After encouraging so many of you to watch The Calling documentary on PBS’ Independent Lens last night, I wondered how many people (aside from my clergy friends) were able to relate to it. Being a relatively young person (by church standards anyway) called to be a religious leader, I understood exactly where these people were coming from. But, other people may have thought the situations just plain strange.
We saw how many of the seven young religious leaders struggle to balance their responsibilities to their churches, synagogues and mosques with their family and personal lives. They struggled with their congregations’ expectations of how their personal lives should be lived. All of them felt pressure to have a ‘perfect’ family life — one that includes a strong marriage and children. Never mind that several of them were still single, one had a child out of wedlock and another one was getting a divorce. They certainly weren’t ‘perfect’ by these external standards, but none of them could be accused of not being faithful to their call. Others were torn between family and community responsibilities and the responsibilities of their new religious communities. Everyone wanted something from them — their time, their energy, their leadership. They were spread very thin.
At one point in the documentary, a young, energetic Rabbi was criticized for admitting in an interview that he wanted a synagogue’s part-time position so that he could devote himself to parenting the child they were expecting. He wanted to be a good parent and to support his wife’s career. Trying to these things was thought to be a ‘deal-breaker’ for most congregations looking to hire him.
Although these particular situations may seem foreign to some of you, I think most people can relate to these struggles. How do you devote yourself to your work or school as well as to family, friends and community? If you add being a person of faith into this mix it gets more complicated. Regardless of your career, school or family situation, your priorities will change if we take seriously how our faith calls us to live. Being faithful may strain relationships with friends and family. It may cause you to take a different path in work, school or other community activities. It may mean abandoning some of those things altogether.
So, tell me, how do you balance all these things? How has your faith influenced the way you live your life both inside and outside of your religious communities?
Keep watching this fascinating documentary tonight on PBS. I know we’ll all have more to talk about.