You’ve Got the Wrong Girl, God

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By Rose Shepley | Twitter: @RoseShepley

H_Rose

I’m 30 years old when I realize that God is calling me to ministry. Probably has been since I was a little girl. I laugh and tell God to take His drunken butt home. I say, You’ve got the wrong girl. And I go about my business, wondering along the way why I feel so unfulfilled.

I have a husband and children and family and friends who love me and we enjoy each other’s company. I like my job most of the time. I’m learning to crochet and reading my favorite book series. We’re traveling and having a blast.

So why do I feel like I have so much to figure out?

Now I’m 32 and here comes God again, and this time he’s smiling and winking and being all smooth and charming and telling me, This will be fun. He says I should just go ahead and accept this calling because He’s not giving up. He has an abundance of patience, I’m reminded. So I tell my chaplain at work that I’m interested in seminary, and I confess to her that I don’t even feel like myself when I say this out loud. “I’m scared of all of this,” I tell her. But we agree that I’ll do it anyway.

So I ask myself, How are you going to tell your friends you’re becoming a Christian minister?

I watch Practical Magic and I’m struck when Aunt Jet says to Sally, “You can’t practice witchcraft while you look down your nose at it.” And this is my predicament.

I’ve been hurt a few times by organized religion. I’ve been so disgusted by the behaviors of some people claiming to be “Christ-like” that I’ve just walked away from the church all together. I take my values from my grandma and the good people in my life and I make my own way. And now God reassures me that I’m supposed to become a leader in the church. I try bargaining, but He won’t accept me returning to the pews. He wants me on the pulpit.

I agree to accept this calling and to test the waters, I tell my husband. The man is so gracious he doesn’t even bat an eye before he smiles and says, “Awesome.” I tell my best friend and she’s on board too. I slowly begin to tell my family and friends, and I get the expected mix of responses. Most are exceptionally supportive. But, some people just can’t believe it.

Turns out, a lot of these people think I’m Agnostic. Some say they think I am smarter than this. Some think I’m more like them, able to move beyond the needs of organized religion. Some question my allegiance to science and intellect and our shared liberal ideas. Some are just curious to know if I can still say the F-word after I’m ordained.

I quickly learn you can’t practice Christianity while you look down your nose at it.

I begin drinking in all the Gospel I can. I read Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber and I’m certain that she wrote this book solely to assure me of this calling to ministry. So, to make sure that I go through with it, I accept a challenge from the SheLovelys:

I dare myself to submit my application to the Master of Divinity program at seminary.

Now, you need to understand I don’t have an undergraduate degree. I went to college twice and quit both times. Because of this, I have to take the Miller Analogies Test in addition to all the other fun application stuff. My test scores are high and I seem to have potential, but I look like a quitter.

So when the Director of Vocations wants to talk about this during my admissions interview, I kind of freeze up. I know it’s coming. I’m prepared for it. But it’s scary. I hate defending myself, feeling like I’m making excuses. I really don’t like excuses. And I really don’t like talking about my personal family issues with strangers. I know I have to though, so I tell her the truth about everything.

I tell her I quit the first time to move home and take care of my little sister because I’m scared my stepmama is going to set the house on fire while she’s high on crack cocaine. I tell her I quit the second time because this same stepmama is slowly dying an awful ugly death, rotting from the inside out, from smoking crack cocaine. And I tell her that I’m stronger and healthier and wiser. I tell her I have a support system in place and I ask for help. I tell her that I’m scared, but that God is forcing me to do this, and I pray that she and the admissions committee can see whatever it is that God sees when He calls me to walk on the water with Him.

Three weeks later I get an acceptance letter. I cry because I know God is easing me into big things. I cry and I can’t wait to tell everybody I know that I’m going to become a minister. And now, I dare my doubting, bent, angry, misanthropic, sarcastic, know-it-all self to make room for God, and the church, and the dream to become a dangerous woman.

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About Rose:

roseI’m a writer and blogger who advocates for women, children, and all those on the fringes of society; while trying to live my life with purpose, intent, gratitude, genuine kindness, and radical hospitality. I’m navigating through life in Southeastern Pennsylvania with my artist husband and two comedic children. I write about grace, growth, transcendence, and love at pausingforgrace.com.

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Image credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli

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  • Add cynical and curmudgeonly to that list in your final paragraph, and you’ve got me for company. But then there’s this God who knocks off our rough edges, accepts our willingness at face value, and then does His work. Amazing.

    • Oh Michele! How true this is. God keeps polishing my rough edges for sure! Gentle is not a term I would use to describe myself, in my natural habitat, if you know what I mean! But, God keeps working and I keep getting softer. And I’m happier this way. Cynics we may be, but there is hope for us!! 🙂

  • Donna-Jean Brown

    Loving this, Rose. The church doesn’t need more goody-goodies who fake it. We need leaders (and followers) who model authentic reliance on Christ alone. Thank you for your story.

    • Thank you for this! We hear a lot about authenticity, but it’s possibly the most challenging aspect of my own ministry. Staying true to ourselves and the way God is working through us is hard when so many people set their own expectations upon us. To be authentic is always in my prayers. Hope you have a great weekend!

  • Sandy Hay

    This is so honest Rose. I’m just shaking my head and smiling and saying to myself, “you go dangerous shelovely !!!! wondering where in SE PA you live? I just across the river in NJ.

    • Jamie

      And I’m across the river and up north a bit!

      • This is great! We could get together for an East Coast SheLoves gathering!

        • Jamie

          That would be amazing!

    • Thank you Sandy!! It feels good to be dangerous!! I’m in the Reading area. Where in NJ?

  • Jamie

    Love this so much and rooting for you!

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  • Leanna Spampinato Keller

    This is just exceptional!

  • Blessings for this journey, Rose! I love the quote from Practical Magic and the application to our Christian lives. Isn’t that such a challenge!? It reminds me that we live, too, into the call to be a church that is “reformed and always reforming” so your urge to both love and critique the church will be a great gift to you in your ministry.

    • Thank you Amelia! This is truly insightful and helpful. I will definitely remember this.

  • Oh, Rose, you know how much I love your words. I’m in such a similar place with answering, and this seemed to roll off my heart as I read. I was writing down similar thoughts for a #wholemama blog post while sitting in the grass during lunch break today…at the job I am quitting to figure out what He wants me to do next. Keep answering yes…

    • Amanda, I love that you always show up with kindness and encouragement! I’ll keep answering yes, and I’ll ask you to do the same. I look forward to seeing what unfolds, and where this journey takes you!

  • Sarah Joslyn

    I feel this. All of this. I think you can still drop the F-bomb even when you’re a minister. xoxo

    • Thank you so much, Sarah! It’s nice to know these words have found purpose outside of myself. Haha! I had to complete a mission and mandate report, a little early in the process I thought, but anyway, I asked several clergy members during interviews about the use of the F-bomb!

  • A Dangerous Woman, you are!!!!!!

    • Idelette, I can’t begin to tell you what this community does for me and how much it means to have found you! <3

  • I love this. I, too, felt totally like the wrong person in the wrong place when I was called to seminary. Keep having the courage to say yes, for God is always right there beside you.

    • Alina, thank you for this reassurance. Yes, God is certainly right here, or else I might have run away already! 😉

  • At bible study last night, our teacher was asked what she was going to do with her PhD and she said she had no idea, but her definition of her calling was it was something she couldn’t not do. Sounds like you had a similar experience! I’m in the middle of all the fun stuff for applying for alternative route to licensure for special ed teaching. Blessings on your seminary journey!

  • Ah, the old “I’d never” irony that God seems so fond of. 🙂 He is faithful to complete the task (1 Thess 5:24), so this really won’t depend on you anyway. But my favorite is truly the principle that we can’t look down our noses at Christianity and still practice it in a way that honors Him. Stickin’ it to me!

  • Joy Howard

    http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/407767/female-priests-church-of-england/ Beautiful video on accepting one’s calling and wondering if one is worthy at The Atlantic

    Many many many whispers of love and blessings on this call.

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