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Vocation and Healing

My intent wasn't to save the world as much as to heal myself. Few doctors will admit this, certainly not young ones, but unsubconsciously, in entering the profession, we must believe that ministering to others will heal our woundedness. And it can. But it can also deepen the wound. {Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone}

winn_collier_writer_van_gogh_farmer_at_fireside

Yesterday, a friend asked why I became a pastor. My story's both as dull and as fascinating as every story you'd discover with such a question. My path (and my vocation) has all the holiness, but no more, as my friends who pound hammers, type code, or translate German. Tending to soil or tending to children is no different, other than minor particulars, from tending to souls or words. All of it will make you giddy. All of it will break your heart.

I took up the stole the same way I took up the pen and pretty much the same way (with a few more hairpin curves) I became a husband and then a father. I had a desire I couldn't shake accompanied by a fear I'd screw up and be a fool, two signals (especially when they arrive holding hands) that you're on to something important. I took the step in front of me, and I kept stepping. And here I am with a few scars, a few stories and much, much gratitude.

To me, the more interesting question is: why do I stay a pastor? There are plenty of reasons not to, none of which I'll bore you with here. However, this place, this community, this way I've found to tend to my little plot of earth, is where I've settled. Lest this somehow come across more noble than I intend (or more noble than the truth), let me clarify. I am not a pastor because of a mystical, irrevocable call or due to unrelenting faith. I do not pastor because I possess a driving vision for a new expression of the church of tomorrow. I do not pastor for the pay or the prestige, both of which are (how shall I put this?) … thin.

I am a pastor because this is what, for now, my heart has to give away. I am a pastor because I have found that somehow, as I labor for the mending of other broken and weary souls, I encounter my own mending, my own healing. My sermons do not provide my lectures for the congregation, but rather my questions searching for answers, my convictions born out of travail. I do not pray as one who, with iron-clenched certainty, stares down mysteries; I pray trembling. But I pray and I tremble with tenacious hope. 

Verghese tells us that to live such a way invites both healing and wounding. I believe this will be the experience of every true vocation, every place where, more than merely our skill or expertise, we choose to give away our life and to offer our work and ourselves as fellow humans doing the best we know to follow every scent of grace.

17 thoughts on “Vocation and Healing

  1. “All of it will make you giddy. All of it will break your heart.”

    Yessssss! Beautiful.

    1. you know, those were my favorite lines too. I got giddy just writing them down.

    2. Let me give this comment a good hearty Amen!

  2. “Healing and wounding” indeed. They really don’t come one without the other, anything that claims to is cheap.

    I for one am glad for what your heart has to give away.

    1. I’m done with cheap. And as I know you, I know we agree.

  3. as for me and my house, we feel incredibly blessed to be on the receiving end of your vocation…

    1. and I love being your pastor, you and all your house.

  4. Haven’t visited here in a while, which is unfortunate because stuff like this makes me wonder how much I’ve been missing out on. Love your writing, love your thoughts. The last paragraph about choosing to give away your life in every vocation reminds me of something I just read in Col. 3:22 where Paul instructs servants to do their task “from the soul.” Good stuff.

    1. i like from the soul, glad St. Paul thought of that…

  5. Yes. I appreciate your words very much. I’m glad to be a pastor with you. I learn a lot from your humility, and your refusal to give an inch toward elitism. You have a beautiful heart. It was good to have breakfast today!

    1. Beautiful words, Winn. I’m finding my heart deeply stirred by them…

      1. jules, thank you. I’m glad your pastor-heart finds resonance here.

    2. Brendan, you’re a pastor if ever there was one.

  6. […] Vocation and Healing, by Winn Collier In answer to the question Why did you become a pastor? Winn wrote this, and it […]

  7. This is beautiful and true. And good. Thank you. GT

    1. Thank you, Greg.

words have a way of making friends. drop a few here.