“What’s next for you?”
It’s a question I’ve gotten quite a bit lately, as folks reach out after hearing of my sudden transition from an installed ministry position into the nebulous world of “living between calls.”
I’ve tried lots of different answers to that question, of course. Sometimes, I attempt to respond with a joke -- well, I’m hoping for a good night’s rest tonight! (though come to think of it, there’s far more truth to that sentiment than I'd like). Other times, I answer with a nod to my more immediate surroundings -- I’m leaving the bakery and entering the produce aisle, so I’m thinking of picking up some bananas. Once, I even responded to a text during an impromptu (and far too infrequent) solo visit to the beach… snapping a picture of the gently rolling waves as the backdrop to the Kindle in my hand accompanied by a somewhat ironic caption: “#paradise.”
More often than not, my responses receive a gracious chuckle, before the person asks the question again. If my hope is to avoid heartbreaking or uncomfortable conversations I suppose it’s not to my benefit that so many of my friends are in the helping professions themselves. Pastors, chaplains, and counselors are specially trained for these moments and can skillfully spot my self-deprecating humor avoidance tactics from a mile away. On the other hand, I'm immensely grateful. Frankly, I’m usually just glad to hear the sound of another caring and compassionate voice, and the grace-filled reminder it offers of the joys of friendship and love. I take the promises of being held in prayer seriously, and receive them as the gift they are. (Thanks be to God for the gift of friendship!)
Oh… you mean what’s next for me vocationally? Well, why didn’t you just say that?!?
Another gracious chuckle.
If a good night’s rest was not to be had the night before, perhaps I’ll blurt out a panicked and slightly punchy “I have no earthly idea and I need God to show me the roadmap before I even consider putting my car back into drive.” But more often, I answer with what I imagine is likely the best pastoral response I can muster: “The Remaleys stand ready to go wherever the Spirit leads.”
Those are both true statements, after all.
I mean, who wouldn’t wish to see the roadmap of their life’s journey? I know I personally have far too great a desire for control and success; my impatient, Type A, list-making personality betrays my ability to settle down and “go with the flow.” I am a self-proclaimed master of the pros/cons list, not to mention the ability to (over)analyze a situation to its most logical and smooth solution. Yes! I demand that you show me the roadmap, and show me now! Simply put, I’ve found myself more than once wanting to simply pull the car over and wait with a pout until God flips the switch on the magical GPS to show me the way to gentler days.
And yet, as I reflect upon my journey thus far… and the forks that have presented themselves on the path through the years… I’ve discovered that the second statement has always been every bit as true for me. This discovery has been a blessing to me, for it’s on this truth that I’m placing my hopes and dreams in the midst of life in this time of discernment.
And by God’s many Graces, I trust that that same undeniable, indescribable feeling will accompany and propel us toward whatever and wherever God calls us next.
So what’s next for me?
Well… ministry! In the “in-between.” Through pulpit supply. On the ground in Immokalee. Attending APCE workshops. In Thornwell board meetings. And yes! In God’s timing, ministry of the “called and installed” variety too.
Recognizing that gentler days are already here, if I open my eyes and heart enough to see them. All it takes is a little more rest. A whole lot of prayer. Extra play dates with Layton. Perfecting my coffee recipes. Dabbling on the piano. Movie nights with Megan. Reading for pleasure. Committing to therapy. Cooking more meals. Catching up with friends. Vacuuming the house. The occasional beach day. Buying some bananas.
And keeping my eyes peeled (pardon the unavoidable banana pun) for the glimpses of God’s Grace that exist in the every day moments of life as I await that embodied awareness to push us forth once more.
I'm a husband, father, news junkie, theatre lover, enneagram enthusiast, bi advocate, amateur foodie, wannabe barista, and an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
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