After months of “can’ts,” I’ve decided to reclaim the “cans.”
I took one of my final three ordination exams this week, which involved me preparing, planning and leading a worship service entirely on my own, including preaching a sermon in front of my Classis. This was by far the exam I was dreading most and for reasons I can’t even begin to pinpoint. Perhaps I dreaded preaching in front of pastors, as pastors can be the hardest critics on one another? Or perhaps I dreaded reaching the end of my ordination process, then not being ordained, and then, facing a series of “so, what now?” questions for myself. You see, the ordination process has been lengthy, involving a year’s pause, and to date, ten ordination exams. It has been filled with discernment, prayer, lots of critique, follow up questions, grilling, and in the end, a willing spirit for humility, growth and feedback. The ordination process has had nothing to do with me, and lots to do with the process – the process with God, and the process with the church. And now, being close to the end, with somewhere to go and a closer sense of self – who I desire to be with God in the center, the church not too far away, and my dear friends somewhere in the midst, there isn’t much room for doubt, for can’t, for I don’t know if I can…
In the hospital, patients frequently ask “why…” all sorts of whys in fact, especially of the chaplain, as physicians can provide more concrete answers as to why their bodies and minds are failing them. Alzheimer’s, cancer, diseases of the heart, kidneys, lungs, brain, bones, all things that are explained away by biology, by smears on a glass slide under a microscope or in the black and white of a scan. And yet, patients don’t want to know the biology, the science behind their disease, they often want to know why, really why this all is happening to them, and that why lies beneath the medicine, at the core of the One who created the science, who created the bodies, the atoms, and everything in between. People in crisis do want and need to know the biology, but what I have found most to be true is that the true why is at the core of their longing. And this is the very thing for which there are no concrete answers. These are they very things for which there are the most “can’ts” and “I don’t knows…”
It is quite ironic and apropos that I am heading into this sort of call in just a few months, as this is precisely the opposite way that I have found myself settling into life. In the aftermath of what I feel have been a “Hurricane Sandy” 18 months, filled with “I don’t know whys” and “can’ts,” I couldn’t feel more filled with “cans.” Each and every morning, I find my lungs filled with air, my heart still skipping the occasional beat, but yet still thudding along, and my emotions incredibly and remarkably upbeat given all that has happened. People call me “miraculous,” “grace-filled,” and “inspirational,” and yet, I feel like I’m just me. Taking a walk with someone the other day, I said that after the last few months of chaos, I feel myself thinking that the “cans” are more difficult than the “can’ts,” even though the “can’ts” are limiting, confining, and not the things that apply to this life anymore.
So what am I waiting for? Why are some of the can’ts so difficult to rattle free of? Because they’re habit, they’re comfort, they’re the thing that have been a part of me, and still are a part of me, even though they aren’t me. In this new phase of life, as a seminary graduate, as a working woman, as an ordination candidate who is nearly finished with the ordination process and soon to be ordained, letting go of these final chains will allow me to go free, to move on to this next phase of ministry, to move forward. I will never be the person I was; I will always be someone new, different, metamorphosed, and transformed – by time, by circumstance and by God.
Change means eliminating all the prior “can’ts” and making room for all the wonderful “cans” to creep on in, however frightening they may be. The things that are frightening are frequently far less frightening than the fear of the things themselves, and so putting the fears aside – the “can’ts,” the excuses, and the reminders of those things – means giving life to the very dreams of your heart and the call God has on your life.
The changes of life and the “cans” they involve are never easy, and the prospect of moving to California, abandoning my medical team here on the East Coast, and all the people I have grown to call family is reason enough to put a whole litany of “can’ts” in front of the far longer ribbon of “cans,” and yet, God’s desire for me to go forward into the future is stronger than my fear and unwillingness, my concern for the unknown, and all the wonderful things it could possibly hold for me.
So put the “cans” ahead of the “can’ts” and see what possibly God could hold in the face of the fear. The fear is just a mask, a mask hiding all the amazing things that are in the future, but involve cutting the cord that is safety, but is also holding you back from a future of possible danger, brilliance, unknowns and wonderment. The future will always be uncertain, whether it is filled with “can’ts” or “cans,” and to hold back will only make it more unstable, and filled with fear. To give it to God to hold confidently and filled with the certainty of “can” – I can do all things through the God who gives me strength, courage, and who knows me inside and out, and who knows my heart and what is best for me in the past, the present, and in the future – this means that “cans,” despite the fear they may hold, are what is best, and that they are filled with faith. The pure, content, joyous kind, and even the sad, horrible and heart-aching type. But God is there, either way.
What are you waiting for? Go ahead, you can do it. You’ve got this. Someone’s got your back, no matter whether you believe you can do it or not.
I know I can do it, I just need to go forward into the unknown with as much courage as I apparently went into the past with courage. And that seemed (and apparently looked) so damn easy!
So here goes nothing!