I’ve been thinking a lot about identity this year. Specifically, my own identity. I’ve been having trouble finding ways to define myself this year and as I reflected on that, I realized that I have had a hard time in that area for the past 3 years.
In America, we are what we do. When people ask, “who are you?”, the first thing given is a name and then an occupation. When you file forms for taxes or apply for visas or passports or any number of other paperwork, they ask for your occupation. We are usually defined in our lives primarily by what we do, not who we are in the rest of our selves.
This reality has been a huge struggle for me since I graduated from seminary. For over a decade leading up to that point, I had already started telling people that I was (going to be) a pastor. I had my eyes on that prize and I knew who I was and could see who I was going to be. I was excited and I felt complete in that calling, in that identity.
When I graduated and didn’t receive a call…I was devastated.
Well, at first I wasn’t. I was dating a really great guy. I had been assigned to the synod of my dreams. I was willing to wait a bit longer to see my dreams come true and not sacrifice my authenticity to take the first call that came my way just because I was desperate. I was trusting the Spirit had it all figured out. I was still a pastor. I was just a pastor on hold. I would just find a job (or 3) to make ends meet until I got to live into my true identity.
But then the hits really started coming spiritually and personally. The process was taking too long. My paperwork got lost. I was told of things I was supposed to have done after the fact, instead of before they happened in the call process. I was tossed around and torn apart. I was pushed aside and pulled under. And suddenly I started to realize that I wasn’t a pastor. I wasn’t going to be a pastor. The system didn’t think I could do it. God didn’t think I could do it.
I went from pastor to victim.
And that was the way that others saw me as well. I was looked over for friends’ weddings and pulpit supply because I wasn’t ordained. I was watching the students in the classes behind me graduate and get calls…twice (now going on three times). I went to their ordinations and cried-happy for them, hurting for myself. I am looked at by others in and around the system as “the girl who didn’t get a call”. As others haves struggles with their call processes, they are afraid to talk to me because they say their story doesn’t compare to mine, so they can’t complain. I am known as a victim.
And victim is who I have been for the past 3 years. Victim has been my identity.
So, who am I when that situation changes?
The months of March and April have been a bit interesting in the realm of call processes for Will and I. As I wrote about before, we didn’t get assigned in February so we have been spending the past two months sort of figuring things out. We got assigned to the Montana synod. We had some interviews. They have gone well. And now these two parishes are both making moves to call us. It actually looks like I may be a pastor again. But I’m not sure I know how to do that anymore.
See, these past 3 years have really taken a toll on my faith walk and my identity. I have done a lot of soul-searching and have always felt like God was still calling me to be a pastor. Yet, with all the negative things that were happening in that process, I began to doubt myself. I began to doubt my call. I began to lose my confidence and my compassion for the system. If it took this long, how can I actually be able to do this? Do I even remember what I’m supposed to say and do? What if I fail? What if I have lived too long in the identity of victim that I don’t know who pastor Katie is?
So, depending on how things go, we’ll find out.
The center of our theology as Christians is death and resurrection. We cling to it with all that we have. We believe that God has the ability to turn anything around, even up to changing death to life. We have been crucified with Christ and we rise again in him. I preach this as the focus of my personal theology. The Spirit moves us to let death come to some things so that brilliant new things may be born.
The Spirit is calling me to kill the victim in me. My identity as victim must die because my identity as pastor must be born anew. And it will be. This identity will not be that of only the future of myself. It will not be like the old Katie pastor. Something new is being born in me.
I am a crucified and claimed child of God first and foremost and that is where my identity must stem from.
I am a pastor. That is my job, my station, and my vocation.
I am Katie.
It’s who I am.
Much love (and prayers as we move forward in these call proceedings and we move to Cameroon this week)