It wasn’t my plan to become a Lutheran pastor or a hospital chaplain. I dreamed of being a journalist, traveling the world, investigating corruption, shining the light of truth in dark places. I also hadn’t exactly planned to be gay.
I have friends who knew they were attracted to women from the time they were five years old – that wasn’t me. Instead, I was in my twenties, realizing how unexpectedly at home I felt in a group of lesbian and bisexual women. And then realizing that I too had those same feelings of attraction, and suddenly, it all clicked into place. Those many years of my heart breaking again and again over the loss of friendships with girls, while relationships with boys came and went with relative ease, finally made more sense.
But back to the call to ministry …
I was on vacation with my family in the mountains when we met a group of Lutheran women pastors. I was astonished at the reality of women who were Lutheran pastors, and who were passionate about justice, and who used their voices as pastors to speak out for justice. One of them asked me if I had ever thought about being a pastor, and I laughed. Journalist, remember? Shining a light in dark places? Ohhhh…
That planted the seed of my sense of call, and soon I couldn’t imagine anything else: to work for justice, to share people’s stories, to study and learn, to be a compassionate listening presence, to love, to proclaim good news, to be creative, to incite hope. I had many long arguments with God, which were complicated a bit by my growing attraction to women.
“You know, God, I bet I’d make a great social worker, and we could just bypass the whole church thing…”
But the call remained, and I made my way to seminary in Berkeley, California. In case I needed more affirmation, without realizing it, I was immediately drawn to all the gay, lesbian and bisexual students at my seminary. They became my study partners, housemates, close friends, and continue to be important companions as we share the work of proclaiming grace and hope while we celebrate the joys and hold each other up in the sorrows through the struggle for justice.
The Lutheran church takes call seriously. It isn’t enough to simply think you’re well qualified to be a pastor – there’s an expectation that, well, God has something to do with it. It is drawing you toward that vocation. But there’s also an expectation that this call will be recognized and confirmed by your community. It struck me, that first year of seminary, that if so many of us GLBT people were experiencing that strong sense of call to ministry, calls being affirmed by those we met and who were partners in ministry and witnesses to our ministries, then God must be up to something new in the life of the church, in the life of the world.
And so here I am. Called to be pastor, a chaplain, and gay. There’s no conflict in that for me, despite what some would say (and that will likely be the topic of a future blog). But call isn’t just about being a pastor or priest (or, for that matter, gay). We’re all called to be someone, to do something. Frederick Buechner describes call this way:
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Perhaps you’re called to be one who loves and nurtures children. Or one who speaks up for justice. Who teaches. Who creates beauty. Who reforms structures, or makes systems work better. Someone who asks questions, or who inspires.
The Municipality of Anchorage votes this week on Proposition 5, proposing that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people receive the same legal protections regarding employment and housing provide without regard to age, race, sex, religion, physical or mental disabilities to others, without regard for age, race, sex, religion, physical or mental disabilities. As a Christian, this matters to me, not just because I’m gay, but because my faith rests on the premise that indeed, God DOES love THE WORLD.
God calls us to love. And God, if my life is any indication, is full of surprises, and works in ways many of us would never expect.
We are all valued by God, and that value isn’t determined by whom we love (rather, I’m convinced that our loving simply makes evident and tangible our inherent value). So may we all find our vocation, our call. And may we live in a place where that vocation is honored, where we without regard to age, race, sex, religion, physical or mental disabilities do not discriminate or experience discrimination based on who we are, who God has called us to be, or who we love. Voting on Tuesday can help make that a reality in this place.
Where are YOU experiencing that call?