This post is part of a blog series on Pomomusings, discussing pastoral identity. To read about the series, as well as get a full schedule of participants, click here.
An excerpt from Mihee and Andyâ€™s book Yoked: Stories of a Clergy Couple in Marriage, Family, and Ministry.
“One of the tragedies of our life is that we keep forgetting who we are.”
â€• Henri J.M. Nouwen, Here and Now: Living in the Spirit
Perhaps it isnâ€™t coincidence that I write this near Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas. Being thankful, joyful, hopeful, peaceful – all of it starts to blur together when I try to figure out the fundamental goals of my faith. I wonder if it is simply that â€“ faithful living. And living faithfully means living in the here and now, living in the present, and always living with thanksgiving for all the pieces of oneâ€™s history and the promises of the future. So, it seems they go hand-in-hand, in a way, faithfulness and gratitude, which is why Iâ€™m drawn to gratitude as the word that characterizes my ministry, my identity, and my call. Not that I am good at being grateful â€“ quite the opposite â€“ but it is crucial for how I intentionally live as wholly Godâ€™s. It is a posture for all of life.
This kind of posture not only allows but also encourages a creative flexibility. Call is not limited to a formal kind of ministryâ€”validated by a community or governing body and accompanied by benefits and pension; it is instead, Iâ€™ve discovered in my own life, a response of gratitude that is an offering of the best of who I am for the sake of Godâ€™s kingdom. In this latest season, since I stopped working full-time as an ordained minister to be at home with the children, I have foundâ€”and been found byâ€”a number of ways to live out the passion and gifts cultivated in me by Godâ€™s gentle spirit. They range from serving on boards, including the Presbyterian Mission Agency, where I chaired one of the committees, and the community and editorial boards of the Young Clergy Women Project, to starting a campus ministry at Indiana University. It is truly difficult to put a price on sane, adult conversation with other adults concerning topics beyond whose turn it is to pick the TV show. Truly, something I took for granted up until now.
Sometimes these ministry opportunities are small projects here and there, whether event planning for churches, blogging and web design,and then writing projects. All the little things I could squeeze in between those brief moments the children didnâ€™t absolutely need me were possibilities for ministryâ€”cleaning out the fridge or shoveling dirt at the nursery school or simply taking a meal over to a family from the church or community. It didnâ€™t matterâ€”I jumped on it. Those Sundays I filled the pulpit for another church in town were nourishing opportunities for my own soulâ€”feeling the pulpit beneath my hands and sinking comfortably into my familiar black robe.
And, it helps me to see the necessity of faithful discernment within my call. And our call. I remember one of the first conversations about parenting I had with close friends from seminary during my pregnancy with the twins, and they said something that stuck with me: Parenting is continuous discernment. I loved this little nugget but the weight of it made me sink into my chair a little. Iâ€™m terrible at making decisions for myself some times, and definitely for Andy. We often spend more time trying to decide who will make the decision than actually making the decision. Yet, here I was reminded that the need for deciding was inevitable, so it made sense that it would translate not only for the way I would care for my children, but for my call. For our call. For our family now.
The combination of marriage and the vocation of ministry is a strange soil for growing in God. Nevertheless a successful harvest is not simply insured by the existence of that soil. Rather, it is the thoughtful and measured cultivation of faithful discernment â€“ choosing â€“ together, and not simply choosing situations or wallpaper or kind of car, but choosing each other through it all. Everything else is ultimately pointless unless we are choosing each other and our life together as the result of our marriage and the fruit of our ministry. And for all the imperfections, all the seemingly terrible decisions we have made together, all the hardships, I am experiencing a kind of liberation in my vocation despite what is going on in our lives and who is working at what church. Or not working at a church.
As we continue to grow together in grateful and faithful living â€“ both vocationally and in our family life â€“ I canâ€™t help but see the ways Godâ€™s grace is present and real in my life, and long to respond passionately no matter what the venue or season.
“If we commit ourselves to one person for life, this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather, it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession but participation.”
Mihee Kim-Kort is a Presbyterian minister for UKIRK @ IU – a campus ministry in Bloomington, IN. She and her clergy spouse, Andy Kort have three children – Desmond, Anna, and Ozzie, and they pretty much are all the things right now. When she can muster a few brain cells she blogs and writes on the topics of feminism, racial justice, spirituality and ministry.