Shepherd’s Care: Go To Your Place of Wonder

[This post arises from the wearying challenges many of my clergy friends are facing these days. If you are among them, I hope you find this encouraging. If you know a clergyperson who is troubled and tired, feel free to share it.]

I was fifteen years old when I began to consider becoming a clergyperson. It came around this time of year…fifty-nine years ago. In its early stages, I did not think of it as a call from God, but only as an unexpected idea which had gotten my attention. As the idea stuck, and expanded into a sense of calling, I remember being awed by the wonder of what I was experiencing. And from then until now, wonder has been the context for interpreting God’s will for my life. Even now, I cannot say that I “understand” my calling, but the wonder of it has been present all the way through.

The call has not always been pleasant and positive. In fact, it has sometimes been perplexing and painful. But it has never ceased to be wonderful, and in that sense, wonder has been a place of refuge and restoration when the call itself was fragile.

I’ve been thinking about this these days. I am reading (and watching videos) from clergy whose callings are bringing them to the point of “growing weary in well doing.” The pandemic has taken its toll on those called to “shepherd the flock in your care” (1 Peter 5:2). And for some, that soul-drain has been exacerbated by in-house fightings in the Church which leaves some of us being judged as “less-than clerics” by fellow clergy and being excluded by them and from their meetings. It hurts to be declared a persona non grata by friends and colleagues.

In such times, go to your place of wonder—to the place where your experience of being God’s beloved child intersected with God’s call for you to be an instrument of God’s peace in the vocation of ordained ministry. Go to the place where the feeling that “this is too good to be true” was, nevertheless, true. Remember how you felt when you were first amazed by God’s call. Go to your place of wonder. God will meet you there, love on you, and renew you.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 43 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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