Hooray! I finished sorting my church-y books today.
- I have a HUGE pile of books to donate – 6 large boxes! McCormick Seminary should enjoy this gift I hope. (Still need to call them and make arrangements though…)
- I have a small pile of books to sell – things that might get a price at a used book store. That pile will grow as I sort through my fiction collection and donate or sell books I no longer read, or never read. No need to keep them anymore!
- I recycled a few books – too old or uncorrected proofs of books I never read. Plus paper files and class notes – all recycled, or waiting for the recycle bin to clear out.
- AND…. I have one shelf of books I am keeping, out of 20 shelves.
- On some of the empty shelves I placed my diplomas – bachelor’s, two master’s, diploma in spiritual formation studies, and ordination certificate. It’s ok to have mementos of my past and what I am proud to have accomplished.
I sat in the recliner down by the bookshelves, surveying the empty shelves and the full boxes. I feel like a retired minister. That chapter is closed. No idea what to do next. At least I don’t have a previous church to meddle in! (Hint, Hint)
I’m sad that I won’t take part in a congregation in that way again, even though I’m coming to the realization that I may never have been suited to pastoral ministry in the first place. I still invested 18 years into that profession. It hurts to let it go. Most of the books I had were symbols of that investment and the hope that I would be good at what I did, in some small way in an outpost somewhere making a difference in people’s lives as a pastor. The reality of pastoral ministry, of course, is much different from the hope. That realization took the last year to figure out. I couldn’t keep fighting to cram myself into a role that would never work for me. So the alternative is caring for myself enough not to keep banging my head against the wall, and to wait for what is next.
A part of me is secretly glad that maybe I will find a job that I don’t hate. That suits me well, allows me to capitalize on my strengths and to take care of my physical and mental illnesses competently. One that allows me to set boundaries about my time and abilities that will be respected – by me and by those around me. Hope I’m not just setting myself up to create hopes that can’t come true.
For now I notice that I am depressed and sad at saying goodbye to old friends, and old ways of being. A bit nauseous too. All part of the process.