Presbyterians use the term “discerning one’s call” to refer to the process of figuring out one’s vocation. In the Presbyterian/Reformed Tradition, that call is sensed not only by the ministerial candidate personally but by the Presbytery’s Committee on Preparation for Ministry and ultimately by a congregation that desires to call a candidate into pastoral service. It was a Christian community’s process over years’ time that solidified my sense of call to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. That call, exercised as a pastor-teacher, has shaped my identity and brought structure to my life since 1987.
The last seven years “without a call” (that is, without a full-time pastoral position in a congregation) has certainly stretched me. The quiet life that has evolved has enabled me to write, to counsel, to participate in the disciplinary system of the PC(USA), to fill pastoral gaps as they occur, and otherwise to serve in quiet, “thinking” ways. Nevertheless, as I stated in my November 1 post, I have felt like I was waiting for something to happen call-wise.
And then this cancer thing happens. While I am still getting used to saying “lung cancer” out loud, life has taken a sharp turn into an entirely new world. My medical vocabulary is expanding daily. My new best friends are oncologists, physicists, technicians, phlebotomists, nurses, and front-desk receptionists. My days, like yesterday, are scheduled with medical consultations and imaging appointments. Today I go under anesthesia once again to have a chemo port installed in my chest. It’s all extraordinary activity I have never ever had to do myself [though I have walked alongside many people who have taken this journey before me].