Sunday, June 07, 2009

Harder Than I Thought

Three years ago I was commissioned by the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church and became a probationary Elder in the conference. Six weeks later I went on Family Leave. Today marked the ordination of the group of men and women with whom I was commissioned three years ago. They have survived and thrived throughout three years of probationary membership, met together regularly to support each other, endured another round of interviews with the Board of Ordained Ministry, and undoubtedly done some wonderful things in their churches. Had I not decided to stay home with my children I might have been with them today.

So I've been a little teary today as I've read their status updates and caught little glimpses of how this next step is affecting them. Had I thought about it I might have made the effort to go to St. Charles and cheer them on. They are an amazing group of men and women with incredible gifts for ministry, and their ordination today makes me hopeful about the future of the United Methodist Church--maybe we can be a church that lives up to its promise of open minds, open hearts, and open doors. Maybe we can be a church that gives hope to the cynics and that lives out the unconditional love of Christ in all we say and do.

And while I celebrate with them, I can't help but think what my life might look like if I had chosen their path. What would my life be like if I had chosen to remain in the local church for the last three years? I willingly admit that part of me feels like I'm missing out on something huge, and today more than ever I am painfully aware that my choice to stay home with my children means that I have missed out on a different opportunity. To say that I don't have regrets would be a lie. No matter how confident I am that I made the right choice, my heart still hurts a little bit today because I realize the magnitude of the sacrifice I've made.

It would be so humbling and amazing to stand with my friends today and feel the hands of the bishop on my shoulders. Some days the feeling of my children's hands in mine make up for that feeling, but for today I will sit with the sorrow that comes with choosing one path over another. And I will rejoice with my friends who will have hands laid on them and stoles placed over their shoulders, and I will thank God for the call to ministry given to men and women who want to love the world as Jesus did.


Sparky's Garage said...

Amen. You are voicing something that many refuse to acknowledge. We can't have it all, do it all, or be it all. When we make choices, something gives. Even the right choices create a certain pain around the path not chosen.

I could tell you that you have a ministry, both at home and in the other areas of your life. And it would all be true.

But today, I will simply say I hear you.

Suburban Turmoil said...

This was a beautiful post. It's so normal and understandable to feel this way- I don't understand why so many stay at home moms try to cover up their wistfulness over the careers they put on hold.

Amy Anstead said...

Mary Beth, you don't need me to tell you (but I will anyway), that you make a difference in the world with everything you do. And I'm not just talking about raising your children. I'm talking about how you interact with your friends, your fellow chuch members, your family, your neighbors, and everyone you meet. Who you are and what you bring to people does make a difference in the world, even if it's not officially as a pastor! Chin up girl, you do a great job!