These past few weeks I’ve taking a class called “The Bible and the Hermeneutics of Ministry” (hermeneutics is the study of the methodological principles of interpretation – in this case, the interpretation of the Bible). If I were to sum it up, I’d say the class is about how ministers (and readers of the Bible) interpret the Bible and how these interpretations shape one’s ministry and work in the world. It’s challenging work (besides the amount of readings) because I’m finding there to be a lot of introspection involved: what are my positive and negative prejudices, what are my views of people who come to church, how am I feeling about humanity as a whole, how is my walk with God these days, etc. I spend a lot of time looking inwardly to my soul.
I admitted to my professor and my classmates that if anything would turn me away from continuing on with seminary, it would be the process of interpreting the Bible. I admitted it because this interpretation-stuff is serious business to me – it isn’t cooking burgers or managing mutual funds. I’m dealing with the Almighty Creator, the Christian church, and the holy Word of God; I’m dealing with (and helping form) people’s attitudes, feelings, and thoughts about all of these things. I’m dealing with the messiness of life and spirituality, and am a representative…a voice…for God when things are at their best and worst. And this terrifies me.
As a professing Christian, my life, my words, my actions have always pointed to my God, but I could skirt the issues and questions if I wanted to by saying “I don’t know” or “Your guess is as good as mine.” But the stakes will be higher when I graduate and become ordained because people will turn to me for the right answers, the right decisions, and the right interpretations. People will inevitably look to me for direction, guidance, and words of wisdom because of my title.
This terrifies me because I don’t know all the answers. It terrifies me because I know how crappy it is when a pastor doesn’t have the right answer. It terrifies me because I don’t want to damage someone’s delicate walk with God. I don’t want to mess up someone’s life. I don’t want to turn someone away from the God that I see, know, and love. If anything were to turn me away from this calling, it would be because people will be looking to me for the truths of Christianity.
My professor, in her wisdom, assured me that these feelings of being ill-equipped, under-educated, and overly-pressured are good feelings because they point to the fact that I’m taking this calling seriously. There are moments when I believe her because she’s a professor and she’s been around people moving into ministry; she’s witnessed more people than I have move through this process, and she’s been through it herself. Yet, I also doubt her because…well, because doubt is one of my super-powers. I doubt my abilities, my education, my life’s work. I doubt my worthiness and my good-enough-ness.
But I don’t doubt my calling, I don’t doubt my love for God, and I don’t doubt my love for all of God’s creation. I rest on the shaky knowledge that I won’t know everything, I won’t have all the right answers, I won’t always have the ‘correct’ interpretations. And I rest on the shaky knowledge that when the time comes and I need to be a voice for God, the Spirit will be with me and speak what I cannot.
much love. sheth.