The following is a meditative reflection on negotiating the multiple vocations to parenthood, partnership, and ministry from a friend of the blog named Rachel who works as a Christian minister and who raises two children with her partner. You can see more of her posts on her blog.
In the hours I was giving birth to my second child, breathing through the contractions and being coached by the people around, I thought of God. As each tiny break gave way to another washing over of muscles and force I thought to myself, “Creation is harder than we say.” In the days that followed the birth of my second child I was overcome by the profound experience of childbirth, I was honored to have had a smooth delivery, and I started writing out a whole new creation story.
The words of that story I don’t recall, but the rewriting of the traditional creation myth was important to me. This new myth cried out in chaos and waters; it leaned and squatted and brought forth. This new myth offered up the smells of life, and in it burst forth cries that start in your toes and bellow out of your gut. This creation myth was of the community that births and the body that creates. It was messy and sensual and it held powerlessness and power side by side.
I am a lay Catholic minister. I became a minister because, in a thousand little ways God invited me deeper and deeper (not for the money and prestige believe it or not). I am privileged that my ministry is in a University setting. Thus, I am privileged to have healthcare, HR, decent benefits, a handful of colleagues, and a setting safe from the controlling eye of the chancery. I am also a Mother and a Partner.
Though I said, “I am a minister” in the previous paragraph first, I am more decidedly a Partner and a Parent. I am more called, more abundantly growing, more incompetent, more perturbed, more challenged, more compassionate. . . more everything as Partner and Parent.
I am a Partner.
I am a Parent.
In living as a Partner and Parent, my ministry is informed and constantly recreated. It is through these lenses that I learn how to love more deeply, live more authentically, and claim God more freely.
You see, as a Partner and a Parent I know God differently than I do as a minister. My degrees in theology taught me a lot. I am constantly referencing my formal education when I teach, sometimes when I preach, and often when I dialogue. I rarely lean on this education when I sit with someone in spiritual direction, when I listen to the stories of loss, when I laugh at our own religious ridiculousness.
As Parent and Partner I have encountered the plea within me to hold tightly to my own will and seen this plea turn into the contours of rage in a way that were otherwise unknown to me. As a Parent and a Partner I have been invited to learn to admit the deep pain that I have planted, fertilized and watered in other lives and to confront my broken integrity. From this I have also had to lay claim to my own power to heal the wounds that I encounter in my Partner and Children and even cause in those I love. Thus I have made decisions to change and grow or to perpetuate a life of walls and resistance. As a Parent and Partner I have been invited to honor my own losses, celebrate my gifts, and face the fleeting mortality of life. In each of these things I have come to know God in a new way, and this new way is what makes Parenthood and Partnership so deeply important to ministry. But wait, that isn’t exceptional it is simply the invitation of living deeply into vocation.
Before I was a parent I would have said, “God is neither He nor She.” Now I know that to be true from the moments of feeling life within me to the playful exchange of sexuality that is not about gender or genitalia but is about being known. Before I would have spoken to another person and said, “God is with you in everything,” Now I know that desperate inadequacy of that. I have sat with my partner and been inadequately the holder. I have been inadequately held. I have suffered with my children, but mostly ached for a desire to exchange places with them.
I read the emotional intensity of sacred scripture with a new resonance, and this is how I have been changed as a minister. I do not think that it is just parenthood or partnership that can give us this. Any human experience that pushes us to the deepest intensity of human limitations can offer us this richness. But for me, this Parenthood and this Partnership held next to my theology are foundation of the ministry, the new creation, I offer.
Thank you for this beautiful and reflective post. My experiences are not quite the same as yours, but I have come to a similar place. Partners and children do change things, and this is not better than someone who may not have either, just a recognition of what might be different.
To be aware and to bring all these elements forth with us is to be true to our vocations. What a reminder – some elements of a life of ministry that might be divided by gender and/or partnership don’t create a hierarchy, rather they create a spectrum.
Thank you for this inspiring post. And for this wonderful blog – keep up the great work.