I love change. I always have. As a kid, I was given the gift of great stability from my parents – we were in the same place during all of my youth. However, something about all that sameness for the first 18 years of my life bred within me an impatience for it since then.
I love to move. Sure, it’s hard and there are lots of inconveniences that come with it but I absolutely love it. In my adult life, the longest I have lived in any area was when we were in Colorado for seven and a half years and even there we lived in three different houses. I guess we have just about been back in this area of Minnesota now for that same amount of time in two different houses. We lived in New York and Texas, I spent two years living in a van in my twenties, summers working at camps in North Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota – and whenever it was time to start packing, to make plans for the next thing – I was excited. So, so excited. There is little as exhilarating to me as purging my closets of things I no longer need or have room for as I make my way to what’s next.
So, then it makes sense that my work as a pastor has been hard in some ways because after a while I am just itching to move on and see what else is out there. I have loved my congregations so much and it has been an honor to do life with each of them, but it never fails that within a year or two, I feel the wind pulling at my hair and the desire to wander. I have often felt like there is something wrong with me and have endless conversations with myself, “Why can’t you just be content, Ruth? It’s so great right here, why do you want to leave? Why can’t you just dig your roots in like a normal person?”
And because I’ve seen my desire to wander as a deficiency, I have tried many things to breed contentment within me – to tell myself I don’t need to change my environment, maybe I just need to try something new in that environment. That usually helps for a while. It’s why during our time in Colorado I had to learn how to run marathons, get my doctorate, and bear two children in addition to working full-time – it took that much busy-ness to keep me in that place for as long as we were. In Texas, I wrote a book and home-schooled my children and participated in a Norwegian reality show in addition to being a full-time pastor. Since we came back here, I wrote another book, had a wonderful three-month sabbatical, and started a full-time “Side Hustle” (consecrate.cratejoy.com) in addition to my work as a pastor and running my beautiful kiddos to all their activities. I served at the perfect church for 6.5 years near here but even with nothing “wrong”, I still knew I had to leave. I knew it a long time before I did it – I kept hoping that if I just found the right hobby or listened to the right podcast or found the right exercise program that maybe I would just settle down and be content to stay.
But I couldn’t. I didn’t.
So, then I began interim ministry. It seemed like it might suit me to have a natural change built into my work. In some ways, it is better and suits me well. As a person who feels like transitions are a very natural and joyful part of life, I’m able to remain calm and joyful with congregations in transition. That is probably the biggest gift I bring as an interim pastor.
Being an interim pastor means that I will be done soon. I had a contract for one year and that ends in early September. For the first time in my life, I have no idea what I will be doing just over two months from now.
I love that.
I keep thinking of the quote, “when nothing is certain, anything is possible.”
Sure, my gut reaction is to get fearful as well – to wonder about money and health insurance and retirement plans and my professional reputation and whatnot – but I know underneath the fear, and in the deepest, most true part of me, what I feel is joy.
I don’t want to know yet what will happen after September 6 when my contract runs out. I don’t want a tidy plan.
What I need for a while – whether it is a month or whether it is much longer, is to feel what a Sunday morning feels like without preparing to preach. Perhaps without going to church at all (gasp!). Maybe I will listen for God speaking to me in other ways for a bit. That sounds so good it makes me a little weepy.
Life is funny. It is entirely possible to love something dearly yet know it’s time to let go. I’ve felt that for a while with ministry and yet I didn’t want to believe it. However, it makes total sense! Research has shown that we all change as time goes by. We aren’t created to do the same things forever. I recently read a great book about this called, “From Strength to Strength” by Arthur Brooks. He writes about how as time goes by our strengths and interests change and it makes for an unhappy life if we fight those changes. A joyful life leans into the changes and sees them as a natural part of life.
I don’t want to see my need for change as a deficiency any longer. It’s just part of who I am. God made me to be a pastor and I think I have been a faithful one for a long time now. It’s not wrong or bad that my spirit needs to move on. But I just have to ignore those million little voices in my head shouting at me that I don’t know how to do anything else! Who do I think I am that I can change?! I’ve listened to those voices long enough and now listen to the still, small voice that has been calling me forward toward the next thing for some time now.
I plan to continue working on ConseCrate, finish up my third book – travel around and share it with people, and see how it feels to set down my title of “Pastor” that I have been carrying around for the last 23 years. It feels so strange to write that – I keep wanting to add qualifiers like, “but maybe I will just be taking a short break” or “I’ll probably miss it and take another interim soon” – but it is fear that wants me to add that.
The only thing I know for sure is that nothing is for sure. I need to live in that space right now. I want to live in that space. I welcome it with open arms and an open heart.
And if you have fun ideas for income for a wandering, entrepreneurial, spiritually-minded writer – hey, just let me know.