I have never been very good at kayaking. It’s something I love to do, and this summer I got my own kayak and it brought me dozens of lovely hours out on lakes and bays. This doesn’t change the fact that I am really not very good. I can never make a kayak to straight, never coordinate the paddles to go as quickly as my friends, get tired far faster than others seem to, and usually have at least a few bumps when I run into a rock in a shallow area or almost tip the kayak while reaching for my water bottle.
Like I said, I’m really not very good.
As a combined result of my love for kayaking and my complete inability to do it well I tend to spend a lot of summer hours alone in the middle of lakes wondering why on EARTH I purchased this stupid kayak in the first place because I suck at this. Of course, then I take the kayak out again the next morning or the next weekend and do it again.
There have been a lot of things in my life that seem to have followed this pattern, and many times I just convince myself that I will never succeed at something so I don’t even bother trying. The number of times that I almost dropped out of college is frankly astounding, and if they made it even a little bit easier to do then you can bet I’d have quit before my first year was up. There are conferences I never applied to present at, scholarships I never submitted my name for, and job offers that I didn’t take because they were too far, too skilled, too SOMETHING that I didn’t consider myself capable of.
And now I’m facing this problem, or this adventure, this SOMETHING. This conundrum. This THING that wont’ stop THUMPING ME ON THE HEAD. This THING that is jumping up and down in front of me, waving its hands and screaming “HEY HEY LOOK AT ME PAY ATTENTION TO ME LISTEN TO ME WHY AREN’T YOU LISTENING TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE??????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
I’m considering applying to seminary. CONSIDERING. Not making any decisions, not saying anything definitive or even close to it. But I am talking to people. Talking to ministers. Talking to friends. Talking and reading. Reading blogs, sermons, essays, articles, reading rules and regulations and statistics. Wondering where the hell this is coming from?
I posted before, months ago, that this was something I considered, and wanted, when I was in middle school. But I gave up on that. I said no because it wouldn’t happen and it couldn’t happen because of certain aspects of my identity that I couldn’t or wouldn’t or didn’t want to hide or pretend didn’t exist. And I was FINE with that no longer being a part of my future plan. I stopped thinking about it entirely for over 10 years. And then I met a queer minister. And then I met about 10 more. I realized that ministers can be, and are, people like me. That I don’t have to pretend that aspects of my identity don’t exist in order to MAYBE pursue this.
But I have to wonder if this is like kayaking and college, which I loved and loved to hate at times, or if this is like that time I decided that what I should really do with my life is work with kids with special needs, which has led to more nights of tears, more institutionalized bullshit regarding my identity and my imposing “immoral standards” on children, and more lost jobs or jobs never offered than I care to remember.
My friend says that she hates the words “should and shouldn’t.” She said this while I laid on her shoulder crying in the emergency room waiting area after a really, really bad day. I felt I shouldn’t have been mad about something, and she told me, basically, to shut up and just feel what I was going to feel. She was much nicer about it than I am making it sound. It was actually very sweet. Anyway.
It’s with THAT in mind that I am trying not to ask myself if I SHOULD do this.
CAN I do this? Maybe.
Would I, in ministry, be good for others? I don’t know. People generally like what I have to say, whether in or out of church. I have often been the one that people come to to talk to. But that doesn’t mean much.
Am I ready? Not even a little bit. I’ve been at the church less than a year (November 4th was when I went to my first service, January 20th was when I actually became a member). I have never been to GA, only been to maybe 5 services not at my home congregation. And, frankly, seeing what happened with the church last spring, getting rid of a minister I really liked, really respected, and really wanted to know better keeps making me doubt this. I can’t look at the situation and wonder if that’s where I will find myself. My minister was younger, queer, unique in her style, and had a lot of the same “politics” I do. The same views on queer issues, classism, racism, etc. We are, of course, not the same person. But we are damn similar in a lot of ways. Why would I fit in a church when she didn’t?
The more I think on this the more I think parish ministry. Because it was a big thing for me to walk into a church service and see somebody I could identify with up there. I think that a LOT more queer kids need to have that experience. It’s one thing to walk into a room for a talk on queer theological perspectives and hear LGBTQ people talk about their views on religion. It’s a different thing to walk into a sanctuary with a group of all different kinds of people and see a queer minister up there, talking to everyone, being heard by everyone. And in looking at stats and demographics from around the country the retention rate (ok, there’s gotta be a church word for that) for queer ministers? Seems pretty damn low. So I have to work through all of THAT stuff before I really look further into this. I know I’m not ready.
But SHOULD I? Who can really answer that.
There’s a whole ‘nother piece to this that is about religious institutions and uncovering a lot of bullshit from my past surrounding that, and how a LOT of my community has been hurt by religion. It is hard to consider something that will, almost definitely, remove me from a large part of my LGBTQ community. But that’s a topic for another post.