Not the one called
Last night I learned that a friend of mine, who has been active in a job search, was not the one called. She, a young woman in her mid thirties with two kids, was so excited about this church. I understand, having been in her shoes a few times myself. First you invest so much of yourself into the process, learning all about the people and their ministries. Working hard to make sure you express yourself and your gifts; revealing the depth of your integrity, skill, and compassion. You fall in love. Discerning a call to a church is like entering into a long term relationship, and oh, the heart ache when it doesn't turn out the way you hope....
Those of us in the Episcopal tradition consider a job search to be a call of the Holy Spirit...maybe others think this way as well? So, what is the Holy Spirit conveying when one person is called and another is not? I think that God, given the impact of free-will (oh, what a precious gift!), I think God invests God's self in these searches hopeful for all the candidates...by the time a parish narrows its search to two or three candidates they have focused on those they deem best for them. It then comes down to some nuance of criteria: "who has the most (or the best, or the most impressive) experience." One always (often? usually?) loses to the one deemed to "have more experience." So, it is experience that drives these decisions, and perceptions of what "experience" is.
Many times the perception of experience breaks down along gender lines: given two people of about the same age and of comparable "experience" people, if one is male and the other female, it is usually the male who will be hired. This is not a critique of men, it is a statement about our culture and world, we perceive men and women differently, and men always appear to have "more experience." So, the task is, how do we as a people lift up the voices of women so that our voices can be heard with equal weight and authority? This is a challenge for our church leaders: Bishops especially (or whatever your denominational heads are titled).
And likewise, if we say we want to lift up the voices of young people and bring in younger clergy, how do we encourage churches to take this "risk?" It seems to me that what a person may "lack" in experience, they will make up for in excitement and determination to do a "good" job. Which will bring a creative energy to the position, one that may be infectious to the congregation. Generally speaking, us working moms will go out of our way to learn what we don't know; to build a team of leadership that fills in any gaps of "experience" and builds on strengths. We have a history of multi-tasking and creative decision making (consider simultaneously raising children, paying bills and living on a budget, cleaning a house, doing laundry, sleeping, caring for a spouse, encouraging others while feeling devalued, planning and preparing meals, etc. etc. etc...) - all of which transfer directly into church leadership...just a bigger household and a larger "family."
So, back to the idea of the Holy Spirit...I guess whenever one is called and the other is not, the Holy Spirit blesses each. The one called is blessed with a direction and hope and guidance for a new start. The one not called is blessed by the Holy Spirit comforting us in our grief, giving us a sense of purpose wherever we are, and then going about the business of seeking out that next place to be considered. Hopefully the one not called is graced with the gift of good friends and family who care for and support she/he during the time of grieving, not so much to ease the sorrow, but to hold up the gifts and honor the person for who she/he is; a beloved of God. I'm not so sure that there is "one" right way, call, or direction that God plans for us. Rather I think there are many forks in the road and which ever way we humans choose (or not...) God goes with. In this we are invited into a kind of co-creation with God wherein all things do work out for the good that God desires for all creation.
That being said, it still sucks to be the one-not-called....