When a new acquaintance learns of my church gig, one of the first questions is usually, “How long have you been a minister?” Well, it depends. I think I’ve been a minister for a while now. My first unpaid role was team leader of a Young Life group in 1996, and I excitedly accepted my first church staff position in 1998 at Birmingham’s Baptist Church of the Covenant. I have about fifteen years of ministry experience, training, and theological education tucked away in my memory, but it was only this past spring that I was officially ordained.

Supporters and clergy friends have asked another popular question in these past months: “How does it feel to be official?” I know it is a well-meaning question that implies fondness and love for who I am and the work that I do. I get that. But part of me has felt like that’s a pretty lousy question to ask because it undercuts those other years and the ministers who have gone decades without the mark of ordination.

I have felt the sharpness of the ordained/unordained line for many years. So much so that I questioned the necessity of ordained ministry in my congregational structure and in a time in which the church is changing irreversibly. Is it outdated? Is it necessary? Aren’t we all ministers together? Does ordination really just create an exclusive, divisive club? I waited for resolution or better questions.

Until this year, seeking ordination never quite made sense for my place in life. Why would I have been ordained at any other time? For what purpose and by what people? There were times in younger years when I could only imagine my ordination as a coronation, and I knew that visualized exaltation did not reflect the servant Christ I professed. I waited for a shift in understanding.

When I took a hiatus from serving a local church to get the hang of being a mother, I felt even more disconnected from my calling. Ordination certainly did not make sense for this mother who cobbled together writing, blogging, and pulpit supply. I waited for a merging of my selves into a unified whole and a broader understanding of vocation.

Ultimately, the questions of “how long” or “being official” don’t matter. For me, ordination was really about this ongoing, growing sense of becoming a unified whole. There is the self I share with the church, the self I share with my family, and the self I always have been. The ordination process was a rich, beautiful, lush, dreamy, humbling, awe-inspiring, remarkable time of friends and mentors and family and colleagues standing around me to bless the whole “me.”

Whether it is through ordination or in other ways that we gather, we need to bless each other’s journeys. We women in particular need to whisper these blessings over one another. I certainly feel marked and blessed for the vocation of ministry, and I am unendingly grateful for that piece of ordination.

But what I hold most closely and feel most strongly is the blessing of that particular moment in my personal, spiritual, and professional journey: blessed in who I have been, blessed in who I am, blessed in who I am becoming. On days when the calling gets blurry again or the next leg of the journey is unclear, I can hold those blessings tightly and move back into that holy space.

Not a bad way to make things official.

Elizabeth Mangham Lott lives in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to her mothering job, she also serves as associate pastor at Richmond’s Westover Baptist Church.