Over the weekend I had the honor of representing Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt Divinity School in the ordination of my newest colleague. As part of her ordination, she invited women clergy who had been a part of her journey to write a letter of encouragement for her own ministry. It was meaningful to reflect: What did I need to hear as a new minister? And knowing what I know now, these 13 years into this odd and wondrous calling would it change? Did I have any wisdom that would be of value to another clergy woman who’s gifts shine so brightly and yet are so uniquely different from mine? What can you possibly say in the face of so much beauty and heartache and grace? I tried and thought I might share an except of what I wrote:
I was honored when the preacher for your ordination reached out to ask me to write you a letter. Since then I’ve prayed about what I wish someone might have said to me upon my ordination or what I needed to hear in the harder days of ministry that might sustain my spirit or give me grounding. And this is what I keep returning to:
This too shall pass, but only because this too shall last.
That is to say, many of the deepest challenges in ministry have a way of fooling you into thinking that this too shall last—it won’t. The hard seasons always pass, giving way to bright spots of grace, a deeper sense of God’s presence and relationships that are deeper and richer for having endured hardship.
And of course this too shall last. The things that have sustained me in ministry are the things that last from season to season, from hardship to joy and around again; a life of spiritual discipline, friendship that fosters no bullshit and a deep commitment to one another’s thriving, a prayer life that remains wildly open to the movement of God’s spirit, mentors that prioritize your thriving over their egos. The things that last are the things that will sustain you in the seasons that pass. They are the anchor in the storm, a reminder of the sure and steady presence of God.
I pray that God gives you abundantly the things that last and remains a steady presence in the things that pass. I pray that God give you joy to balance ministry’s sorrow and humor to balances the darkness in the world. I pray that you find callings that fit each version of yourself that you and God are shaping, even in this moment.
With all my prayers,
Rev. Cara Gilger