July 16, 2019

Wilderness Update: Square Peg Syndrome

square-peg-round-hole

Wilderness Update from Chaplain Mike – June 2, 2014

It is no secret that I have long struggled with church.

Since leaving congregational ministry over nine years ago, I have been in the wilderness when it comes to having a church home and getting involved deeply in a congregation. After trying a few paths which turned out to be dead ends I eventually found a theological home among the Lutherans, but that still hasn’t made participation in a local church family any easier.

Many of you know that I became involved in a process to become ordained as a minister in the ELCA. That took the better part of the last two years, and in the end I was approved as a candidate. The next step is what the ELCA calls assignment — a person who is approved is not officially ordained until he or she accepts a call from a congregation. I ran into a bit of a roadblock at that point, writing about it somewhat cryptically in a Feb. 10 post called, “Pausing to Consider the Journey.”

For two months, I took a time-out from church, using weekends to talk and pray with my wife, seek counsel from people I respect, go on a silent retreat at Gethsemani, and think and read and write.

The end result is that I probably won’t be actively pursuing pastoral ministry and ordination in the ELCA. It still could happen, but it is growing more doubtful. It is doubtful because the process doesn’t fit someone in my position very well, but to be honest, it is also because I have my own doubts about the wisdom of taking that path.

As far as “ministry,” this poses no problems or concerns for me. Of course, I love to preach and teach and lead worship, but as far as providing pastoral care for people, I have remarkable opportunities every day to do that in hospice chaplaincy. In fact, I am sure that I can do more of it than I ever could as a congregational minister. I flat out love my job, have gained some seniority where I work, and have some potential new challenges that, if implemented, will make hospice work even more meaningful and significant. My vocational identity is secure, and I find joy in in it.

However, one of the reasons I’ve always been sad about not being in pastoral ministry is that my wife and I still haven’t found our niche together in ministry. Nothing has come close to the partnership and sense of being members of an extended family of believers together that we had when we were a pastoral family. I’m still trying to figure out how that might happen for us.

square-pegWhen it comes to church, call me a square peg.

There are many, many reasons for that, and I won’t bore you with them. Suffice to say that every place I’ve tried to fit in turns out to be round, and I don’t seem to fit.

Maybe the problem is mine. Perhaps I need to submit to some re-shaping. Maybe I’m just too damn insistent that the hole has to be perfectly square. I have no doubt there is truth in that. But I can’t help thinking there must be a square-er hole out there somewhere.

Thanks for listening.

I don’t share this out of some narcissistic need for attention. In fact, I’ve been hesitant to talk or write much about it, even with those closest to me, and I’ve tried to keep this post as succinct and general as possible. But I have found that, when we share our stories, it gives us a chance to connect with one another in conversation as fellow travelers.

Any other square pegs out there?

Comments

  1. I hope and pray the right situation for you and your wife will be forthcoming.

    God bless you both.

  2. Final Anonymous says

    CM, my sympathies.

    We weren’t in pastoral ministry, but we were very involved with a ministry at our former church and the church in general. Before that, though I’d spent my life going to church, I had never felt that I fit in or was particularly welcomed. Definitely square peg material, sometimes in the “real world,” but always and most of all at church.

    Several years ago we took a break from church altogether, bounced around a bit, and found a church whose theology we respected and whose wonderful people welcomed us with open arms.

    But. Still. I am having a hard time making the leap into “full participation.” I’m older, I’m quite frankly worn out much of the time, and I’m just not sure I have the energy to deal with the drama anymore. At the same time, I deeply miss the sense of connection and community.

    So I guess I relate. Sorry to hear of your struggles, though. I’m glad the chaplaincy meets some of those needs.

  3. I get called a square peg, mainly because certain people don’t know why I choose to be a lay minister instead of an ordained pastor. Simply put, I can do far more here than there. (And get away with more.)

    There are many ways to serve God. Who says they all have to fit the same rubric?

  4. I’m glad you are still on the vocation journey. I feel I have all but given up. Peterson recalls once not having a vocation that seemed to fit his calling. I’ve felt stuck there most of my life.

    Though your longing regarding your wife makes sense. I don’t get the importance of feeling the need to share in a ministry together. Just share your lives in community together where neither of you are “doing ministry”.

    • Like I said, Mick, there are many reasons. I only listed one. I wish it were as simple as you suggest. I haven’t found it to be so.

      • Im with you mike. Waiting for a ministry when we can run and not be weary, walk and not be faint

  5. Brother Shmo says

    More square pegs? I’m not quite sure whether Jesus is too square or we are too round. It appears you are in good company; you are either too much like Him or too much like us. Neither is bad. Now, if we would be as accepting of that as He is, you would feel more among equals and we would be less pretentious.

  6. Christiane says

    this is a great work of mercy, to minister to the dying . . . not everyone can do this work, so when someone finds that they have great love for such a ministry, it can be assumed that it is a true ‘calling’ and a blessing

  7. Any other square pegs out there?

    As an evangelical who is not a cessationist, dispensationalist, neo-Calvanist, YEC, complementarian, etc, it has been difficult finding a congregation to fit in. Sometimes I’ve found a church where I feel welcome and then find something in their statement of faith (usually pre-trib) that makes me wonder if it would be dishonest to join.

    CM, I wish you well in your search and pray that God will give you peace about a direction to take soon.

    • I match all of your descriptors. It can be tough, but keep hope alive. I’ve found a wonderful church home and am pursuing vocational ministry with my denomination. Of course there are remnants of those theological battles that were fought, but overall I’m in a place where the main thing is the main thing. Keep searching.

  8. It is normal not to feel you fit exactly. This is not just a problem for people wanting to minister, some people don’t feel at home in the church at all. If all the ‘holes’ seem to be the same kind of ’round’, then it is worth asking why.

  9. Mike,

    Your square peg/round hole analogy is the problem. Not that it’s your analogy, but the fact that the analogy represents reality.

    The church is presented to us as a flat piece of wood with round holes. Rather, if you read the bible, the church is a body made up of organs that all fit together.

    I’m not a square peg. I’m more like an organ surgically removed from a corpse, placed on ice, and awaiting a donor match.

    • I was thinking I’m more like an ingrown nail. I wish I were more useful, and I tend to irritate the situation more than I would like.

      • I understand where you’re coming from. As to how we fit together as the ‘body of CHRIST’, my husband often describes his role as a ‘nose hair’. We have been away from the institutional church for almost 4 years. We had a home church for about 3 of those years. We are currently looking for a place we can fit, but I don’t think it will be in the institutional church. We recently (in February) were blessed to take a trip to Israel with 40 other people from around the world who also don’t ‘fit’. It was a glorious time of fellowship with other CHRIST followers who are outside the system. There are lots of us out here – not running from GOD, but not wanting to be part of the current industry; it’s very difficult when we have been in that since we were children.

        • Rick Ro. says

          “Nose hair.”

          Okay, now there’s a description I’m not sure I’ve heard before in terms of this topic!

          Nose Hairs of Christ, Unite!

  10. Square peg surrounded by round holes? Oh, hades, yes. I understand completely what you are talking about.

    I suppose that the problem may be partially ours, in that there is (in me, and I suspect in you and many others here) an innate resistance to conforming to the cultural norms (whether unacknowledged, “baptized” by bible verses, or just “this is the way we’ve ALWAYS done things”) just for the sake of “getting along”. But OTOH, a lot of those norms just don’t square (pun intended) with Scripture or Christ’s call. If that weren’t the case, Michael Spencer (RIP) wouldn’t have written the things that he did, this website wouldn’t be here, and we wouldn’t be drawn to it.

    You. Are. Not. Alone.

  11. CM…you continue to be in my prayers, and for SURE your hospice caring and support is a life or death deal-changer for many of those you deal with….but it sounds like it excludes your beloved bride.

    I have no gift of prophecy or discernment for myself and my family, let alone for anyone else. In addition, I am all too aware that when one is a hammer, all problems look like a nail. Having said that, might it be true that your journey into a sacramental church has not yet ended??? That maybe one of the much, MUCH older faith expressions might be calling you Home to find Him and your shared work as a sacramental couple? I am 101% certain that you have glanced in this direction before…..might it be time for a look, just a look, again????

    Sending ONLY peace and love to you and yours…..

  12. Yes, I am very much a square peg in a sea of round holes.
    But my question is where is Jesus? I think that he is just as square as you and me….where does that put us?

  13. Charles Featherstone says

    Any other square pegs out there?

    You know there are…

    • I feel you, brother.

      • Charles Featherstone says

        There are a lot of people angry on my behalf for what has happened. I’m hurt — I’ve spent nearly eight years at this — but I also take comfort that in this process (and I apologize to the rest of you out there reading this going “what is he talking about?”) I have finally, after decades of wandering and struggling, become who and what God intended me to be — someone who proclaims the grace of God. I could have not become who I am without the ELCA Lutherans, could not have learned to love and be loved without them, even if, in the end, they have decided I cannot be a pastor among them. The body has many members, the ELCA is just one of them, and some of us are called to a prophet witness in the wilderness.

        I also take comfort in what Craig Satterlee (formerly the professor of homiletics at LSTC, the seminary Chaplain Mike and I both attended, now the bishop for Southwest Michigan) once told me: “It is not a right to be rostered in the ELCA.” And he’s correct.

        The harder journey, Chaplain Mike. That’s ours. We still bear witness to one whose love has redeemed the world.

  14. I am so sorry to read this Michael. I do, however, completely understand. I would not fit this “square” hole either but then I am not sure where I fit after years of serving the church in roles that few will acknowledge to be pastoral when I have pastored God’s people (in person) almost every day of the week for the last twenty-three years. The church is not in great shape. How can we love it so and feel so out of touch with it at the same time?

    • You and I have a lot in common, John. Thank God he has given both of us ministries that are meaningful and important! Blessings. Sorry I haven’t called back. I will try soon.

  15. God knows the parts of the body of Christ’s functions as to homeostasis as their creator and sustainer. It seems evident that with the rise of the world wide internet that this physiological process is much more complicated than religious people have supposed. It certainly isn’t confined to what was previously defined as church body. And the definition of churchmanship or ecclesiology is certainly being redefined. I think their will be a person( I hope this time it is a women) who will be as influential as Calvin was in his definition( which to me was his genius as opposed to his theology). With prayer you probably can surmise the system which you are a part, be it integumentary, nervous, skeletal, digestive, endocrine, immune, muscular, or reproductive. I list them only to hint at the complexity.

  16. ELCA pastor here, who is also a bit of a square peg. I love this church, but it sure makes pursuing and maintaining a pastoral vocation much harder than it should be. Our congregation just lost a beloved lay minister pursuing ordination who is being forced to leave because of stupid rules. I’m sorry for your roadblocks and give thanks for your multi-layered ministry.

  17. Mule Chewing Briars says

    I think the feeling of being “out of place” in the Church is salutatory, rather than otherwise, and I think this felling is far more widespread than we give it credit for.

    Especially among ministers. Sheep bite.

  18. Jesus was rejected by his own people and probably felt square for that.
    As an Eastern Catholic, I often times feel like a square peg in all of Christianity. Being a convert to Eastern Christianity in the West is unique in and of itself. I’m not in full communion with most Eastern Orthodox who are either compassionate, resentful, or surprised by our existence. Most Roman Catholics do not understand Eastern spirituality and theology (if they know we exist) and believe that being “Catholic” is equated with being Latin. Parishes with strong ethnic ties can be difficult to fit into if you’re not the ethnicity that that particular community identifies with.

    I’ve heard Eastern Catholic Priests mention that we should not exist, that our awkward presence will hopefully vanish someday when full communion is restored between Catholics and Orthodox.
    All of this makes me feel square but I still rejoice in my uniqueness and thank God for the opportunities to witness my traditions.

    • Christiane says

      Catholics do know and admire Eastern traditions through our liturgical rites that are eastern. An example is the Ukrainian Catholic rite that my godmother was raised in as a child in Pennsylvania (her people were from the Ukraine).
      I wish more Catholics were closer to the Eastern Orthodox in their thinking in the United States. I fear that through the advent of the conservative political and religious fundamentalist union with the extremes of the Republican Party, some Catholics have become exposed to strident non-Catholic ‘fundamentalism’ . . . we could do with a good dose of Eastern spirituality in the United States as an antidote to this harsh and bitter influence. May God protect our souls from that bitter contamination.

      Do we fully appreciate Eastern Christian spirituality ? Through experiencing it ? I have to say ‘not nearly enough’.

      A celebration of Eastern Christian music on a Monday morn:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHi-1taeqeo

      • Christiane — Your comments and links are always a refreshment for me. Thank you!

      • Radagast says

        Christiane,

        There is also a small percentage of us (Catholics) that are conservative, are not Tea Party folk, very liturgical and not fundamentalist at all and lean toward eastern Mysticism…. or at least that’s me in a nutshell…. maybe I am an anomaly…

        Peace,

        Radagast

      • Thank you for that link Christiane! The music is so beautiful and moving. I could listen to it on repeat all day.

      • Robert F says

        I think that all churches would do well to connect with the contemplative riches of Eastern Orthodoxy, as well as those of the Roman Catholic Church (St. John of the Cross, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Meister Eckhart, etc., were no slouches, you know). I’m currently re-reading the late Russian Orthodox Metropolitan of Souroz Anthony Bloom’s delightful and illuminating little book “Beginning to Pray,” which is both ecumenically friendly to non-Orthodox and at the same time very much steeped in Eastern perspectives on prayer. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in that direction, and anyone who knows, like Bloom, that no matter how long we have been praying, we are all beginners when it comes to prayer.

    • Radagast says

      In the past as a CCD instructor, I have brought in Byzantine rite priests to explain the Divine Liturgy and the Icons to my Latin rite pupils. If you live in a city like Pittsburgh where we have Eastern European connections you will see more of this.

      As for me personally I am fascinated with Eastern thought – so at least in my neck of the woods you are not forgotten….

      • Thank you for remembering us, Radagast. Actually, my Metropolitan and our seminary are both in Pittsburgh.

  19. Rick Ro. says

    Several years ago, while battling my church’s board and pastor on a couple of issues, I definitely felt like a square peg. (Bobble-head boards will make ANYONE feel that way.)

    I feel less square-peggish than I used to, praise Him.

    Thanks for sharing where you’re at, CM! Peace and grace to you.

  20. I can resonant with you Chap Mike. As a former missionary who was accustomed to ministering multiple times a day, I was shook to my core when we returned stateside. Being a non-denominational believer I had no ministry opps waved in front me. I returned to “secular” work in order to support my family and have a home with the Charismatic Episcopal Church denomination. Jesus is sweeter than ever, however I am left wondering about the church and how it is for a returning missionary family with the challenges of ministry. I guess I must be a square peg….

  21. Take IM wholly out of your life and you might find quite a bit of time on your hands for further engagement. Give yourself credit for virtual pastoring.

    • It feels like church sometimes, though my sacramental theology won’t let that pass full muster.

      • That may be the conflict.

        • I don’t mean to be glib and try to wrap up your situation in one sentence like Dr. Phil but I could see that being the core of a conflict. An unpaid ( doesn’t rise to the level of a true calling with attendant remuneration ) side gig, a labor of love, that nevertheless requires the energy and time of pastoring a small church, or can at times approach it anyway. I think you have the wisdom to know that you would be stretched thin by adding a third ministry to the two you already have. Something would no doubt have to give. Hence my guess.

          • I’m a very singularly minded person. I find it hard to stay well-focused on more than one job at a time. IM is different enough that I can separate it from my daily work and keep energized for both. I almost see it as my devotional life and social life now. But to be both a chaplain and a pastor. . . I’m not sure I would do either well if I tried to do both.

      • Is the judgement of “not good enough” with regard to your sacramental theology really appropriate? Might it be revisited? I’m not a fan of dogma. Spell dogma backwards and you get “am god”, and I take that to mean that we often have too much anthropomorhism in our theology. Just sayin…

        • The sacramental perspective is not just dogma to me but an explanation of the reality of how God works in the world. Anything less smacks of docetism, and I see it as a betrayal of what it means to be an embodied person living in a material world. In other words, without face to face fellowship: the apostles’ teaching, the common life, the breaking of bread and the prayers, one simply doesn’t have “church.”

          • Mule Chewing Briars says

            Amen

            “Turning the Church into a roll call” is how I have heard it put.

          • I’m not sure this blog is a docetic as it seems. I’ve been in the shadows of this blog for about 6 years, commenting maybe once a year. I find more reality or embodiment here than at most American churches. The honesty and hardship that Robert F,HUG and others have and/or are going through is encouraging for me. CM and others are doing more ministry here than most pastors. Pastoring in the Evangelical church means promotions and putting on a happy face to attract crowds. A crowd can be as docetic as ever if there is no honest relationships around.

            • Good points, but as good as IM has been, an invigorating discussion at a virtual table can’t substitute for Christ’s body and blood at the Lord’s Table.

  22. David Cornwell says

    Not sure entirely what to say. However I am personally glad there are a few square pegs around, and think the purpose of this squareness is to keep the “normal” from being the normal.

    On my mind recently is: how does a fairly orthodox and Wesleyan person end up love being in a liberal leaning local church? And loving the pastor and the people. I know some of the answers, but others befuddle me.

  23. Radagast says

    Is this topic more of a pastoral issue? Over the years I’ve come to know that many of you at this site are in some sort of ministry. I am going to assume Chaplain Mike that these issues that you are experiencing are greater than the worship service itself. .I ask this because I don’t feel these things in my faith tradition, and although I am engaged with teaching and sometimes running communion services it is only from a part time perspective meaning my whole life and identity is not wrapped round serving in the church. I am not sure what keeps one from Sunday service (unless of course you are the minister and the issue lies there ).

    Help me to understand Chaplain Mike (or anybody else)….

    • Yeah, that’s part of it. Having been a pastor, it’s sometimes difficult fitting in to a congregation. As our missionary friend said in an earlier comment, there is a level of participation that one becomes accustomed to, a certain “insider” mentality from having been a part of the leadership, and certain expectations from others about one’s role that requires adjustments all around.

      • Danielle says

        “There is a level of participation that one becomes accustomed to, a certain “insider” mentality from having been a part of the leadership, and certain expectations from others about one’s role that requires adjustments all around.”

        I’ve never been in professional ministry or felt called to it, but I feel like I have experienced some of this shift just in migrating out of evangelicalism.

        The way I experienced evangelicalism, the expectation was that one would center one’s life on church involvement and devotional life. If you went into ministry (most “spiritual” and talented people were supposed to consider that path), this vocation was both your full-time job and an entire lifestyle. If you didn’t go into ministry, you were to duplicate that level of commitment in other spheres, and the goal was to “influence the culture”–while still volunteering a lot in the church. Not everyone was living this way, but everyone knew what the ideals were—if you were really spiritual, you were going for a total life commitment. It touched everything you did. And if you were in the inner core of a church, all the more so. At least, this was the message I picked up from communal ideals adults hoped that teenagers and college students would adopt, before taking over.

        Then I went into self-imposed exile, and eventually settled in the mainline. It was a relief to be out from under the mental pressure of my prior expectations. I needed the space, intellectually and spiritually, and it has become obvious to me over time that I either can’t or won’t conform myself to some of the expectations that I found in evangelicalism. And it was a tremendous relief to have the tools of liturgy and sacrament to reconstruct faith and faithful living. Yet, it still creeps me out that I have this space. The pressure cooker culture that exists inside evangelicalism offers two carrots: it professes to take God very seriously, and it takes an interest getting people (that is, you personally) involved in its mission. If you can get with the program, there can be an exhilarating sense of belonging. Sometimes, my inner activist reads other church cultures as being lax or not caring as much. Perhaps that’s true, in some cases. But I think it is far more the case that I just don’t understand the rules and am not sure how regain my old sense of commitment (or act on it) outside of the evangelical context. Truthfully, I am not even sure how to pose the question. So I am still a bit lost. It’s like I’ve learned a second language from excellent book study, but I’m still thinking in my native language, then translating my thoughts into the new one. A person isn’t fully fluent until they can dream in the language. So I still feel a little out of sorts.

  24. Jerry Goodman says

    I think I hear the heart-cry as you spoke so powerfully of the chaplain ministry. If I could use you analogy as a chaplain, it is the square or round where God uses you to bring light and love to He directs your pathway to bring hope. I know your heart by the past posts you have written about being with people who were dying or very sick. So I think that one person had suggested to see where God has directed your steps. ” Seek my face” cries the song-writer and “that-place” will be God’s landing place for you and your wife. By the way, thank you for directing us to the Slow Church book. Just arrived and I am consuming the wisdom in it.

  25. Hey Chaplain Mike! It’s obvious to me the call of God in you has produced a certain understanding of the truth of God’s Word, His Gospel, and the Kingdom of God. That calling creates an internal pressure that desires all to be shaped in someway by that truth. The struggle for the called occurs when my internal context does not match or is unable to affect a greater context. This call is really the calling of God for leadership. The shepherds of God lead His people into what they know The Lord wants to release into their lives. It’s for this reason you and your wife have felt such strength and joy when you were serving together.

    You will continue to feel at some level this square peg in a round hole syndrome until your external context matches your internal context. It is both the blessing and curse of the call and leadership. I understand because I have also felt this great struggle and have overcome. My wife and I feel we are at our best when we’re serving as pastors together, leading and shepherding God’s people into their God-given best. And so, we do. I will pray the same blessing will come you and your wife!

  26. Drena (@DrenaBlanc) says

    And I was afraid I was the lone wolf!

    While I wouldn’t call it suffering, I do have a case of square peg syndrome. Part of it is the joy of being on the autism spectrum and that hindering my ability to connect with people. Truth be told, internet monk is more home to me than more church to me than actual church and I wonder if for you chaplaincy is church for you? Just because it isn’t a local congregation in a fancy church doesn’t mean it isn’t the assembly of God gathering as the church.

  27. You don’t have to be a minister to feel out of place, as several people have already noted. I’m fairly conservative but just about as far from fundamentalism as I am from progressivism. Imagine this – you are conservative but you don’t believe in dispensationalism and you are okay with evolution. You live in the South. You have a sacramental understanding of baptism and you like a traditional liturgy. Rome is a bit too far for you, but you are not Romophobic. I found a church that broke away from the Episcopal church that is conservative, but not conservative in the way some would recognize. I fit in pretty well there. But in this part of the country it is assumed if you are conservative that you love the “Left Behind” novels and you hate Darwin and you are allergic to any sort of liturgy.

  28. Mule Chewing Briars says

    Are the old REC folks still around? They used to have a bit of a presence in the southlands. There should be a hundred times as many of them as they are.

    Actually, I would be delighted if they and the ECUSA switched places demographically.

    • You mean the Reformed Episcopal Church? I don’t know much about it. The refuge I found is an ACNA church. It leans Anglo-Catholic, which is actually a good fit for this former Lutheran. I am still trying to figure out the lay of the land in Anglicanism. I treasure my Lutheran background, but I found I couldn’t quite fit in with the liberal or conservative wings of American Lutheranism.

      One odd thing that has happened to me is even though my opinions of certain things have solidified more, I am less tempted to label people I disagree with as “The Enemy.” Maybe from being more or less an outsider, or maybe because the few times I felt certitude the rug was pulled out from under me.

    • I do believe they’ve been subsumed into the ACNA. I’ve always found it surprising that confessional Anglicanism remains such a small movement, though they are holding steady while ECUSA continues to shrivel. If the CEC predictions continue to bear out, they may experience somewhat of an influx, along with other confessional reformed groups like PCA, OPC, and URCNA. But confessional reformed churches always just seem to dis-unified to ever go anywheres. The LCMS alone outnumbers them all put together.

  29. I spent my early 30s realizing I was good at teaching, preaching and leading small groups. I felt I was called by God to local church pastoral ministry, and my call was affirmed by various official and non-official folks. I went to and graduated from seminary, and felt this was the right track, that I was called, and that I was pleasing God. I was ordained in an independent church. All the while I was in lay leadership and continued to teach, preach when I could, and lead small groups.

    Yet the various local congregations of which I was part kept going through senior pastor crises, and I spent much of my time trying to keep churches afloat and take care of parishioners in those situations, while still doing the small group thing. I kept thinking I would finally go on staff somewhere, but that never happened. As the years went by, I wondered what had happened to me and my call, and thinking maybe I had misread it. Why weren’t doors opening up? I was growing bitter and confused.

    At the same time though, I *was* actually ministering in a local church situation, doing important behind-the-scenes ministry, trying to hold things together, while actually using my gifts and what I’d learned in seminary. It’s just that it was never official or paid.

    I’m now in my mid-50s, and I have let go of the “dream” that I’ll ever be a “real” (paid) pastor. I’ve finally embraced that’s what I’ve been doing all these years in God’s sight, even though I don’t have the title or acknowledgement of it. What I am trying to say here is to be careful to acknowledge what kind of ministry you are actually doing and whether it suits you and seems to please God. It could be you’re doing the kind of work you were made for right now, and that the “goal” or title or position you have in your head is just that, in your head. That’s the only way I came to peace. It’s been a great relief.

  30. Take your time Chaplin Mike. Go at your own speed and figure yourself out. I would ask that you stay involved in some Christian ministry. You are a blessing. You have a kind heart and you are loving in so many ways. Someone like you is to be shared with the world, as I think you have some of the best attributes of faith. Being so candid and honest is refreshing.

    As for me you’re not alone. I think I will always be square peg in evangelicalism. I’m a doubter, I’m broken, I ask too many questions and I do this in a system that likes black and white answers. And I see gray. But that can be said about many things, I can say the same thing about atheism and agnostcism. I could also be a square peg there as well.

    Please carry on and know that we all love you.

  31. Robert F says

    CM,
    I hope, and pray, that things work out in a satisfying and good way for you. In the meantime, remember that God does his best work outside the camp, with square pegs. I would send you a plastic statue of Simone Weil, the unofficial Patron Saint Of All Those Outside The Camp And All Square Pegs, to put on your dashboard, but there’s only one, it’s mine, and you can’t have it. Peace shalom shantih.

  32. Dana Ames says

    Dear Ch Mike & wife,

    I echo Eagle: Please carry on and know that we all love you.

    It sound to me like you love the Hospice work and the people, and God is ministering through you in it, Mike. I wonder if, since you responded to Danielle above as you did, it might be helpful to put the expectations on the table one by one, or maybe several or all together, and look at them again, to see if they still/again make sense to you, or if there are other angles you’ve not yet seen. It sounds to me like what you are wrestling with is that stuff, along with what it means to live and find meaning in that non-Evangelical “space”, rather than with “vocation” per se. I appreciate your need to keep things general as you let us know what’s going on, and maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree. I do know that the Lord is with you now and where you are; in Him we live and move and have our being.

    Hugs-
    Dana

  33. There had been hints previously but I didn’t realize just how square a peg I was until after I was in pastoral ministry. I loved the work of ministry in many ways but aspects of evangelical culture began to choke me. Like Chaplain Mike said, “There are many, many reasons for that and I won’t bore you with them.”

    More to Mike’s main point, finding a church home has been difficult for us since I left professional ministry – in fact we’ve given up on it for now. And quite fine with it. There is so much freedom and health in the conversations, prayers and blessings that we share with people and now I’m not restricted by certain ‘expectations’ that came with my previous job and I’m not selling anything except Jesus’ love and my friendship.

    There is good advice in some of the comments above. It’s okay to be square. Take your time and enjoy the ministry that happens wherever you are.

    Blessings.

  34. Christiane says

    Chaplain Mike,
    DougC once quoted Nouwen on Imonk and the quote bears repeating here:

    ” Let’s rejoice in the little light we carry and not ask for the great beam that would take all shadows away.”
    (Henri Nouwen)

    personally, I think ‘conformity’ and ‘belonging’ sometimes extract too high a price for a human person . . . it depends on the individual, I know, but some are meant to march to their own drummers. And sometimes, God intervenes to make sure we don’t fall into a ‘safe’ comfortable place where we won’t grow

    If you are a strong individual, embrace that as a challenge . . . not as a problem . . . that individuality means that you have some gift that is not shared by everyone else, but your gift can help the common good, in the way that the Body of Christ has diverse members that bring what is needed to the whole.

    Diversity often finds its greatest acceptance among the more humble residents of the Earth. That is something to remember.

  35. CM,
    I thought about advice I might give, but decided the best thing is “just” to pray for you. May God continue to bless and guide you.

  36. I have attended church all my life, taught, eldered, deaconed, swept, vacuumed, been in the choir etc.
    * I intended to go to church until I can no longer go. I care about the people, I care about the teaching of Scripture.
    *
    But what my calling has always been is simply “Sitting in the Gate.” I have family, I have friends, I have work associates, sometimes I have strangers. I even have a blog ( not senecagriggs.weebly.com) where I talk about people I have known or read about and share their story. I think there are about 700 posts over the last decades. Very few people read it, it’s just a quiet blog.
    *
    But primarily I sit and talk with my men friends. Sometimes we eat and talk. Sometimes we text. Sometimes we’re on the phone, but not too often. I’m not a phone guy. But we will certainly “sit in the gate,” any time, any place. I like that. I like the stories I hear and the knowledge to be acquired from other people who have lived different lives then myself. I like, liking different people and bringing a smile to their lips; it cheers me too.

  37. Definitely with you on this one CM. Though I seem to be younger than a significant portion of the people on IM based on my experience over the years (28 years old) I have felt like a square peg in a round hole for a good part of my life in the churches I wad raised in. For me the issue was that I never seemed to fit in socially with the rest of the congregation. Theology hasn’t been much of an issue for me as my beliefs are loose enough to accommodate any orthodox perspective. Socially however I never could find a church that fit well. Our interests and personalities were just too different to make anything work. After a rather long and emotionally trying period of prayer and thinking about this issue I concluded that there was never a time in my life where God was not involved and there will never be a time where He will not be involved in the future. I concluded that God made me to do something and as long as I continued following Him I would be okay, even if I was a little lonely. Loneliness I can deal with, but purposelessness I cannot.

    Currently I have found a home with the Anglicans (ACNA). Theologically I would be more at home in an Eastern Orthodox Church, but practically the Anglicans are a better fit. I have better relationships there and theologically they can accompany many Eastern views. I still feel like a square peg sometimes, but I’ve accepted that this might always be the case for me. And just because I feel this way doesn’t mean that I am not having an impact or doing God’s work. My feelings, while not insignificant, are in no measure a reflection upon how much God loves me. I’ve come to recognize a larger picture, one in which my feelings are very insignificant by comparison. Recognizing this larger perspective and simply accepting that it may always be this way has helped me significantly in dealing with this issue.

  38. The biggest problem I find with being a square peg in roundville comes in the form of personal relationships.
    Say, you resign yourself to never finding a church that really aligns with your theological beliefs and views about what church should be. So, you just find a church with friendly people that isn’t off the rails in any extreme direction and you start attending services. Then you start getting involved. Then, as you are serving together you start to form friendships with some of these people — and some of those friendships start to move toward close relationships. All the while, you have this growing uneasiness and uncertainty. Deep down, you know you’re not one of them — not really. You’ve managed to stay quiet about some of the things you believe that don’t line up with the official church program, but you’re wondering how long you can keep you tongue in check. And you fear that day when one of the hardliners — you know the ones with a sensitive nose for heretics — is going to catch your scent and call you on the carpet in public. Then you have the choice between lying to preserve your place of acceptance or standing by what you believe and risk being seen as an outsider or as a wolf who has crept in among the fold wearing lambskin.
    That’s kind of where I find myself these days. I’m afraid of losing friends, and I also feel guilty that I’ve allowed these friendships to form under what they may view as false pretenses.

    • Very insightful description of what really happens.

    • Wow, you have described my situation to a T.

      After fretting about it for a year, I finally talked to my Pastor last week. Turns out he has similar views to me on the majority of items I raised. 🙂

      • humanslug says

        Thanks Michael. I’ve thought about having a private sit-down with the pastor. He’s a good guy, and he might turn out to be more tolerant of my squarepegness in person than he comes across from the pulpit. Even if that doesn’t turn out to be the case, I can at least make it clear that I have no intention to create division or of trying to initiate a small-scale Reformation inside his church. And if he advises me to seek elsewhere for a church home, I’ll go peacefully and quietly.
        Still, I think I better pray on it some more before I do or say anything.

    • Danielle says

      This is a reason I left. I can play the game well enough to be included, but nobody is going to let me teach their kids.

      Anymore, I let me “yes” be “yes” and my “no” be “no.”

    • Humanslug, that nearly describes me to a tee. Though for me I’m not nearly as worried about the loss of personal relationships now compared to say ten years ago.

      The pastors know of my discontent theologically but I respect them to not go making a mess for them in church. Hence why I don’t attend any Bible studies or many cell/small groups (though I do go to to one with my wife more so as I attend this church with her for her benefit, not mine). If anyone wants to get all hard line on me and drop me from communing at the Lord’s table, whoop-de-soo as far as I am concerned given that I haven’t been able to go up for communion in good conscience there since mid-2012 (real presence issues). At most I’ll assist out with choir on occasion, be the audio-visual guy (meaning I can just curl up in the a/v room with my Kindle or a book) or be the worship leader/liturgist on a non-Communion Sunday. If someone wishes to tear up my membership, whoop-dee-doo there as well (that will save me from having to attend this year’s Local Conference then).

  39. Ingrowen toenail is perfect! HOW to bring attention to issues without alienation

  40. You’re not alone. I dream square tires….

  41. Square pegs are not uncommon these days. My husband and I left the institutional church about a year ago. It is lonely, yet freeing. Our friends do not socialize with us anymore, but we try to reach out anyway. We both volunteer in the community; I, in a local at-risk public elementary school, and my husband at an organization which helps young men who have aged out of the foster care system. We(the two of us) meet in a coffee shop on Sunday mornings for book studies and fellowship. We are now reading “Mere Churchianity” together which squarely strikes a chord with us. We have been driven back to the Gospels and are taking a detailed look at the life of Jesus. We want to live out our lives loving others with no strings attached.