In September, 3 young adults began 9 months of discernment and service as ministry interns in different churches across the Greater Northwest Area. For their second post, they each share a reflection on their experience centered on Psalm 119:145-149. You can first their first reflection here.
I call out at the top of my lungs; “God! Answer! I’ll do whatever you say.”
I called to you, “Save me so I can carry out all your instructions.”
I was up before the sunrise, crying for help, hoping for a word from you.
I stayed awake all night, prayerfully pondering your promise.
In your love, listen to me; in your justice, God, keep me alive.
Psalm 119:145-149 | The Message
By Rachael Phelps | Ministry Intern serving at Audubon Park UMC in Spokane, WA
“Are you called to ministry? Check box “yes” or “no”.”
I have now been working at Audubon Park United Methodist Church for two months. As I continue further down the road of discernment, I feel question looming over me. It is tempting to ask this of myself in these terms of black and white, cut and dry decision making.
Discernment is hard work. It involves deep self-reflection, and honest conversations. It is not always pleasant, but it is a richly spiritual space to be in. With the busy lives we lead, it can be easy to begin simply going through the motions. Easy to avoid going deeper.
Because of this, I feel like I have been given a tremendous gift. The opportunity to explore my call in a local church, with the purpose of discerning, questioning, and learning. I think about my calling day and night. I wonder if I have made the right choices, and I wonder if I am really called to do this.
Some days the “yes” box is large and inviting, and I want to check it with wholeheartedly.
Other days I panic. Those are the days that the “no” box screams my name.
But the truth is, I just don’t know.
And in that uncertainty, I feel the need to cling to clear answers.
If I am called to ministry, I want to know what I am supposed to do about it. And I want to know now.
With this year progressing quickly, the reality that I will soon need to decide what I will do when June comes around. Because it always does.
When I begin to consider these things, I find myself in need of a reminder that my call is my own. I think about other people’s stories and plans, and think “Maybe I’ll do what they do” or “That seminary worked for them, I’ll just go there.”
I remind myself that this is the easy way out.
I could make choices without ever really being honest with myself.
But if I want to live a life that I believe in, the life that God has called me to, I owe it to both of us to continue to be truly present throughout this discernment process.
When discussing discernment with my spiritual director, she put forth the point that life is discernment. That was a hard truth to accept. I want answers, and I want them now. I have entered into this discernment process, with the parameters of September to June. I am coming to the realization that I may not have answers I’m looking for come June, or maybe ever.
Psalm 119 paints a picture of someone who is trying their best to be faithful. They are desperately crying out to God, and petitioning that they are doing all of the right things.
These are the things that I am doing. I have been leading an adult Sunday school class. I have planned worship services, I have preached a sermon. I am fostering relationships with the congregation. I take all opportunities to experience new things. And because of all of this, I want to jump ahead and say, “Okay God, I’m doing it. I’m ready for my answers now.”
The psalmist echoes my desperate plea for immediate answers, and serves as a reminder that though I may not get them, God is listening to my questions and my doubts. God is the one in control, and I am able to rest in that.
I have been attempting to become more intentional in practicing patience. I am learning to trust in the process and savor each moment as it comes.
At the close of each day, I have focused on praying through the Daily Examen. This is a practice that involves reflecting on the events of the day and paying attention to emotions, in order to become attuned to how God has been present. This has been a wonderful way to reflect on the experiences that I have each day, and savoring those moments as they come.
Today I preached a sermon. I felt God in my joy behind the pulpit. I heard God in the conversations that followed, in people with tear-filled eyes telling me that the words I had spoken were exactly what they needed to hear. I saw God in supportive friends with words of affirmation. I feel loved. I feel spiritually fed. I feel content. These are things that can’t be checked off in a box. The story that I am living is complex, and it is beautiful.
And for today, that is enough.
Rachael Phelps is a 23 year-old graduate of Central Washington University, where she studied Psychology and Religious Studies. She was born and raised in Seattle, Washington and has been a member of the United Methodist Church since 2006. She is passionate about the work of the church, as it seeks to further God’s kingdom on earth. She loves singing, playing the guitar, Zumba, musicals, and drinking coffee.
Photo Credit: Image by Abudawood Global, via Flickr.