A Letter to DISCERN Participants | Forum for Theological Exploration

A Letter to DISCERN Participants

By: Howard Kim
September 17, 2021

Dear DISCERN 2021 participant,

I’m just going to be honest here: discerning a calling is deeply difficult.

I graduated from my M.Div program in May 2020, at the beginning stages of the COVID pandemic. Like many of my peers, I spent 3 years studying and doing my best to prepare myself for the pastoral calling that I felt over my life. But once the pandemic took over, I started questioning my calling again. How could I not? With thousands of people becoming unemployed and sick, and churches closing their doors, the very vocational industry that held my vision of a pastoral calling had closed its doors. I felt lost, graduating into a world that held no value for me and my desired vocation.

What happens to your body, mind, and spirit when your calling is denied?

In the midst of the uncertainties, a dear friend of mine told me about DISCERN and encouraged me to apply. To be honest with you, I didn’t know if it would be worth it to attend because by that point, I was one step away from throwing in the towel. But when you have a calling, and it resonates deeply inside the marrow of your bones, it’s painful not to be able to live it out. I wanted and I needed to give myself one last chance, one last opportunity to discern once again if God was still calling me to be a pastor and pursue ministry.

And let me tell you, I’m deeply grateful that I heeded the wisdom of my friend and applied to attend DISCERN.

DISCERN was a holy space that both empowered me to be real with my fears and insecurities, while allowing my dreams the space they needed to breathe. This space, this allowance of breath, is necessary for discernment. DISCERN not only invited amazing pastors to inspire us to dream of ministry again, both inside and outside the church, but it also connected me to peers and friends that were in the struggle with me. When facing your fears and allowing yourself to dream, it’s healing to know that you are not alone, that you are not the only one striving and hungering for more. This is why it’s crucial for discernment to happen in community because it’s the community that affirms your call and guides your discernment. DISCERN gave me a lot of clarity on my desire for ministry, both theologically and practically. One of the exercises we did was to create a map where we listed the people in our lives that we desired to journey with us in our discernment. That exercise led me to reconnect with another dear friend from divinity school and, through the grace of God, led to a ministry opportunity where I am able to do the type of ministry that I’ve always dreamed of doing.

When God calls us, God never calls us alone.

Our individual callings are always intimately connected to those around us, to those that are connected to us. DISCERN helped me realize that the barriers that I could not overcome on my own were broken down when done communally. There is a great cloud of witnesses that is with you in this discernment journey.

Give your dreams the space they need to breathe and let God speak to you through this community of people that long to see what you long to see—heaven on earth.



Tags...: Thinking Out Loud

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