What do you do when the path ahead looks impossible to transverse? When the road ahead is forked and both paths have a “danger” sign marking them?
I’ve had a couple of friends, that are clergy, say to me that they think I may do well in ordained ministry. Something that I’ve thought about. Never really dared too all that seriously, after all, what would that mean? How would it look to others? What would my friends say? What would my family think? How would it change my own self image? How could imperfect and flawed me be an ordained member of the clergy…I mean, I know we all have flaws…but seriously. Some of us more than others. All of these things come up. But I can no longer deny it. Religion and spirituality have always at some level, been a huge part of who I am. I recall that in Grade 2, so what around 7-8 years old? I organized a prayer group with my a few of my fellow students. Every lunch hour we would meet up just off to the side of the playground where we had staked a small homemade wooden cross into the ground and we would pray, and talk about God and Jesus to the best of our Sunday School understanding. I remember playing make believe when I was alone, fantasizing that I was one of those Catholic priests that I saw on TV. I wasn’t raised Catholic, but I suppose I liked the collar and how religious and serious they seemed. A drive has been with me a long time for full time religious life.
Finally on the recommendation of a clergy friend I asked my spiritual director what he thought. He should have a more unbiased opinion since we aren’t “friends” outside of that setting. I’ve only seen him a couple of times but I respect him a great deal, not just because he has many years in ordained ministry. But is also a former professor of theology, holds a doctorate in psychology, and is a contemplative (Benedictine oblate). So I could take his unbiased opinion seriously. An opinion, part of me may have been hoping, was that me being a priest was maybe some kind of joke. Something like “Cory, you’re a nice guy and clearly take your spirituality seriously, but ordained ministry? You? Sorry…I just really don’t see it.” But instead he looked at me very intently and a somewhat scrutinizing and said “Yes, their is something there.” And proceeded to encourage me to look into further.
Part of me was actually thrilled. Part of me was terrified. It also just happened to coincide on that very day, with my work insurance coverage that I’d been getting since I’ve been off work injured, being cancelled. I need that money. While I have been upgrading my high school courses to prepare myself for a career change, as I do strongly dislike my current occupation. I’m now forced to do something while I wait to see if I need surgery. I need to work. I have to ask my doctor if he’ll sign me off to return to my job, maybe with modified duties and hope not to injure myself further. I don’t want to. I’m concerned I’ll do more harm than good. I’m concerned my schooling will suffer. I’m concerned I’ll be trapped there forever.. but I can’t have no income. So how do I pursue this path into ministry, something that would require several years of full time studies, when I can’t even afford to be out of work? How would I even personally do in ministry anyway? How would it work being the only one in my household even religious at that? Then be a priest to boot? How……..will I ever be happy if I don’t pursue it anyway?
My spiritual director told me last meeting, that its a blessing to be “haunted by God.” I feel haunted. And I feel this incredible squeeze at this point in my life. Both paths in front of me say “danger.” So which do I choose? There may be only one right answer. But no matter which way it goes. The path seems to be fraught with uncertainty, even peril.