By Becky Nance
I fled to my room as my husband took over feeding the kids, and I could hear the girls asking where I was as I covered my mouth with a pillow and wailed. It was a visceral, hopeless cry. Between the sobs all I could manage to blurt out was “Am I crazy? Am I going crazy?”
I was way past desperate. I needed a sign that I was on the right path; some sort of confirmation that I would one day do what I believed I’d been called to, almost two decades prior. I held a B.A. in religious studies, but after college I opted to play the role of the pastor's wife. I poured my life out in volunteer ministry and was halfway through seminary, but there was still no sign that I would ever be in vocational ministry. Worse yet, I was beginning to believe the thoughts that lingered in the corners of my mind—that maybe there was no place for my gender in vocational ministry, and even if there was, I didn’t have what it takes. The soft light of the lamp on my nightstand lit an otherwise dark room. I cried out, “Did I not hear you right, Lord? Did I miss something? Did I make all of this up? Did you call me into ministry, or not?” I sat there for a long time.
Eighteen months earlier, my pastor had invited me in for a meeting. As we sat at a big table in his office, I was elated to hear the words, “We need a women’s ministry, and I’d like you to consider spearheading it.” The very thing I had dreamt about was being dropped in my lap. I answered with a pensive “Thank you,” and “I’ll pray about that,” but inside I was screaming Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you, Lord! I jumped in immediately, building a planning team, organizing events, and setting up lunches with as many women as I could. I longed for deep connections with our women and to see transformation in their lives, but I was still working full time and raising three toddlers–“doing ministry” was confined to the margins of my life. I’d get up before the kids to read my Bible and pray, and stumbling down the stairs to the coffee pot I’d tell myself that I could sleep when I was dead.
I hoped if I succeeded with this ministry someone would notice me and I would transition into a vocational ministry position. I was sure this was God’s plan, an obvious next step in my journey.
Instead of a blossoming ministry and a seamless transition into a pastoral role, I found myself frustrated and weary. Moreover, my grand dreams and plans did not fit on the scale of a volunteer trying to do ministry in the margins of my already full life. I had relationships to build, leaders to develop, and trust to be fostered. Guilt and frustration mounted as I committed to lunch dates I couldn't follow through with, and relationships remained untended. Next week I’ll meet with her, I kept telling myself. After I'm done tackling this, I’ll have that family over for dinner. I chastised myself for not being more punctual or organized, but eventually realized I couldn't meet with everyone and develop every leader or new believer.
All I wanted was to serve. I was willing. I was ready. But the reality was that the majority of my day was going to something else entirely, and I began to feel enslaved to my situation. Day in and day out, I sat at my desk at my day job and fretted about all the time I was wasting while there was real work to be done. Kingdom work. I surrounded my desk with colorful post-it notes filled with verses and positive messages. I asked close friends to pray for me. I prayed Hebrews 12:1-3, begging for strength to run my race with perseverance, and would meditate over Colossians 3:23, committing my day to the Lord, promising to “work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” When it became clear that there weren’t any vocational opportunities available in my immediate context I began to look for any job in ministry—anything to get me off the bench and in the game. I asked God WHY? so many times. It was painful and confusing and extremely lonely. But the longer things went on, the stark reality of my situation began to eat at me.
That night, weeping in my bedroom, all my fears came to a head. The Lord was not answering my prayers. I didn’t know if he ever would. And I began to question every nudge I had ever felt from the Lord. Had I made it all up? Had I jumped on a whim and wrapped my life around a dream? And if so, what of all those times where He had gently whispered from behind, “go that way,” or “wait,” or simply, “that is not my plan?” At a loss, I prayed the simplest prayer I knew how to pray:
God, I’ve given my life to your service. If you don’t want me to be in vocational ministry, please take this desire away. Give me a new desire, the desire of your heart. But if this has been your plan all along, I’ll wait for you to lead the way.
I wish I could say the heavens opened and a job fell in my lap. It didn’t. But God hasn't taken this desire away either; if anything it has just gotten stronger. And so I wait.
Becky is a pastor’s wife and SAHM, and a current Wesley Seminary Student working toward and M.A. in Ministry with a concentration in Spiritual Formation. She is a graduate of Olivet Nazarene University. Becky lives with her husband and three girls in central Iowa. She is passionate about the Word of God, the Church, and she loves writing in her spare time.