The Meditation Path and the Brick Wall
Buddhist nun (and celebrated author) Pema Chödrön has some ideas about what to do when your ...
For many years my work as a project manager and a senior consultant in the high-rise construction industry felt like ministry—until it didn’t—and I was nudged, pushed, and completely disarmed at age 60 into responding to a leading of 20 years’ duration. I write, today, from the perspective of a joyously engaged seminary student, completing my first year of studies, with the way opening almost daily—as my formal education about spirituality and faith serves to make sense of what I practiced as ministry to this point.
I have known mystical encounters with God, as Spirit, since childhood. One such encounter—a bewildering “nudge”—occurred at age 40, when I found myself in a conversation with the pastor from my childhood Presbyterian church. For reasons I no longer remember, these words spoke through me, out-of-the-blue: “I would like to go to seminary.”
In the 20 years that followed, I often pondered that statement and that moment, yet I had no real clue about its import. My understanding was that one went to seminary to become a pastor, to learn to “minister.” However, I had always carried that word, ministry, as the sense of being of service, in alignment with Holy Will—not an occupation or job, but a way of being.
The felt sense of ministry in my career was grounded in named gifts of administration, teaching, listening, writing, and visioning/prophecy. I was a principled female presence in a tough, male-dominated industry. I became a voice in support of women in the construction trades; shepherded young staffers into careers of long-standing; developed accredited educational programs to benefit our clients; edited our technical monograph; and identified the theme of legacy as our management approached transition from our founding partners to a new generation of owners and managers. For 33 years, my soul was well fed.
The push came in my mid-50s. I encountered a clear call to engage more deeply and formally with my spiritual grounding. Almost simultaneously, the felt sense of ministry completely exited my working life!
Over the next five years, I was led to worship with a Quaker meeting; to service on the Board of a Quaker retreat center; and to enroll in a spiritual formation course offered by our Yearly Meeting. I encountered no doubt as these opportunities appeared in my path. My soul began to thrive on this different food. When faced with signing my employment contract in 2018, it was clear to me that the ministry which once held me in thrall no longer engaged my heart. I was totally “disarmed.” It was time to leave.
Within days of my retirement, I received an invitation to train to be a spiritual mentor in the aforementioned spiritual development course. The gifts that I carried through my ministry in the construction industry were engaged in a very different frame. I listened deeply and wrote what I heard. I mentored Faithfulness Groups, collaborated in developing programming and writing course materials, and continue to hold in prayer an opportunity to become involved in the administrative side of this program. At that point, I was led back to those words: “I would like to go to seminary.”
This story is still writing itself, and I have no clear idea where I am being led. And that is as it should be right now. What I am clear about is that this is leading, a new calling, at its deepest and most true. Its fruits are joy, passion, and the deep contentment of, again, living in alignment with Spirit.
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