((sorry this is a longer post…enjoy)).
So, I haven’t really done the whole use-my-blog-as-a-diary thing but today is just one of those days. The type of day when right in the midst of it you say to yourself, “Hey this is important stuff. Someone might get something out of this” (maybe even me).
Today, after bringing our eldest to get his first permanent molars sealed (back home by 8:00 a.m.), I gathered my portable office and made my way to my favorite work station (The Mocha Monkey). For those of you who don’t know, I am a pastor who was called to start a new congregation in a growing rural/suburban county in the greater Twin Cities metro area. Well, I have been in the area for a little more than two years now. Without getting into all the details, there is no new congregation yet, and the money that was supporting my position is pretty much running out.
What is a Lutheran minister to do? That is the question that has been occupying much of my cognitive functioning for the past few months (and much of my prayer life as well). After much thought and prayer I proposed that I become a worker-priest. What that means is that I will find my primary source of income from another job, while I continue working to build up this new ministry that I have been establishing. It is something I have been seriously thinking about for over a year, but the option became a bit more of a pressed for time last resort kind-of-a-deal these past couple months.
So here I am. With just a few weeks left before the New Year (my deadline for finding said employment) and I have no job. I have been applying to non-profits, local government agencies, and some random companies.
The problem I am finding is that I am very educated…in one thing. I have very little life experience that directly qualifies me for the type of positions that would enable me to support my family (sole bread-winner, wife and 4 young kids). I trained for a church job in my undergrad schooling, and then went on to train for another church job (pastor) in my graduate studies. Other than all of my “fieldwork,” internship and vicarage training I’ve had a few part-time campus jobs, some restaurant jobs, and a couple in-home sales jobs…some other odds and ends. Not exactly the type of stuff that gets a whole lot of call backs from potential employers in the price range I require.
So, here I sit at the computer, drinking my bottomless cup o’ decaf coffee looking online for leads for a job or two I can step into without worrying about making mortgage payments or only sleeping 4 hrs a day. There are lots of interesting positions that I think I would do well at, but there are few that I am walk in ready for.
Sure there is the possibility of receiving another pastoral position at a different congregation, but being a pastor in my denomination, job hunting is…well it just isn’t done. You don’t pursue the call; the call seeks you. That means, I can go to my regional powers that be and say, “Hey, I am in this situation, and if a call came along that was a good fit for me, I would consider taking it.” (this I have done) But when push comes to shove, it is a very passive process on the part of us pastors. Maybe a call comes our way…maybe it doesn’t. You don’t go around sending out your resume or filling out applications. I knew this when I pursued this line of work. However, I guess I never imagined myself in this predicament.
For the past month and a half I have spent many hours filling out applications, revising my resume, hunting up previous employment and credential information I had long forgotten. (interesting fact: I found out that the GPA on my college transcripts was calculated improperly. I got it bumped up a bit and they are still reviewing it to see if it needs to be bumped up a bit higher). As the New Year approaches day by day, the pressure to find a job raises higher and higher. My wife is much more marketable than I am having 5 years of actual corporate non-profit work experience. So, we have talked about the possibility of me being a stay at home dad as my other vocation while she brings home the bacon (I just realized both “bread winner” and “bringing home the bacon” are completely ridiculous idioms for our family. We eat neither wheat nor pork.) But at the end of the day both of us want her to be able to stay home with the kids.
As I have filled people in regarding the whole job situation over the past few weeks everybody has had almost the exact same reaction. They’ve said something like, “Wow, you seem very calm considering the amount of stress you must be under.” Sometimes my reaction has been, “Yeah well, I am a pretty calm guy.” But every once in a while I have shared the real reason for my apparent calmness.
The real reason is because I have been here before. Not exactly here. But, as I look back over the years, I have been in many clutch situations, and I learned that stressing out over them doesn’t really help anything. All I can do is…do all I can do. But that wouldn’t be enough for me to be calm. As competent as I know I am, I realize that there are all sorts of things that are not in my control. That, in and of itself, is not comforting either. In fact, it could be pretty terrifying. But I have learned an important skill over the years that serves me well in times like this. I have learned to trust in God.
I know that God is in control. I know that He care about me and my family. I know that He is able to lead us and guide us through the difficulties of life to situations that are beyond anything we could have planned or imagined…in a good way. It is that kind of trust that led me to attend the college where I met my wife. It is that kind of openness to God’s guidance that sent us around the world to live in Japan for 2 1/2 years (the awesomeness of which cannot be expressed in words). It is that kind of listening that prepared me to finally say, “Okay, I guess I could be a pastor” and caused me to apply to the seminary and be excited about it.
Yes, I am a pretty calm guy but I also know what it is to be stressed out beyond words. However, when I sit and think of who God is, and how He has proven His love, power and goodness to me time and time again throughout my life (not to mention throughout the pages of Scripture), I get what is known as “the peace that passes all understanding.” I trust that everything will be alright even when I don’t know how it will turn out…even when I don’t know where our mortgage payment will come from in two months. And so, I realize that as difficult a situation as this may seem to be, it is all in God’s hands. And God is good and far more able to provide than…me. I guess I am just learning to trust…again.