The Cost of Discipleship—Tales From the Trenches

Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!—1 Corinthians 9:16 (NIV)

I am going to share something intensely personal with you because I think it represents the struggle most Christians must wage in an attempt to live faithful lives. The issue is quite simple. I feel the call to ordained ministry and have enrolled in seminary. The work is so time-consuming that it is starting to become oppressive. It’s not hard and I can do the work, but it is so time-consuming that I wonder if I can survive two years of this.

Yet if I give up, am I not rejecting God’s call to me? Am I unwilling to endure hardships for the sake of Jesus? Did I not stop and count the cost before embarking on this road? Is this my sinful rebellious nature or is Satan involved? Perhaps it’s both, I don’t know.

And so I share verbatim what I wrote in my journal on Friday last. I will let the entry speak for itself and ask for your prayers.

Friday, Feb. 3, 9:36 a.m.

I am at a crisis here. I’m spending almost all my time studying and it is getting to be oppressive and I am getting resentful. And so I need to decide if I can keep this up. I don’t think I can. I am unwilling to give all my free time to study and must conclude I am unwilling to do what it takes to answer the call. That saddens me but I believe it is the truth of the matter. Once again I am unwilling to give my all to Jesus. Perhaps the better question is if Jesus wants me to continue the work. I can’t seem to get an answer from him and don’t know what to think about that.

Then there is my beloved wife who is getting beaten up by the Luddites at her school. I am angry at them for doing that to her and angry at myself for not being supportive of her last night. Instead I went into my own little selfish funk over seminary work. That is just not acceptable behavior for one who wants to lead this house. And so here I sit this morning, sad, angry, and unsure about what to do next. If I quit seminary and give up the priesthood, then what? Will God utterly abandon me? Why would he call me to something he knows I’m incapable of doing? I guess it’s not a matter of ability as it is will. Why should I spend every spare moment studying? How can I keep that pace for 2 years and add CPE to the mix? Why can’t I serve at St. Matt’s as a layman?

Perhaps I ought to see what it would take to get a local preacher’s license in the UMC. Surely it wouldn’t require the same amount of work on my part and I guess that’s the issue—my willingness to put in 60 hour weeks over the long haul. Again, I need to go back to the question, what does Jesus want me to do? If he does want me to pursue this, I can reasonably expect him to sustain me but I ain’t gettin it. Why? My stomach is in knots because of the stuff I have to do and I haven’t even started my paper! Why? Is this the devil attacking me again? I don’t know and so I go to God in prayer, looking for some answers.

The day’s lesson is Luke 22:24-27. Jesus reminds us that we are to be servants as he was a servant. What does that look like? I guess the essence of ministry is service—devotion to helping build up Christ’s body and reaching out to those who are not of the Body. Can I do that w/o being ordained? I don’t see why not. I did not stop to count the cost before I began this journey and now will look foolish if I drop out. So be it. The greater question is whether I can be faithful to God’s call w/o being an ordained minister. That’s what I hope to learn in prayer today. Am I willing to live with the “not mine but your will be done” if the answer is no?

As a postscript, it is easy to see the flaws in my thinking as well as my foibles, but that really isn’t why I shared it with you. Instead, I hope you felt the anguish that comes with the struggle to do what I know is right versus the desire to give into my slothful self. It’s what usually happens when the path of discipleship becomes arduous. I hope you also caught the glimmer of hope, be it ever so faint, in my entry.

This business of losing one’s life to find it can be tricky—but it is not without hope.

So what have I heard from Jesus? Nothing directly. But I did receive two emails—one from a Christian brother and another from a dear friend and brother in Christ—that were greatly supportive of my call. Yet they were also willing to give me a kick in the rear as well (there’s only a six inch difference between a pat on the back and a swat on the arse, you know! :)). I guess that’s what good Christian friends are for and why Wesley believed there was no such thing as an isolate Christian. Given that I have not discerned a change in marching orders and believing that these two email voices represented the voice of Jesus, I press on. I’m not a particularly happy camper, but I press on believing that the One who calls and sends also sustains.

Sometimes we just have to stop protesting, be quiet, and do what our Lord tells us to do.

What about you? Have you had a problem like this in your Christian walk? Do you ever wrestle with God? What’s that look like and how have you resolved it (or have you)? How do you see faithful discipleship manifesting itself in your life? How does Jesus sustain you?

I’m also wondering if I really mean “your will be done” when I say it during prayer. Of course God’s will be done; it’s ridiculous to think otherwise. But will I surrender to it or fight it? Have you ever struggled with this issue? If so, have you resolved it or are you still working on it? Tell us your stories so that we might continue to “watch over each other in love.”

2 thoughts on “The Cost of Discipleship—Tales From the Trenches

  1. If you are called to a sacerdotal function within God’s creation you will not loose the fire that burns within you. If you are not, you will know, and you will be redirected. Being tired, feeling harassed, experiencing doubt may all be part of your sanctification. You may even be directed to a sabbatical to experience growth and later return to complete your postulancy. Yield to the Lord, trusting Him to guide you and be patient. May the Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Mother Mary watch over you in your time of discernment.

  2. You are further along than I. I just submitted my application for postulancy in the Provence of Christ the King. I audited 2 classes last semester at the Seminary in Berkeley and know what you mean about the time, effort and loss of the other parts of life, like family and friends. Before I took technology classes at the local junior college and found it easy to keep up and get straight a’s. I had enough time to maintain my relationships too.

    Seminary is a more involved thing. It would be easier not to be married, but that’s not where we find ourselves. Paul said to respond just where you are. The process of postulancy is discernment of the call. The call can be revealed to you as what you thought it was or it may be a little different. Time will tell. There is nothing wrong with finding out you are not to be priest. And yes there are many wonderful callings for husbands and fathers. There is a disappointment though. That may be hard to deal with.

    I am a retired probation officer/parole agent, who feels the continued call since I was in junior haigh school many years ago. i have been encouraged by my archbishop and the dean of the seminary, as well as my priest and my friends. None of them really know how much work it takes, how much discipline, and how much sacrifice it takes to answer the call. It would be easier to remain a layman. But what do you do with the call?

    I am certain that there is a call in each of us to go deeper with Christ and His Daddy. I know that the evil one is always at us as we move closer to our Lord. I know that the evil one can’t get us because we belong to Christ.

    I am currently doing home study (Christology and New Testament Theology) while I wait for the standing committee’s yea or nea. I have doubts about being able to handle all the reading, the commute or the living away from my wife during the week. But even more, I have the added issues of Catholic parents who think I am throwing away my faith because I want to be a priest in the Anglican Church. I know there are married Catholic priests that have moved from the Episcopal Church to the Catholic Church. That is not what moves me. Personally, I have seen the Catholic and Espiscopal Churches move away from the Gospel toward a liberalized, humanized version of the Gospel, that avoids sin and redemption.

    I will pray for you and look forward to hearing more from you. Don’t give up on the call. Take your challenge or disappointment to the Lord and your brothers. Know that I believe this process you are going through is a life changing one. Your wife’s willingness to sacrifice is most crucial. If she still wants or demands the same access to you and the Lord (seminary) is taking most of your energy, there will be a crisis. If she can have the same vision for your ministry, praying with out ceasing, then you two will be able to proceed. I know as I wrestle with this same issue. My wife is for me going to seminary, but does not want to move from our home town after that. My bishop is look for a priest who can follow his direction. He also knows that a man of 56 years, the last 27 of which have been married to the same woman, may have some difficulty moving away from a home in a desirable place an move to a less desirable place out of the area.

    Keep praying, keep studying and most of all listen to what is going on around you. You may have gotten the call right, but the Lord’s timing is for later. Then the question is, what must happen inmy life before I can move forward. It could be forgiveness, the raising of your family, a big challenge in your life or something in your heart. Giving it all to Christ is a hard way to travel, especially in a world where folks want something different. Doing it His way is different to saying yes, Lord I will answer Your call, but I will do it my way because I always do things my way.

    God bless you and you wife and your calling. Keep writing and pray for me and my call. Perhaps we will be priests together in Christ’s church or we will be examples of men who love their Lord and follow Him in another way.


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