Thursday, April 12, 2007

Who, Me Hyper-Critical?

I've been called out.

In the past two days, two people I love and admire, my husband and our Presbytery's General Presbyter (GP), have lovingly and gently pointed out to me that I may be putting up a wall of hyper-criticism in my search for a new call. They're right. I tend to read a CIF with an eye toward what might be wrong with these churches rather than the points of connection.

I do this because I am afraid of the "bait and switch," that I have already experienced. Back in 2001 when I accepted my first call, I was too naive and inexperienced to realize that I would never be able to live up to the unspoken expectations of many members of this church and the Head of Staff. Namely, that my mere presence as a young, 29 year old pastor would attract hoards of young families to the church. Oh, and they didn't want to change anything in order for this to happen. Disillusionment set in, on both sides, and I left after 15 months. It was definitely not what I had in mind when I first felt called to be a pastor.

Well, my husband got a job in this city and I came along with my tail between my legs, without a call. God has been good. I didn't even have to look for employment, two churches sought me out and I worked as a part-time, uninstalled pastor at both; one for 3 months and the other for 3 years and counting. It has been great, as I have been able to work as a pastor and spend lots of time with my son and daughter (who was born here 7 months after we arrived.)

So, yes I am extremely wary and careful about which churches I engage in conversion. I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing, but I am deluding myself in thinking that I can control everything about this call process. I can always think of a thousand reasons why a church isn't the right one: too big, too small, too rich, too poor, no Spanish immersion program for my son, they have their children's Sunday School during worship (that IS a major deal to me, however), and so on and so on.

My GP is right, I need to go into the process looking for the positives, because if I'm looking for the negatives, I'll certainly find them. What it comes down to is fear: fear that I won't find the right place.... and fear that I will. My hyper-criticism is allowing me to remain static and not have to make any decisions.

So, I did send off a sermon tape today that was requested by a PNC in a very cold state (see, there I go again!) And I continue to send my PIF out. I appreciate your prayers so much.

The kaleidoscope keeps turning...

8 comments:

more cows than people said...

discernment can be soooo hard... you're reminding me though of my seminary roommate's one time approach to men... it's probably still her approach to me. i used to joke that she could tell you what was wrong with a guy in no time flat. she's now married to the guy who "talks out of the side of his mouth". and she's very happy with him...

hope you find a church you can imagine having coffee (or tea) with and then... even if they do talk out of the side of their mouth... who knows...

more cows than people said...

oops... i mean, it's probably still her approach to MEN.

Songbird said...

Iris, prayers for openness of mind and heart. Discernment is the hardest.

Mrs. M said...

Oh, Iris, you are in my prayers. I'm not at this stage in the process yet, but I can certainly see myself reacting the way you have. Churches can be such mean little places, and it's hard to both protect ourselves and not shut ourselves off.

(I, too, would be upset about Sunday School during worship. Begs the question: when exactly does adult formation happen? Not to mention the obvious exclusion of children from the community...

Quotidian Grace said...

Good luck with this. It's realistic to read a CIF with a critical eye, though. IMHO. They're just as full of "happy talk" as the pastoral candidates' PIF's are!

Iris said...

More Cows, I laughed when I read your comment because that is exactly how I, too, used to be about men until I met my husband, J. I've always said that when I first met J. I thought, "Oh, THERE you are!" Perhaps I'll have that type of experience when the right congregation comes around. Who knew the call process was so much like dating?

Thanks all for the support and encouragement. It IS challenging to try to be both wise and open to the Spirit.

hipchickmamma said...

don't be too hard on yourself iris. i can't imagine how difficult this must be.

many hugs!

Anonymous said...

fyi: www.INFJ.com