The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
By Rachael Phelps | Ministry Intern serving at Audubon Park UMC in Spokane, WA
About a year ago, I felt called to preach for the first time. It was not a long-harbored dream, nor something I felt equipped to do. It was something that I knew I had to do. Through trepidation and second, third, fourth, and fifth, guesses, my soul rested in the guidance of the Spirit and two months later, I gave my first sermon at Ellensburg United Methodist Church.
Even a year prior, had I been told that my future included preaching, working in a church, and taking steps toward seminary, I am certain that disbelief would abound. Now, as I approach the halfway point of my time working at Audubon Park United Methodist Church, I am finding myself faced with more of these invitations to trust and step out in faith as I continue to discern my call.
I recently asked the few who know me best if they would describe me as “cautious”. The answers I received were unanimously “yes”. As I have reflected on how exactly this shows up in my life, I began to feel that my “caution” may be more akin to a synonym for “scared”. Phrases like “wait a little longer”, “not ready”, and “not good enough” are a regular part of my inner-dialogue, but recently one phrase has dominated the conversation.
What am I waiting for?
Around the time that 2014 was drawing to a close and resolutions were at the forefront of many minds, I saw a quote that made the point that it is impossible to start over, but it is always possible to start again from right now. I found peace in this sentiment. What has been cannot be changed. My mistakes, failures, the times I’ve lost, are all part of my story. This story I’ve lived has been written, but there is potential to be found in the days ahead, the days waiting to be lived.
That is the hope that I find in Christ as I continue to walk the road of discernment. I believe in a God whose steadfast love never ceases. It is a continuum, new with each morning, in which I have found truth. Author Anne Lammott writes, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.”
This week, I was introduced to a man named Brian. Brian passed away in December, and I was able to be part of a memorial service held in his honor. Through stories told by family and friends, I learned that Brian was a man with a caring heart, who was everyone’s best friend. He had contagious smile, a wild sense of humor, and a strong faith in God.
Death is something that I have been able to keep a fair distance from thus far in my life, so walking this road was a new experience.
The service was filled with extraordinary hope. As we sang songs like “How Great Is Our God” and heard the powerful message that death does not have the final word, I felt the weight of what was happening around me. The weight of grief and the weight of hope. Nothing else has ever felt quite so significant.
Participating in this kind of ministry for the first time, I found myself reflecting on life’s fleeting nature and feeling honored that I was able to help create the space for a family to honor their loved one. I felt grateful that I was able to meet Brian.
And so, again I ask myself, what am I waiting for?
Whether darkness comes from grief, depression, or uncertainty, we are asked to do is show up and try to do the right thing. This invitation to show up, to say “yes”, has incited an urgency in me to stop waiting, but awake to the newness of God’s love and mercy and live into my call. The first words that Jesus speaks in the Gospel of Mark are, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!”
Now is the time.
As I grapple with affirmation and questions, my call continues to rear its head, and I am faced with decisions that are, frankly, scary; decisions about what I am going to do about this call and what’s going to come next. Just like the first time I preached, I often feel that I am on a path that I am unqualified for and unworthy of, yet I know that God’s mercies are new each morning. In this I have my hope.
The closest that I came to making a resolution this year, I tweeted shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve:
“Here’s to living a life I believe in. Here’s to honesty. Here’s to bravery.”
May it be so, Lord. Amen.
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.