My heart pounded as I approached the front of the church. I’d prepared for this moment for weeks. Unbeknownst to my parents, I had been learning how to play the piano. You see, I was an impulsive child, and when I had asked my mom if I could take piano lessons, she assumed the desire would quickly pass. She suggested that if I was serious about wanting lessons, I should try to learn a little on my own.
So, I did. Then, I picked up a hymnal and realized reading the notes on the page wasn’t all that hard. One of the school staffers noticed I was trying to figure it out, and she sat with me on the bench, pointing out where my fingers should go when I was unsure. Soon enough, I was ready.
My little 8-year-old-self sat down in front of the church’s baby grand piano (which now resides in my basement,) and I played a hymn during a time of open sharing at our Sunday night service (remember those, church ladies?).
It was enough to convince my mom, and I started lessons shortly thereafter. As it turns out, I had a passion for the piano.
Little did I know the pairing of music and ministry, like that Sunday night so long ago, would become the calling of my life. Decades later, after a degree in music and now a jaunt through seminary, I serve as a Worship Arts Pastor.
The Call to Serve
My calling to the piano was a no brainer, but my calling to ministry was another story. To be honest, there isn’t one specific time I can point to and say, “Aha! That’s when I received my calling to ministry.” Rather, it was a long process of growing, searching, resisting and finally accepting. Because let’s be honest, who wants to be a pastor? People act differently when they hear about your vocation. People often assume women can’t (shouldn’t) be pastors. Plus, the weight of responsibility is something I never thought I’d be able to handle. I was gonna be a rock star, or a working musician, at least.
But, What About Being a Mom?
Motherhood never crossed my mind when I was a kid or even as a young adult, other than to reject the notion entirely. Kids were too much responsibility, they were gross and snotty, have a tendency to do exactly the opposite of what you tell them, and there’s no one to blame if they turn out miserably. Anyway, music was my calling.
But then I turned 28 years old, and one day I looked at my husband and an overwhelming sense that we were, indeed, meant to have kids washed over me. I vocalized my feelings to my husband, and he was on board. I had my first child when I was 29.
Now, three kids later…oh my gosh, how did that happen? Okay, I know how, but seriously!?!?…I hear other moms talk about motherhood as a calling. Well, I don’t consider myself ever really called to motherhood, in the same way I was called to music or ministry, but I suppose one might say that the moment I decided to have kids I received that calling.
Is parenthood a calling? Or, is it a responsibility? Or both? For those men/women who have longed for children, I bet they would consider it a calling, but what about those of us for whom parenthood doesn’t feel like a calling or those who became parents by surprise?
Perhaps it’s best to dig a little deeper. For me, parenthood is a responsibility and a calling and I have the choice of how I choose to live into that.
All people, when they become parents have a responsibility to care for and nurture their child; however, a calling is more than mere responsibility. A calling engages mind, body, and spirit on behalf of and for the betterment of someone else. Otherwise, it’s just something you do for yourself, and from a child’s perspective, that isn’t so great.
Living Into Both Callings
The responsibility and call of parenthood will sometimes come before my calling as a minister. If my kids are sick, I stay home with them just like most other working parents. Of course, the bottom line is that my kids may not be my first calling, but they are my number one responsibility. To that end, I’m thankful to work for a church who affirms my call as a parent.
But, sometimes the responsibility and call of my vocation will trump my responsibility as a parent. Because ministry involves the spiritual & emotional well-being of people it can be messy, difficult, stressful and crisis-oriented work. That phone call requesting a visit in the hospital can be tough when it comes at dinner time (though that doesn’t happen as frequently as one might think), or when so much of ministry is done in the evening, but I’m thankful to be able to be there when needed.
Balance is a nice idea, but in reality, the work/home juggle is more like a solo romp on the teeter-totter, as I race from one side to the other, all while trying to have fun in the process. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t.
So, Why Do It?
I’m the sort of mom who loves to work outside the home. Props to all you moms who stay home full time. For that reason, I live into both calls.
The two are definitely not exclusive. Motherhood has taught me how to be a better pastor, and being a pastor has helped me be a better mom (and human being). What is pastoring if it isn’t mothering? And for the spiritually minded, what is motherhood if it isn’t pastoring – caring for your children in ways that nurture their soul?
Now that my kids are a little older, I’m able to invite them into my calling. I bring them along on a Sunday morning, and they share in tasks appropriate for their ages. They ask questions, and we have great conversations. Children have spirits that are open to so much. If you haven’t already, might I encourage you to talk to your kids about spiritual matters? To begin conversations, to pray, to receive and to love.
Because, in the end, that’s what it’s all about, anyway. Regardless of calling.