It's been a year since my last post. It's been about six years since I posted an actual blog. In those six years, I've completed seminary, I've spent most of my time working with different ministry organizations: youth minster at a church, evangelist/missionary at an outreach organization, camp leader in California, preaching, teaching, leading musical worship, and otherwise remaining involved in greater church-related activities, conferences, retreats, and more. For those six years since my last blog, I have mostly used this space for posting sermons and homilies I've preached. I've preached in churches of a couple hundred, and in front of groups of less than ten. I've preached outdoors, in rented spaces, and in decades-old worship spaces. I have, and for and for the most part still do, felt called to preach and teach in the church. That is why I've dedicated two-thirds of my 20's to this.
About a month and a half after I turned 23 years old, I went on a short term trip to Uganda, where I shared my testimony in local churches and led bible teachings for local youth while a medical team taught new practices and operation of donated equipment in the local hospitals. About a month later, I moved from my home state of Florida to Ambridge, Pennsylvania so I could attend Trinity School for Ministry. That's when I started this blog.
I intended it to be a place for reflection throughout seminary, but as my schoolwork mounted, I strayed from that original goal. It became a place for posting my sermons and homilies as I grew in the craft of preaching. There are a few drafts still on this site of blogs yet unfinished, which will probably remain there. I don't know that I have the time or will to go back to them, but I also can't bring myself to delete them. I have a lot of unfinished work saved in my Documents folder. I have even more that I've deleted followed by immediate regret. Giving up on things has always been a problem for me because I struggle with self-doubt. I constantly beat myself up for not living up to my own unreasonable standards. I delete things that are perfectly fine first drafts because I want them to be finished products. I have never preached a sermon I feel confident about having finished. I often feel immediate fears of my sermons having been "too" something, and receiving backlash. Thankfully, the congregations I preached for have all been gracious and kind-hearted.
All of this, I say because when I think about giving up, I worry about the reasons I have for it. When I want to give up, is it because of unrealistic standards? Is it because I'm not strong-willed enough to endure difficulty?
There's a basic economic principle about cutting your costs when discontinuing an investment. If you are investing in research or development of a certain product or good, you can't be caught up in how much you have invested already when deciding whether to continue your investments. A lot of economic failures come from not knowing when to quit. If I have invested such an amount of time or money into one thing should not be a factor when looking forward at the value of that thing. That investment is already gone. There is no added value to the product or good because of that investment. If the product or good looks to have a diminished return, or doesn't look to gain back equal value to what has been put in, it should be discontinued for a more beneficial investment. This is a positive form of giving up. Giving up on one investment for the sake of discovering a new, more beneficial one is good.
For the majority of my 20's and, so far, the entirety of my young adult life, I have pursued one goal. Many factors play a role in that pursuit. One, there truly is a deep abiding passion within me to invest in the work and ministry of the gospel on behalf of the church. I want to preach and teach and study the Word of God. That is unmistakably true. But in my pursuit of ordination, there are other lingering factors with less genuine roots. I don't want to give up. I don't want to be a failure. I have always felt that I'm not good enough, and have had the pressure to prove my worth, especially as it comes to ministry. I came to faith late, at the age of 19, and had a steep upward climb in the learning and development of my faith. Living the right life and knowing the right answers mattered to me because I wanted to belong.
Before I came to faith, I didn't belong. I didn't belong anywhere. I always felt outcast and spent my freshman year of college alone in my room. Once I found this community of people who would accept me, my first fear was of losing that acceptance. I had a fear of feeling left out again for any reason. So I did my best for there to not be any reason I shouldn't belong.
A driving factor in my pursuits up to this point has been belonging. I want to belong. I want to be "one of them." I want to be sacredly set apart, never to be let go again.
I felt that to be serious about my faith, I had to go into ministry. I felt that it was my responsibility to follow through on these things because I have the ability. I turned away from other desires because they weren't purely religious. I stopped pursuing music and writing because they were passions that weren't "Christian" enough. Or they had enough "idol" gleam to them that I didn't trust myself with them. I didn't trust myself, because I never trust myself. I never trust myself, because I never feel trusted by those around me. I never had really close friendships, and that's caused me to keep a safe distance between myself and others at all times.
It's again about proving myself to those around me. I want to prove that I am committed to this thing called Christianity. I want to prove that it's more than just a lifestyle choice, or a way of doing things. I want to show that I truly care, and that I'm truly passionate about my dedication to Christ. I want to prove myself to those who said I couldn't do it. I want to prove myself to those who said I shouldn't do it. I want to prove myself to those who don't know me. I want to prove myself worthy of the calling.
But it isn't about worth. It isn't about failure. I've spent six years dedicated to this one thing because I felt it's what I had to do. I spent six years feeling insecure and unwanted watching others celebrate and move forward who have been Anglican for less time than I've been going through the ordination process in the Anglican church. I grew jealousy over those who have the care and support of a whole church congregation, while I have yet to settle into one. I've felt abandoned hopping from place to place in search of a sense of home, while others are brought into new communities with loving arms. And what does it mean for me now? What is it to me what Christ should have in store for another of his followers?
I have had many things fall through in my process. I have had many life situations fall through. There has been enough happenstance that makes me question the choices I've been making. Too many things that seem to be going right have fallen through in the end. I don't want to keep being on the move. I don't want to jump from group to group acting like I belong.
I over dedicate to things too early, in part because I'm afraid of admitting failure. I'm afraid to let others down even if they don't mean a thing to me or I don't mean a thing to them. I care too much about the opinions of others. It has hurt me, and and will continue to hurt me. It perpetuates my sense of not belonging and distrust.
I also let the expectations of others who want me to pursue ministry define my own will toward it. I don't want to let them down. I don't want to say I've failed them. I don't want to lose my acceptance and belonging. But acceptance and belonging shouldn't rely on accomplishment.
Giving up isn't just about investments. It isn't just about pursuits. Giving up for me is about why I do things. I have passions that have been pushed back out of guilt and shame, because they don't follow a pattern of life that might be unreasonable to expect anyway. Because I associate my love of music with a broken escapism I used to carry, I have tended away from it. But that has been healed, and I don't need to carry that burden. Because I have considered lack of hyper-involvement in the church/ministry as shirking responsibility, I have always taken on more than I can handle. But that should never have been an expectation, and I have been overworked for too long.
Things that I want to pursue, socially, personally, vocationally, don't contradict the religious life. Ultimately, those in ministry tend to feel more lonely and isolated. My belonging cannot stem from being in ministry, only the outward appearance of belonging. And that is what I need to give up.
The outward appearances are nothing. Why should I be bothered by these expectations? God is greater. What do these accomplishments add to my worth? God is greater. What do my failures take away from my value? God is greater. Nothing could add to or take away from the image imprinted on my being.
It's time for a hard reset. I want to be fulfilled and not burdened. I want to be joyful and not weary. I want to turn away from expectation and toward calling.
I want to give up. I want to lay down everything I've been holding onto. Giving up is more than defeat.
I want to accept where I am, even if it is not where I have been going, or where I want to be. I want to reassess my purpose uncluttered by a past of missteps and frustrations. I want to compare myself only to my inherent value and not to those around me. My value is unending because I am part of the great creation of the Great Creator. I am more than that because I am brought into life through death. I give up on creating my own worth. I want to pursue the worth I have already been given.
I want to give up because I need to learn that it's okay. I want to give up because I need to accept that I can't do everything or satisfy everyone. I want to give up because, ultimately, I don't have control anyway. I need to stop paying so much attention to what's going on around me. I need to stop caring about the appearances of things. I want to give up because I'm of no use mentally, spiritually, and emotionally drained. I want to give up because it's the only way I can succeed.