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Vocational Changes

I turned in my local pastor license this week. For those of you who don’t know, this license was what allowed me to work as a pastor a United Methodist Church, perform the Sacraments, and otherwise keep the possibility of returning to the professional clergy open for the future. (I started pursuing this process when I was sixteen, so closing the door on this held pretty weighty symbolic significance.)

For those of you who are interested, here’s what I wrote my supervising committee when I turned in my license.

Dear Members of the Tri-State DCOM,

I’m writing to inform you that I will be turning in my local pastor’s license. While I have grown much from sixteen-plus years actively engaged in this process, it has become clear, after much prayer and discernment, that pastoral ministry no longer fits the shape of my spirit.

Part of this is due to my deep concerns about the way that we structure our lives together as United Methodists. I hold largely unresolvable concerns about the way we select denominational leaders and discern about our shared life together, the spiritually imperialistic ways we have taught our churches to focus primarily on institutional survival, and the way that our systems often make the people who are part of them far less kind, joyful, and generous than they might be otherwise. More personally, I also no longer believe in the authority of our denomination to ordain nor that professional pastoral ministry is a faithful way for most American churches to organize their lives together.

However, more importantly than this is the journey that God has taken me on since our church plant closed in Haverhill in 2014. I’ve come to realize that I am frequently the worst version of myself when I’m functioning in a pastoral role, that my personal over-identification with professional ministry has led to some of my worst decisions and deepest hard-heartedness, and that my ministry has often not born the fruits of the spirit within me that I would identify with true vocation.  In short, for me, stepping into my calling to follow Jesus also means stepping out of a calling to be a religious professional.

I write this letter in deep gratitude to all of you. I have been blessed with many mentors, faithful district superintendents, and compassionate DCOM’s throughout my journey. You all have given me the freedom to be able to work out God’s call in my life with greater joy and passion than I would have been able to otherwise. For me, that indeed has been a great gift.

Thank you all for your prayers and support. May God bless each of you in the season that is to come.

In Christ,

Ben Yosua-Davis

Fragment #15 – Goodbye Tom Brady

Nanowrimo is not happening for me this year, but I’m trying to write everyday in November. I’ll be posting fragments of what I write here daily, edited very lightly for clarity and grammar. Here’s post #15.

“It was more than a simple sum of the games.  Sunday afternoon was my truest Sabbath time. In the midst of a stressful, overloaded college experience, I got to come home, go to worship, and then laze on the couch for the rest of the day, eating ice cream (my family’s drug of choice), spending time with my family (and my future wife), while alternately napping and watching football until I went to bed.

While working in an inner-city neighborhood out of grad school, soul-to-soul with heartbreak every week, it was the one time during the week, I could sit, yell, cathart like hell, and simply be.  Football was my Sabbath in the truest sense…”

Fragment #14 – Life Is Meaningless, and that is Good News

Nanowrimo is not happening for me this year, but I’m trying to write everyday in November. I’ll be posting fragments of what I write here daily, edited very lightly for clarity and grammar. Here’s post #13.

If we have any sort of accepted societal doctrine, it’s contained in those pithy little affirmations: “Make something of yourself.” or “Make a difference in the world”, always combined with an awfully poisonous statement ,”You can do anything you try.” And so, bound by unlimited expectations and supposed unlimited possibilities, we are trapped in a place where the goal posts will forever be moved just out of reach,no matter how hard we try.

If we ever got to the place where all our efforts would be enough,where the ruthlessly optimistic gods of our culture would finally be satisfied with the sacrifice that we lay upon their altar, then we are also reminded that ,for most of us,our good intentions will be swallowed up in the greater systems of suffering and injustice, or in the senseless suffering of people whose lives we could never hope to change, or simply swallowed up in the eventual heat death of the universe.

In the end, none of it will ever really matter.  All the wisdom,life hacks, strategic planning,bold dreams,worthy aspirations, and daring disruptions,will prove no more enduring than a breath of fog on a fall morning. Or, as an ancient writer once put it, “Vanity of vanity! All is vanity!”

Fragment #13 – Sabbath

Nanowrimo is not happening for me this year, but I’m trying to write everyday in November. I’ll be posting fragments of what I write here daily, edited very lightly for clarity and grammar. Here’s post #13.

“I suck horribly at Sabbath, but not in the most technical sense. Monday has been my day-off, not my “kind of do some work in the morning and check my e-mail” type of day off, but a day of silence and rest, every since I was in college. I have dutifully taken vacations since I was in my early twenties, and strategically planned them so as to maximize my rest.

But the spirit of Sabbath – the sense that I have created, and now it’s okay to be done, left me many years ago. My work has framed my life. I try to put something productive into the world, I try to pursue career, I try to engage with my son; and then I try to rest, only enough so that I can be maximally efficient when I work again.”

Fragment #12 – Come, Follow Me

Nanowrimo is not happening for me this year, but I’m trying to write everyday in November. I’ll be posting fragments of what I write here daily, edited very lightly for clarity and grammar. Here’s post #12.

“And so, if you feel yourself stuck in a place that no longer fits the shape of your life, bound to your nets by expectation or obligation or sheer habit, Jesus says, “Come, follow me.”

If you are trapped by rhythms that you didn’t choose but now seem to be all that you can choose, Jesus says, “Come follow me.”

If you’re stuck in cycles of regret and anger that imprint themselves on the people around you , Jesus says, “Come follow me.”

If you don’t know your worth outside of your role, Jesus says “Come, follow me.”

If your icons have become your idols, Jesus says, “Come, follow me.”

If you’re trapped in a story that once was beautiful but now no longer fits the shape of your soul, Jesus says “Come, Follow me.” “

Fragment #11 – God is Subterranean

Nanowrimo is not happening for me this year, but I’m trying to write everyday in November. I’ll be posting fragments of what I write here daily, edited very lightly for clarity and grammar. Here’s post #10.

“Our most fundamental transformations happen at subterranean levels. Our conscious mind can drop down new ideas into the chasm to see what sticks (or what goes splat), we can discipline ourselves to make new paths in our souls, which is rather like tunneling through granite with a sharpened spoon, or occasionally, life’s explosive pyrotechnics will entirely blow out new fault lines that we can try to mine out or paper over; but in the end, our most gut reactions,the slow daily accretion of decisions all happen in those dark, cavernous spiritual spaces that we only occasion go spelunking within.

When we say “God, transform me!”, we normally think about all the bits we see in the light. Oftentimes, it is those most visible things that change first. However, the more deeply we open ourselves to the spirit of God, the harder it is for us to see God at work. This is exactly what the mystics talk about when they refer to the “dark night of the soul”, what John of the Cross calls Love working in us so deeply that we can no longer sense it.”

Fragment #10 – Call is Not Career

Nanowrimo is not happening for me this year, but I’m trying to write everyday in November. I’ll be posting fragments of what I write here daily, edited very lightly for clarity and grammar. Here’s post #10.
“Our culture equates call with career. We are valued for what we do; what we contribute, how much money we make, and that pushes its way into our churches as well, where phrases like “following the call” and “being a minister” are shorthand for really only one very specific career choice.
We forgot how easily our world constrains our spiritual imaginations. God calls us to faithfulness, and we hear education. God calls us to charity, and we hear program. God calls us to discipleship, and we hear career. And, while all those things can be true, they are not the fundamental reality that God wishes us to stake our lives on.”

Fragment #9 – We Are Never Stuck With Stories Smaller Than We Are

Nanowrimo is not happening for me this year, but I’m trying to write everyday in November. I’ll be posting fragments of what I write here daily, edited very lightly for clarity and grammar. Here’s post #9.

“That is the same option that God offers each of us: to remember that we are never stuck with the stories that are smaller that we are; that the God’s vision is greater than even its most worthy human incarnations, that every time the road takes an unexpected turn, even that turn is caught up in the love of God.”

Fragment #8 – Don’t Marry For Love

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Nanowrimo is not happening for me this year, but I’m trying to write everyday in November. I’ll be posting fragments of what I write here daily, edited very lightly for clarity and grammar. Here’s post #8.

It’s remarkable how badly our culture has conflated love and desire and sex. When we say “desire”, what we mean is that delicious surge of evolutionarily-designed chemicals that tell us, “I would enjoy reproducing with you” or, at the very least, “I would enjoy thinking about the possibility of reproducing with you.”

Love is what happens when desire and social chemistry meet together. We can fall in love and out of love. Love rides with gleeful abando, the waves of our relationshi, especially when the seas get stirred up. (e.g. “Do I love him?” “Do I love her any more?” “Why do I love both of them?” And so on and so forth. )

Love, in this case, is a state, one that we can fall in and out of,one that can come and go with the tides, ebbing after a bad fight or when the fizz of newly found social chemistry has worn off, or when the sex gets boring, or the person becomes unattractive.

It is commonly accepted truth that you should only marry for love an a less commonly accepted but still relatively widely-held truth that you should only have sex with someone who you love. However, I don’t believe that you should love marry for love, or even have sex for love.

Why is this? It’s because of my faith, and a particularl word it uses to describe what love is: hesed.

Fragment #7 – Life is Beautiful, Just as Is

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Nanowrimo is not happening for me this year, but I’m trying to write everyday in November. I’ll be posting fragments of what I write here daily, edited very lightly for clarity and grammar. Here’s post #7.

Our inability to believe that the world is a good place, that people are full of goodness, that life itself is a gratuitously fabulous gift, is not only linked to the ways that the world’s ugliness is rubbed incessantly in our faces, but also in the ways that our over-entitled, overstimulated, overanxious culture keeps us moving so quickly that we never notice the beauty in the particulars of our everyday life.

But every time I turn off my television, pocket my phone, and start paying attention, I notice:

That looking into my child’s eyes, in all his exuberant existence, is like staring into the face of the sun,

That my life is permeated with thousands of small acts of kindness, empathy, and thoughtfulness offered up by the people around me; (even those I don’t lik ethat much),

That there is nothing so spectacular in HD as you can find in a single sunset,

That when I read a book, or watch a show, or listen to music that makes me laugh until I cry, I am reminded somehow a bunch of sonically-created social constructions have a life that doesn’t feel all that unlike my own….