But What Do You Want?
On broken dreams and deep desires
I am not the best at burying the lead so here it goes: I was deferred, again in the United Methodist Church. Despite quitting my teaching job to go to Candler full time, attempting to plant a church while still in seminary because they asked me to and pastoring church while I have another job to support my family for the bulk of the last three years, I am…still not quite ready for ordination maybe next year….again.
If I sound frustrated I am. I am disappointed for sure. I like pastoring and am really good at it. I know that God has called me and I don’t regret a moment of pastoral care I have participated in, but much like my last email wondering what the state of the church is, I have been reflecting a lot about what ministry might look for me if it doesn’t look like ordained service to the church. I am not sure. This isn’t something I have considered since 2017. But also there is hope here.
Turns out I am a great bartender, and once I got past the classist tropes in my own head, I can see myself there for a long time. I get to hang out with my community, and they pay me for that. It’s a good gig. Also, any nutso idea I have gets a resounding Sure! Try it! This is an environment I thrive in. I put googley eye sprinkles on all of my cocktails on halloween weekend and am currently signing up every elementary school I can find to do a PTA fundraiser night. All those years in the Facebook community groups are finally paying off.
The week before I got my job my friend Aaron offered to pray for me. He asked me how, and in tears I told him I just wanted to be wanted. I just wanted to work at a place where it felt like I was an asset and not a liability. I wanted to work with people who wanted me to work with them. That night I heard owls so clearly that I thought I were in my house. Owls seem to show up when I am in most need of some affirmation. I think about those owls a lot.
A few weeks ago I preached on a healing of Jesus. Before healing the man, Jesus asks, and what is it you want? What is it you want… In the moments of grief and embarrassment of failure I have felt the Spirit sit with me and ask me that same question. Abby, what is it you want? Why did I want ordination? What will I give up if I walk away? What will I gain? My answers are not fully formed yet. Like some people cannot really write about a thing without processing first, I process best while writing it out.
I know I want to facilitate the work of the Spirit in the world.
I know ceremony and liturgy are important parts of community, ones the church has traditionally had a hold on, but I also know that people who no longer want a Sunday Morning experience are still seeking those spaces.
I know Jesus shows up on the margins, so I want to hang out there.
I know we are both horrible at and desperate for corporate grief and lament. I know there is holy work there.
That is enough for me to know right now, I am still pondering the things I want that I thought the Methodists could bring. I want community and accountability. I want to make a living wage. I want to preach and write and baptize and serve communion and help people experience the gift of their own spirituality, the gifts of God. I want to help bring about heaven on earth and liberation for everyone. I want to preach and teach and use the gifts that God has given me, and I think I still can. It will just look really different than I might have imagined.
In 2012 I chose the word “unashamed” before I disqualified myself for anything I would ask myself “and what would you do if you weren’t ashamed.” Then I would do that thing. Most of the times those ashamed bits came with me thinking I was wanting the wrong thing. Almost ten years later I will be exploring that wanting. What is it that I want? And how are God and I going to thread that want, and this disappointment into something beautiful? I don’t need the answers right now. Right now I am committed to being your friendly neighborhood pastor/bartender. I am committed to grieving the hurt well, the life that could have been. I am wondering how what we want what we deep down really desire could make the world better. I am letting Jesus ask me: What is it you want?