is in sight, the destination is still unclear. The trail is obscured.
So I hope you’ll excuse my infrequent posts and my self-indulgent little rant. But at least I’ve written something.
And even if nobody reads it, at least I’m a little bit less irritated.