Starting this fall, I've been making ministry the focus of my life.
That's such a simple statement. But there are so many things it doesn't say -- about faith and faithfulness, anxiety and fear, joy and peace and simplicity, and more.
This leading has been building for a while, and came to something of a crescendo almost a year ago, when Beloved Wife and I were struggling to discern our next steps.
She was completing her PhD in math, and had started to hear back from post-doctoral jobs she'd applied for. We were trying to figure things out -- not only what to do next, but how on earth to decide. None of what looked best for her was compatible with what I'd thought I was led to do next. We twisted ourselves into some pretty interesting and awkward pretzels trying to make it all work. (The pretzel-twisting didn't work.)
A couple of things helped. One was deciding we trusted that this leading to be in a marriage with each other would not be mutually-exclusive with our other leadings. Three other things that helped were my being willing to listen deeply, even daringly, to myself; my asking for a clearness committee; and Beloved Wife's willingness to trust this before I had good words to explain it.
Beloved Wife was in England for the semester, writing her dissertation in reach of her advisor, who was there on a visiting professorship. I was in Ann Arbor, working, taking a class, and doing intensive physical therapy for an old injury.
I had a series of experiences where discernment came in bright, heart-pounding flashes. Exam questions in my music theory class ("Describe your ideal lifestyle"). An email exchange with a dear friend/former professor and mentor ("I know exactly what kind of 'shop' you should set up!"). A clearness committee meeting with me at Mid-Winter Gathering, with deep worship, deep love, laughter, and tears ("No, you can't hide").
So, I gradually came to understand that my next step was to answer a leading to make ministry the main focus of my life, of my time and energy.
That didn't mean I knew what it would look like.
And I still don't!
I know some of what it looks like, or at least what it's looked like this fall: taking some classes, hosting events for building spiritual community, being available for counseling and spiritual direction, submitting a workshop proposal for FGC Gathering, participating in the life of the Meeting I'm attending here in Seattle, getting to know the local Pagan community a little, making sure I take time for things like dance (my version of "going to the gym") and for teaching dance... But sometimes I think I'm still figuring it out every day.
That's okay with me, for the most part. I don't need to have it all figured out. I don't necessarily need to know where I'm going to end up, just where the next few steps are.
A lot of this last year has felt like this song-and-picture combination:
I feel like I'm crossing a stream in the woods: I can see the rock I'm stepping on, and I can see the next; I can tell there's a mossy bank on the far side, but I can't see all the stepping stones in between. (Or the places where my feet will get wet.) But the woods are green and beautiful; the birds are calling; the sun is shining down through the trees; the breeze is dancing; the brook is singing.
Imani, faith, can come like a spirit
Spirit come like walking on air
Take a step, and trust in the path, and
Mother Imani meet you there.
- from "Imani," by Rachael AK Hazen