Road to the Ministry, Part 7: Hi, Call of God. Meet the Parents.

(Maybe) Bible college bound?

So I took that magazine copy and asked to talk to both my parents.

I explained that I thought God was calling me to ministry, and I wanted to go to Bible college to figure it out.

I’m sure we had other conversations before and after that night. But I remember that particular time, I was looking for their approval to go to Bible college.

What would they say?

I expected it to be a bad response. The idea of it being OK to be a female pastor just wasn’t present in my culture and surroundings.  Maybe it was with some people. Later I would learn that some people held other ideas. But since I had never heard them speak about it, I didn’t know that.

From the perspective I’d heard: Bible college was okay (although expensive and probably not the most useful choice), but not actually becoming a female pastor.

But you know what? Years and years later? People at that church would say they had thought I should be a pastor since I was in high school. Some of them later on sent notes of encouragement. And I am SO, SO grateful they did that. To have that encouragement and confirmation years later is incredible.

But as a 16, 17, 18 year old? I’d never actually heard that yet. I didn’t know I’d get any support about being a pastor. From anyone.

The idea of being any kind of pastor – as a female – was only identified with liberal theology in my experience. Of conversations about people who were rejecting what the Bible said in order to do what they wanted.

I’d tried to dialogue a bit.

I’d brought up verses like Galatians 3:28 with older believers… and been dismissed in fifteen seconds.

That has no bearing on anything besides salvation, they said. To apply that to pastoring or using our gifts is misusing the Bible.

Wow, well, I didn’t want to do that, right? And I didn’t know what to do.

God was working in my heart. And there was this call. There was this certainty. There was this development of leadership gifts. There was this passion to preach the word and the realization I could understand it well. That I could pick up new skills. 

So it was a confusing time. 

 

 

Avoidable

One thing I could have done at the time was talked to the pastor at our church about this. They were – and still are – a fantastic minister. Who thinks things through well and is careful in responding.

That’s a resource I didn’t draw on. Even though they were available and they were great.

Because for some reason, I still thought it would be bothering them or they wouldn’t have time.

How silly of me. That could have helped a lot.

 

Now what?

I didn’t expect my parents to get it.

I had sort of braced myself for it to be a bad conversation. To go further down the “who do you think you are?” response I’d received from other adults at Bible studies and such.

But they were gracious. And life-giving. And hopeful.

The response I got was more along the lines  “That could be okay. As a youth pastor. As long as you were still working under the authority of another (male) pastor.“

And I breathed a sigh of relief.

I mean, I wasn’t so sure about what roles could be okay, and which ones weren’t.

 

But I didn’t have to figure that out yet.

It was enough to give me permission to go.

And I was pretty sure I would go to Bible college.

 

My parents were OK with it. But the inertia of that city also weighed on me.

 

Getting out

The Niagara area has changed immensely in twenty years.

There’s a growing economy and innovation. Downtown has two-way streets and has completely turned around! Entrepreneurship is huge. And while some economic, practical and social challenges persist, the context is much more hopeful.

It was different twenty years ago.

At the time, the crushing pressure I felt in St. Catharines was to stop and shut down. Minimize who I was. To stop and shut down. To not have big ideas. To be less. To not go for anything. To be inert.

I didn’t personally know a lot of people that had been to college or university. At least not that had ever talked about it. Some of my friends had just begun at Brock, however, and that helped make the idea of post-secondary less intimidating.

I had other friends who were suspicious of any college or university. And that definitely influenced me. If I kept running with that group, I could have become even more influenced by that.

There were days at my retail job where I realized I could just keep on doing this… forever. Some people I worked with had graduated from my school. A year, two years, five years ago. And they had already drifted into the place where it was too comfortable to leave.

Steel towns and small towns can be like that. You don’t know what can happen there… but you can’t picture leaving either.

 

Will you go it alone?

I never had a serious relationship in high school, but there was one guy I hung out with a bit. We’d met at a 30 Hour Famine event. We had a few mutual friends. We liked the same music. Went to a few concerts and movies together. I wondered if that would go anywhere. And I toyed with the idea of just staying in St. Catharines or nearby.

I knew it wasn’t ideal – for each other, for the outcome, for my soul.

But maybe I had to be humble and not be ungrateful for what I had. After all, we had more in common than pretty much anyone else had ever had with me.

Would I go for this relationship? Since it was better to have a relationship than to go it alone?

Except I knew it wasn’t better.

I knew it in how I couldn’t talk with my friends about it. That was a huge red flag. If you can’t communicate with people you’re close with? You gotta run from that thing.

Instead, I was called to a different path… and I was flat-out-scared of it.

And if it meant not having a relationship or getting married, and staying lonely? That’s a big ask.

 

Then I saw it

But one day, all of a sudden, it was like I could see it.

Two futures in front of me.

Images of myself in ten years.

One had me leaving town. Learning and working. I could see myself in an ironed dress shirt, sitting with a notebook. Listening intently to a point someone made. Smiling and gently agreeing. There wasn’t another guy in the picture, but I didn’t even notice that.

And in the other, I was in a small house in the middle of a small town, with a few kids. I’d just come off a shift of nursing of some kind. And I stayed in the Niagara area forever.

The first picture encouraged me.

The second struck fear into my heart.

And if I was built for that second life? It would have been great.

For others, that would have been the dream, because it’s how they were built. And the first picture is the one that they had to run from.

But for me? I had to go.

I sat in the car and explained with all sincerity that “it’s not you, it’s me.”  There was something bigger at play here and I couldn’t even explain it.

While that went over as poorly as it usually does…. funny thing? I’d see this guy way later when he visited Tyndale and we’d reconcile and be on speaking terms again.

That was done.

 

Leaving town

A new environment. New surroundings. And professors who knew the Bible really well and could help me to figure out my call – or if it wasn’t to be. I had to go.

I thought I’d give it a year, to be honest.

If God had certainly called me, I would be able to find out if that was the case. That the Bible was clear on it, and something in our 20th/21st century Western perspective was messed up. And I would know that clearly.

And if for some reason this was in my head? And I couldn’t reconcile this idea of authority and roles? Then I would head to something else.

I wanted so badly to avoid doing theological gymnastics. From bending the Bible to fit my own ideas. From seeking out a perspective that would only benefit me.

I wanted to be absolutely sure this wasn’t just from one perspective, or one denomination. I wanted to head to a school that was evangelical and had a high respect for the Bible, and would challenge me to look deeply into these things.

 

Unexpected encouragement

And so I went to Tyndale.

And a cool thing along the way?

My parents, yes… but also my church would support my decision to attend Bible college.

Many people in the church (especially women’s ministry!) would fund a small scholarship that Tyndale matched! That really surprised me. That blew me away. Most of them didn’t know this struggle with a call. But to know God and his word more? To see what he had for me by attending this school? They were all for that.

They supported that growth. To know God and his word more. To ask these questions, and to get more skilled and knowledgeable along the way.

And I am really, really, really, really thankful for that.

 

1. The Road to Obedience

2. Unlikely sympathy

3. The mix: Road to a call

4. Holy work.

5. But you’re a jerk

6. No other road

7. Hi, Call of God. Meet the parents.

8. Thank you, Tyndale

9. Here’s the stakes

10. The path of wisdom

11. Redeemed and resurrected

12.  Three big lies

13. Courage to change

14. Adulting is hard…

15. And mentoring is harder

16. Picking up the mic – 1 Timothy Part 1

17. Picking up the mic – 1 Timothy Part 2

18. Females and finances

19. Two hundred bad sermons

20. Evangelical, Pentecostal, Female, and Not Alone

21. Strong arms or feeble hands?

22. Strength to strength

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