My name is David Richardson Spaite. I am a server at Jack Stack Barbecue, a volunteer chaplain at Research Medical Center, and an active participant at Rainbow Mennonite Church. I live in beautiful Kansas City with my wife, Diane and our fluffy dog Zona.
When Josiah originally asked me if I wanted to be a guest blogger I was skeptical. I asked him if he realized that I was actually not a pastor and to be honest I don’t necessarily feel very millennial either. I have a seminary degree and was born in the 80’s and since Josiah is such a nice, stand-up guy he said I would do fine. So here we are…
The struggle is real. I’d say this sums it up pretty well. Finding my way in ministry has not been easy. I have a degree from seminary. I am not a pastor. I have had a really hard time not seeing that as a failure. I have found myself asking the question, “What does it mean to be in ministry?” I felt a “call” to ministry in high school. I went to college planning to go to seminary. I went to seminary to start a career in vocational ministry. However, for a variety of reasons this has never worked out the way thought it would. I think I may have missed something along the way.
So the struggle has been real, but I wouldn’t change anything. You could say I have #NoRegrets. Even though ministry has not turned out how I expected it to; I have learned some really profound things along the way. And one important thing in particular I want to share today.
Somewhere along my journey in life, I was taught that I had to earn love and acceptance. Whether it was in Sunday school, on TV, from family or just society in general I have this ingrained deep within me. I have had to come to terms with the fact that not being in vocational ministry is not just about me not doing the job I always thought I wanted to do and the one I felt God calling me into. The real question raging inside me was: If I can’t do this, than how am I going to earn acceptance, respect and love? This struggle was about much more than vocation. It was about questioning my identity. Who am I? If I’m not successful in my vocation (in my case, a pastor) than what good am I?
As these questions were swirling around in my head one day, I remember reading the story of Jesus’ baptism in Luke chapter 3. In this story, God says, “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.” (Luke 3:22 CEB) On this day, for the first time I noticed something profound about this story. God declared this about Jesus before Jesus had done anything. He hadn’t preached a sermon, performed a miracle or died on a cross. He was loved by God because he was God’s child. Period.
When I read this passage it was as if God was saying this directly to me. I felt that God was helping me to re-imagine everything. God not only declared Jesus identity, but the identity of every human being who has and will take a breath on this earth. You are my daughter, you are my son, the Beloved, and in you I find happiness. What if needing to earn love and acceptance was a lie? I don’t need to do anything to earn love and acceptance, and maybe if I stop spending so much time trying to earn it, I might just discover everything God has for me.
Now I’m not going to pretend like I don’t still have days on the struggle bus. Some days I feel like serving at a restaurant, volunteering as a chaplain, and being involved at my church is not enough. But there are a lot of days when I have no regrets. When I remember I am loved by God, and from that reality I am learning to live more fully as the person God has created me to be. Right where I am.