It snuck up on me, but I double-checked the certificate. Yesterday was the 23rd anniversary of my ordination to the Episcopal priesthood. 23 years have been a long time. I was a young, idealistic man with hair and a scared wife and three rambunctious and happy boys—and I was scared, too. I knew instinctively that the job was too big for me, but I also knew from my brief life history to that point that I was wont to taking on things too big for me. Somehow I knew that I did not face the task alone, and that it would be OK. I knew in my bones that this was the life that was truest to the light within me.
And I have not been wrong. After 23 years I often look back and think, “What if I had not gone into full time Christian service?” In High School I was convinced I wanted to go to Cornell University and spend my time doing ground-breaking research on Neotropical birds, living in tents in the rainforest or high in the Andes Mountains, scribbling earth-shattering insights on damp paper with a stub of a pencil while I cursed yet another day of rain. But I know now that the little voice I heard in my soul in High School was right. I would not have made a good scientist. I would have gotten frustrated with the constant rigor of minutia, and I would not have done earth-shattering work.
When I got to St. Christopher’s Church in Killeen part of me wondered if I should not have answered the frequent letters from the Bishop of the Armed Forces inviting me to consider becoming an Army chaplain. I had circular-filed them all without hardly a glance. I wondered if maybe I would have learned things about myself and the way the world really works had I accepted the uniform. But again, the little voice within me that pushed those letters into the waste can was right on. The conflict of interests—U.S. foreign policy vs. the Kingdom of God—something that for many of my chaplain friends over the years was never an issue—would have constantly tripped me up. Besides that, I just don’t do sleep deprivation very well. I would not have been a good soldier.
That little light has guided me well. I don’t know what is before me in my ministry. I am completely content in my little parish in the Southwestern Mountains of New Mexico. I love what is going on in the Diocese of the Rio Grande, and I’m happy to be part of it. I’m starting a Doctor of Ministry program next year (I’ve always done well in school,) and we have plans in the parish. But the little voice does not give me light for as-yet-unasked questions. It stands at that threshold of the past and the present and answers to the conditions that are right in front of me, nothing more. For 23 years, in the space of that holy moment of listening, I have struggled toward a semblance of full humanity as a priest, and of trying to bridge the gaps between God and people, between people and people and between people and the rest of Creation.
Being in that moment for 23 years has led me to Meister Ekhart’s quote: “If the only prayer you say in life is, ‘Thank you,’ that would suffice.”