There is a way forward

Whether it was struggling with reading as a first grader or wrestling with Hebrew as a seminarian, Rebecca Gresham’s education taught her that she can do hard things, even if it requires multiple attempts and some failure. This is a lesson she brings to her ministry: There is always a way forward.

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

My education has taught me that I can do hard things. I can remember vividly what it felt like to be in the lowest reading group in first grade. My family had just moved to a new school district, and I was the youngest kid in the class.  I cried and didn’t want to go to school at least once a week through the third grade. But I worked hard and had great teachers. So by fifth grade, I was reading above grade level. The process of graduating from seminary also reminded me of my inner strength. It took two attempts for me to graduate with my M.Div. The first time, I failed Hebrew and left for another path. But I returned five years later with a two-year-old in tow. I wasn’t sure it was possible, but I managed to pass all my language classes. Whether it was overcoming a learning gap in elementary school or passing Hebrew with a baby in tow, my education has shown me my fortitude. I may fall behind in the class; I may fail entirely; I may have to try again, but eventually, I will get there.

This lesson, which is less from school curriculum and more about the rhythm of life, is one of the most important things that I have brought into ministry with me. Ministry in the PC(USA) means that I must work with others to live into my calling and into the vision we have for the church. As such, I often must attempt things multiple times, adjust my vision, pray, practice patience, listen generously, and then find the way forward. This was never as evident as it was during the pandemic. No one knew what they were doing or how to do it. We all took missteps and had to recover. I believe knowing that I could mess up and continue forward gave me freedom through a very difficult time. I often remind myself and my partners in ministry that it is better to try and fail than never try anything at all. In fact, just this week as we spoke about lifting more of our pandemic changes in worship, I reminded folks that worship is full of grace, which means if we make a change we might need to adjust from week by week or month by month.

There are lots of places where my drive for perfectionism could paralyze my ability to move forward or try something. But the more I live on this beautiful earth among the people of God, the more I realize it is ok to fail, to try again, to ask for help. It is ok to need grace. I can move forward, move on, and learn to do better in nearly all things if I just take the leap and let myself try. As leaders, we can often get hung up on what could go wrong, but if we pray and listen faithfully, there is usually a way forward unfolding before us. This is not to say we make decisions spontaneously, we don’t want to hurt people or creation in what we decide to do. Yet, there is freedom in trusting God is with us in the process. There will be some missteps, but, by God’s grace, we are moving forward.

I am blessed to be surrounded by a beautiful community of people in all aspects of my life who love me and offer me grace when I need to grow. I am grateful that on every step God is there with me, even in failure, to guide my journey and walk with me toward a future I can barely imagine.