Many people who have talked to me about my resignation seem to view leaving the pastoral ministry as like a death, and thus they talk about it as they would talk at a funeral - quietly, slowly, reverently, heavily, and sadly. I suppose every change is a kind of death. But I don't think that if I had gone from being a CPA to selling organic food at the Farmer's Market that people would have the same view.
It seems out of keeping with Reformed Theology that recognizes the fundamental dignity and significance of each kind of vocation and work. I have never for a moment believed that my work as a pastor was of greater significance than another person's work as a teacher or a businesswoman or brick mason. Likewise, if someone who had been teaching school for a long time decided to go into business instead I don't think I'd miss a beat, even if life changes contributed to the move.
Speaking of teachers, I remember back when I taught high school running into students at the grocery store. They would look at me with some confusion of mind as if to say "He eats?" "Yeah I eat, and I poop too." So there.
Which reminds me to be patient. If almost-adult students had a hard time seeing me apart from my "teacher" mantle or mode, then it's no wonder that people who have known me for 20 years as a pastor would have the same challenge seeing me apart from my "pastor" mantle or mode. Not all do, but many do, maybe most.
Perhaps in some deeper way all along, this very issue has made me a somewhat reluctant pastor. Perhaps I always chaffed at the difficulty of being seen as just a person, flawed and with feet of clay, with lot of things that interest me other than the Bible. I'm thinking lately that this very issue has been worming around in me for years.
I remember back when I was coaching a softball team there was a guy - one of the kid's parents - who often helped out with practices. We talked a lot. He was a very smart and funny guy, and laced his speech with certain profanities that added a kind of salt and spice to what he said. He was a good cusser.
I never ever ask people what they do for a living, but eventually he asked me. "Great," I thought, "there goes the relationship." I told him I was a pastor. I'm not sure he knew what I meant at first. He wasn't southern and so he didn't think "preacher." "You mean like a priest?" he asked. "Sort of," I answered.
Now this has happened several times with me, and almost always people start acting and speaking really differently. I've always hated that. I pray, "Lord, please don't let them ask me THAT question." But in this case he did ask, and, after my answer, he paused a moment as if to think about it, and then said something like "#*%&*, I wouldn't have thought." I loved that guy.
So, for real, I'm not dead, my faith isn't dead, and well, my vocational life isn't dead, as in, "Oh now that I have fallen from my calling I have to do SOMETHING (inherently insignificant) to make money."
Well, I do, have to make money that is. A lot. And so I continue to look and pray for a nice big regular job. And in the mean time, God is providing several smaller jobs, including a tutoring gig starting tomorrow. (I've always liked tutoring - science, math, composition, etc. So call me....) I was thinking today as I hobbled down Elm Street that it would be cool to lead tours of downtown Greensboro - hmmm, could I make any money at that?)
So, please don't tell but I am actually enjoying branching out. I don't feel like I am in a vocational funeral. It feels more like a kind of change of season, maybe summer to fall, and I like the breeze.