It's been three months since I laid up my Pastor cleats, and though I have been blessed with some useful work in this period, well, things haven't been quite coming together. I have never been "unemployed" and it is a new experience for sure, one I don't particularly like. But all of a sudden I have a new kind of empathy for many others I never could have had before. I count that as no small blessing.
When I add up all the various things I am competent to do it would seem that there is a big job out there that would be a good fit, but it's hard to know how to present myself in a way that would make me seem like a good candidate over people with more specific experience.
I have been more discouraged of late generally, with this vague sense of being aimless, pointless, washed up, over the hill, etc. But the cloud seems to be lifting a little lately. I think this has a lot to do with regaining my spiritual legs. I've been jaded, though not because of soem terrible experience. As I have said to pretty much everyone, I had the best pastoral situation that I really could have ever asked for. Whether being a solo pastor was the best thing for me and my family I am not sure (I think not), but I could not have asked for a better solo pastor situation. I will always be grateful for the 16 years I had with Covenant Fellowship.
Still, no matter how good the situation I left burned out and jaded. I think I was just worn out. It's taken a while to regain my focus as a Christian. For a long time I didn't even want to pray or read my Bible or hear a sermon. I prefered the woods or a quiet walk. I sense recently that the ice is melting. I cannot say enough how much Pope Benedict's writings have helped me. He has put Jesus again at front and center of my thought and imagination, and I will always have a spirit of gratitude toward him and his church, dyed in the wool Protestant as I may be.
Every day and every week I've been trying to figure out what to do with myself, sort of imagining a "Career III" that I am supposed to discover or stumble into. There has been a growing anxiety associated with this effort. It seems like a mountain that I can't climb. But a peace has come over me very recently. I think at the core is spiritual renewal, though I am not sure.
I know that I can do four things - garden, teach, pastor, and write. So why not do them? Why not build upon what I've done and can do?
I don't wish to have a frenetic traditional "landscaping" business, but I do love dirt, roots, leaves, color, aroma, compost, garden wildlife, and just maybe there is work out there doing that. I don't see myself pastoring a church again, but there are a lot of other things pastors can do, all manner of spiritual care and service needed, particularly with people churches have a harder time reaching. And even though my life isn't totally together I still am thinking and growing and discovering new things about God and his word, and why should I put a lid on the years of trainign and experience He provided for me. Besides, He made me a teacher - it's what I do and who I am, and I can't help but want to share with others whatever I am graced to understand or know. I find great joy helping people "see" what they didn't before, whether it is fractions, inertia, the Trinity, the workings of a cell, the structure of a sentence, whatever. And I can't help but write. It is who I am. And of course there is taking pictures, which I consider just a way of sharing with love what I see, no more no less.
I have no idea if "Career III" even exists. I am 52 years old, and maybe, just maybe I am meant just to do the things I am experienced and good at (and of course get better at them), and let my life play out as it will. I am who I am. I do what I do.
I have made strategic mistakes in my life, and if I could do it all over again I would make some different decisions - you know, with 20/20 hindsight. At the same time I trust in the goodness of God, and in His providential mercies toward me. I believe and think that things I have done (and not done) - whether or not some of them were the wisest thing that could have been decided at the time - I believe that they "add up" to something God has been preparing for me, or me for. I have always sought in counseling others to try to help them see the ways the experience and circumstances add up and flow into other things - so often people just bounce around all over the place. I think I need to heed my own counsel.
I am deeply grateful for my friends, new and old, for being patient with me in this time, and offering encouragement and counsel.
So, I press on. I am available. Call me.