9 years ago this past May, I was officially ordained into full-time vocational ministry. I did not have a seminary degree, I had only been in full-time ministry for a month and a half, and I was incredibly green or wet behind the ears or whatever silly euphemism you want to use to say that I had no idea what I was doing or getting into.
I am at the place now where I have worked in 2 careers for about the same amount of time and I am ready to make the leap to allow my second career to surpass my first as far as time spent doing it. There may be some who wonder why, I know that there are days when I wonder that. There may be some who wonder how, considering that I live out my birth heritage as a New Yorker and my forthrightness as a New Englander. But at the same time, there are some who are thinking or saying, “You’re doing exactly the thing that God intended you to do.”
Having completed my seminary education in December of last year, you would think that I would be kind of coasting, or at least giving my brain a little bit of a break. Trust me, I’ve wanted that way more than I can even begin to express. If it were up to me, I would be spending most of my time by the pool with a cold drink in my hand, soaking in rays (through my sunscreen, of course), and doing my best to find some restoration after the last 5 years of brutality that seemed to have sucked some life, passion, and energy from me.
But alas, things are hardly what we would want them to be and life rarely affords us the luxury of coasting or relaxing too much. In my efforts to continue in full-time vocational ministry, I need to transfer my credentials from one denomination to another. The problem is, it’s not a simple process, nothing I ever do is a simple process it seems. In fact, I told someone the other day that I seem to have a tendency to take the Israelite route through the desert, the one where what easily could have been accomplished in a matter of years ends up taking 40. Yes, not exactly the way that I would have planned.
Well, the first step for me was written exams. I studied and studied and studied some more. In the midst of my studying, my father’s health took a major decline and on the eve of my first attempt at written exams, my father decided that he would sign himself into hospice. Life and relationships have always been more important to me than red tape, so I decided to forego my studying that night to make the trek to check on my dad. It was the right call, but needless to say, I only passed one of the 3 exams that I took.
As I prepared for the second time around, I was grateful to have to only retake the exams that I failed rather than all three. My father’s health continued to spiral downward and exams seemed less and less important, but I pushed onward. By the grace of God, I passed my written exams. Now it was on to oral exams, which is where I find myself today.
In a matter of weeks, I will be sitting in front of a board of inquisitors examiners who claim to have my best interest in mind. They want me to succeed. They want this process to go smoothly for me. But they still want to make sure that I know everything that they think that I should know.
And so, I continue to study and study and study some more. To be honest, I’m not incredibly optimistic about this first go around. I’m a study guide kind of a guy, I like any kind of study aids that I can get my hands on. I have 2 engineering degrees and was used to tests where I could do sample problems. There are no sample problems for the test that I will take, just some same questions pulled from a storehouse of information that comprised a 300+ page document from one helpful friend.
Why do I write this? Well, for 2 reasons. First of all, I need prayer. I need people to pray that I can actually retain all the things that I have been studying and reading. I need prayers that my brain won’t act like a sieve, allowing the information to escape. I need prayers for grace among those who will be examining me. In the midst of all of this, I’m still tired and weary, but I press on.
But I also write this because this is important to me. One of the big questions I asked myself when I was in seminary was whether or not denominations mattered. Time and time again, despite my own resistance, I kept coming back to the fact that, although they are manmade, there is an accountability and structure to them that is beneficial. In order to continue on in doing what I do and in order to be recognized appropriately by the denomination in which I serve, I need to be fully credentialed.
One day, my friend insists, I will look back on these days and smile, remembering all that I went through. While I’m in the thick of it, smiles don’t come as easily. With that being said, I needed to add some humor to my life. So, if you don’t get the picture on this post, go watch it on YouTube. If you still don’t get it, then you just don’t appreciate British humor, which may not necessarily make you a second class citizen. Don’t worry, I still love you. Thanks for the prayers and support.