Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pastor Emily Joye--November/December Congregationalist

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly. We don’t know the future. But God does and I maintain God is way smarter than we are, holding the infinite possibilities for a variety of futures in Her loving, poetic heart”

Since our entire congregational focus over the next months in worship and fellowship is discernment, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share with you how I discerned it was time to move on from FCC. While this piece is testimonial and personal in nature, I hope you’ll focus more on the what than the whom. Because God knows discernment is an art, and while we all do it differently, there are some common denominators, trusted patterns worth noting.

Back in February, we celebrated Koinonia’s 4th anniversary. We celebrated big in worship. We had a potluck luncheon in the Courtyard after service. It was a glorious, joy-filled Sunday. After the party was over, as I was walked to my car alone, I surveyed the smattered snow on the ground. I felt a presence wash over me. In a matter of moments, I felt/heard a voice—a still small whisper—say, “Your time is done now. You can go.” It was a loving assurance, not an indictment. It was permission giving. I felt loved and held in the midst of that revelation.

Then I felt terrified.

I had no idea what to do if I was done. What came next? I’m a full time pastor with two young children. I can’t just quit without something to replace ministry—that would be foolish. Then I started spinning. What if the voice was just a made up figment of my imagination? What if I misunderstood the message? What if G-d was wrong? For about a week I told no one. In fact, I hid the revelation from myself pretty consciously. I had no idea how to act on what was given to me, so I rendered it obsolete. That’s where I went wrong. God didn’t tell me what to do. God didn’t give me directions. I got assurance and permission. But that wasn’t enough for me because it didn’t translate to action. I figured if God was talking, it had to lead me to direct behavior or life-style change, and I didn’t have a clue.

In a session a few months later, I reluctantly shared with my therapist what I’d heard that February morning and how much it vexed me. She lovingly asked me how hiding from God’s truth was working out for me. Truthfully everything had started feeling too small. I wasn’t experiencing much joy in ministry. Little things annoyed me. My spiritual reserves were coming up dry in preaching and pastoral care. I knew my time was done because I could feel it, not on paper, but in my soul. But I still didn’t have a way forward and risking leaving without a landing place felt inherently reckless. “Well, at least I have a paycheck” I said back to her. She prodded me on that. “And that’s what you’re all about, huh?” I knew what she was getting at. “But how can I leave, in good faith, without having my next thing in place, especially given my kids?” I asked. “You can trust what you’ve been given and signal to the universe that you’re open or you can continue denying the truth.” She made it sound so simple. Did I listen? No.

It took me a few more months and a whole lot more suffering to fathom that faith over fear might be the best bet. One day, after receiving lots of support from people who love me (amidst lots of tears) and in discernment with Tom Ott, I finally said it outl oud and owned my truth. I decided on a resignation date. I made the declaration public. I hoped graduate school would come through as an option (and it has.) Other things have come through too: a local project beyond my wildest dreams, facilitation gigs with two agencies I work for nationally, and a paid writing post. My God! I couldn’t have dreamed a better future for myself.
That’s the point.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly. We don’t know the future. But God does and I maintain God is way smarter than we are, holding the infinite possibilities for a variety of futures in Her loving, poetic heart. We only know what we are given in this moment. What I’ve learned this spring and summer is what we are given in this moment is enough. Choosing to believe the truth of what I was given and acting in faith made all the difference.

I have a certain confidence that if we all take exactly what we are given in Revision, believe the truth of it and act in faith, the future of FCC will be beyond what any of us can even imagine. May it be so. Amen.

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