Clearly these are deep topics. Each one could be the focus of a whole retreat. The context of my calling (and that of other women at the retreat) was "no." My calling came as a young girl, drawn to the ministry in a faith where women still can not become clergy. The other "no" was the message, "Don't let other kids know how smart you are because they won't like you." That was probably true in that isolated rural setting, but how sad that any child should hear that message. I am sure the person who said it to me heard it as well.
The week before, in my lectio divina group we used Matthew 5: 13-16 which includes "You are the light of the world." Jesus points out that no one lights a lamp and then puts it under a bushel basket - you set it on a stand so all may see it. The phrase from that passage that struck me was "a city built on a hill cannot be hidden."
Thinking about those words, I realized there is vulnerability to being on the hill. I do feel vulnerable in my ministry right now, as I take the risk of sharing more deeply from my personal and spiritual lives. Then again, on a hill you can also see further. It struck me that cities built on hills were meant to be there. The others in the lectio group told me that I am a city on a hill, and encouraged me to let my light shine.
As a child I heard that I should hide my light under a bushel basket - not just one but several, like those nesting dolls. Responding fully to my calling has meant removing basket after basket to uncover that glow, and then lifting it up. This has been a painful process, at times, but ultimately rewarding. That must be true of anyone who has had to overcome negative messages in order to become who they most fully can be
My sense of calling to ministry has been changing. I have come to believe that my work is first to provide a place for people to share sorrows as well as their joys, both to resist the evil of the world and to celebrate its beauty. This happens through good and nourishing worship. The rest of the week, ministry is helping people discern their gifts, especially the ones the world tells them are worthless. This gift discernment is like mining for precious gems - you may have to dig for them. The next step is to help people polish and hone those gifts. Finally, help them find settings that will display those gifts to their best advantage - in service to the church, their families, and/or the wider world.
The retreat helped me find the link between this new sense of calling and my own earlier experience. I feel so passionate about this idea of ministry because this same process has been such a blessing. It is my calling to share my story and that passion with others so that they too can let their lights shine. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden, and was never meant to be. What are your hidden treasures?