So I got ordained on Friday and I have to admit it was a good time. Lots of friends, family, and Jesus all in one place. As I have been thinking a lot on what it means to actually be ordained, lately, I want to share with you one of my struggles...
LOTS of people have told me congratulations. Many have accentuated this with a "Good job!" or "You've finally made it!"
and not too uncommon, some have even said, "One last hurdle!"
Now, I figure the main reason people are congratulating me is because this is an accomplishment in life that shows that I can work hard (10 years in the making) or impact the world in a positive way (voting at Annual Conference?) and all in all, be the person God has called me to be. Surely my ordination should be celebrated. I certainly have felt loved these past few days, and for that I am sincerely thankful.
But with ordination, another shadow lurks in the background that must be dealt with. This is a feeling of entitlement.
When someone congratulates me and implies that I'm a better Christian now than those who aren't ordained - the shadow pops up.
When someone tells me I'm the future of the Church and they are lucky to have me - I get a huzzah! from the peanut gallery.
When someone congratulates me and showers me with accolades, fancy clothing, or some pride petting, Mr. Entitlement is there to pat me on the back and whisper into my ear...
I deserved this. I worked hard. I am soooo cute and clever and intelligent and God needs me way too much to let me fall to the wayside. I am, after all, young clergy. Which automatically makes me effective, holy, and better than you.
Mr. Entitlement doesn't really like the idea that I've been ordained by the grace of God and for one purpose alone: to glorify that same benefactor. My ordination should no sooner point to me than it should point through me to the one who celebrates it the most: Jesus Christ.
The best congratulations I got came from a $200.00 gift to a non-profit that I serve with. I'd tell you who they are, but that's not why they gave the $200.00 dollars. If YOU are interested in congratulating me, I encourage you to support either Isaiahsixeight or Camp Sumatanga. Both are wonderful ministries in need of generous friends.
I have to beat Mr. Entitlement down. My friends, pride lurks just around the corner for me, and I need your help keeping myself lower than the angels. This is precisely why, whatever you might hear, the Board of Ordained Ministry has such a thankless job. Pride doesn't like being brought low. It never has.
So here it is - and I might not always feel these statements, but I sure hope so.
I am not ordained because I am suddenly entitled to a position of power. I am, if anything, entitled to be the first servant. It is a position of service. Call me to clean your toilets or drive your mom to church. That should be me. I am entitled to a lifetime of servitude that others simply cannot match. If they could, they should be ordained. I'm the one who should be washing feet, serving communion, taking the fall when something goes wrong. Why? Because I'm ordained, duh. Its why I'm in the ministry.
For me, this isn't a political game or a "who has the hardest job" type thing - I have been ordained not to lead through power-brokering and intimidation (I'm ordained and you aren't) but instead to lead through service and humility. May God help me in that endeavor.
The truth is, I am lucky to have the church. Without it I would have to find somewhere else to serve. This isn't about me getting to a position to have my way, but instead getting to a position where I can get God's way into the church.
When that small voice tells me I deserve this, may I remind that voice how great our God is. Earned it? How do you earn something given to you? Deserve it? As a creation of an amazing God, don't we all deserve much more?
I don't want to knock whatever gifts or talents I've been blessed with - but I do want to remind myself that none of those gifts or talents entitle me to any more pride or power than God has already entitled every human being with.
There have been a few people who have approached me... congratulated me. And in their voice and handshake were not the temporary joys of a singular moment - but a wisdom, a sadness that I couldn't miss. Don't get me wrong - they were happy for me. But they were also sad for me.
Who in their right mind would label themselves to be a whipping boy for the church and the world? Who could, in all sanity, accept responsibility for attempting to bring the Kingdom of God in its fullness. You want to talk about why God could allow evil into this world? Or why bad things happen to good people? I ask why God would send his chosen and beloved into the world with such piddly weapons. What kind of promise is that? Wolves, demons, and blissfully ignorant folks who will tear us limb from limb abound. And that's just in the church! Imagine what happens when we "ordained" venture outside these walls!
Of course, it is the promise of a God that is not finished with this world. If I am going to be like Christ, I am going to lean heavily on the insanity, the improbability, and the love that comes from faith in a God who works different than the world we know.
Our annual conference was about empowering a new generation. For me, the most God-honest people there felt genuine pain for the calling we were going into. One that will not be an easy road and will be joyful at times and bitterly lonely at others. But the present sufferings are not to be compared to the glory we will experience in the age to come (Romans 8:22-27). I will continue hoping, dreaming, and loving this world as my savior continues to hope, dream, and love me. I am incredibly happy right now. But I hope I don't get to feeling entitled.
The retiring elder that put a stole around my neck said something that almost made me cry... he said, "Congratulations, Christ is counting on you."
And to that I say, I am counting on Christ.