Sunday, September 18, 2011

Life on Pause

I was sick. Really sick. The kind of flu-sick where you babble.

I still am a bit. I'm waiting for all the garbage to leave my system and self-medicating with Oreos. Having called off of work last night, I have actually had this Sunday off, and I spent it on the couch watching broadcast television. I can't remember the last time I just watched one channel for any length of time. It reminds me of being a kid watching channel 36 in Toledo, when they played movie after movie on the weekends. This small break in life is making me realize how much I needed it, and that my work schedule just isn't, well, working.

But it's what I've got for now, and with our impending move it will get a little better. No more night shift. It's taken a toll that I didn't foresee. I feel like I work all the time, because staying up every night blurs the line between days. This lazy Sunday, acquired only via illness, has been a blessing in disguise.

I've been so involved in our next step, our frustration and our concern that I really haven't been enjoying anything. Especially this year, I felt like I had to keep moving, like I was a target, and often times felt like one. Today, I'm thinking a lot about what I've liked: treasuring memories, recalling the past. I don't do this. Ever. But today...

I'm enjoying the memories of the beautiful landscapes of Kentucky and Pennsylvania. In college, I explored them. I hiked. Spent a lot of time outside, sometimes in meditation. What happened to that?

I'm remembering spending time with people in our church families: playing board games, watching fireworks, grilling out, watching "Family Guy" (of all things) after our college-age Bible study.

I'm thinking of being a kid growing up in our old, creaky, half-painted house. It was a Jaycees haunted house before my dad fixed it up, and so the unpainted upstairs rooms were all black. There were raspberry and elderberry bushes outside, an apple tree and a chicken coop, sometimes with chickens and fresh brown eggs, with an inordinate amount of double yolks.

I'm daydreaming of our first house as a married couple, and how my wife's car got stuck in the backyard when she went to look at it. Before we got married, she had a car accident in that car. I got there right before the ambulance did, and I helped pull her out of the car.

Looking back today, I can't believe all that happened. Do you ever feel that way? Here today, sick in our apartment in this lonely city, all of that seems like a different life, like a bunch of movies I watched on a Sunday afternoon. Memories have their way of making you feel like that.

This You're getting tired of me writing about it, I'm sure. It's been a total contrast. We went from a decade filled with activity, movement and social interaction to a less interesting construct of work, eat, sleep. I feel like that's all we've done. The good news is that graduate school is on the horizon. Being among friends is coming soon. It's coming just in time.

So, in a few weeks, we set out to fix what is broken, to right our wrong. And thank God. I don't feel like we've made any memories here. We're trying again to crank up the machine, and the gears are creaking and wincing. But they are moving.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Just Begin Again

As our ministry search winds down with no prospects forthcoming for the foreseeable future, I thought I'd take a little stock of our thirteen years in ministry, specifically the beginning of my ministry and my experiences therein. This will be the first in a series of posts about the Church, and my experiences in ministry.

I had been a Christian for a year and a half when I decided to go into the ministry. It was a reaction to a heartfelt sermon by someone who would eventually be one of my professors in College. Based around Romans 8:1 ("Therefore now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus"), it culminated with an invitation (as all of the sermons for this conference did) with three choices: to become a Christian, to recommit your life and to give your life to full-time Christian service. I chose the third one, being at the height of my young faith at the time. I wanted to take it further, and even though I knew instinctively that I was deficient in some areas that I thought would be important in ministry, I felt the spirit move.

Maybe a socially awkward, moody introvert shouldn't go into the ministry. But my gifts (ease with public speaking, musicianship, compassion for the lost) seemed to calm my reservation. I've changed quite a bit since my commitment to ministry on that day, but I'm still moody. And I can be introverted with the best of the introverts. And, of course, the biggest difference is that I'm not in the ministry any more.

Can a 37 year old man be expected to make a promise he made at 18? Youthful idealism has been responsible for all kinds of good and bad decisions. It's a big deal to make your career choice, and ministry is different from any other career. It's all-encompassing. Your friends, your social life, your job, your home (if you live in a parsonage) and your connections all come from the same place. There aren't many jobs like that. Couple that with the fact that you are hired by people to help them get closer to God (an esoteric job description if there ever was one), and you have to be a certain kind of person to stick with it. And I don't mean a special, awesome person. I'm not saying that ministers are better than anyone else, because we're all flawed humans. But I think there is a specific kind of tenacity it takes to keep pursuing this kind of work, and somehow I had (have?) that.

I went into ministry wanting to make a difference. Most ministers won't admit it, but I will, that I also probably went into ministry to feel special or important. That kind of dissipated after a while, but it was true for a time. Good can come out of even bad or selfish motives, I suppose. But when those motives are stripped away by frustration and confusion, and all you have left is love for others, that's when you really make a difference.

We've had a spate of church interviews, and all except one have ended with rejection. It makes you wonder. God does things for a season, I know, but I feel like I want a clear response if that season is over for me. Me being an analytical person, I also want several reasons why. I'll never get them on this side of glory. If you have been searching for a job in your chosen field, so that you can use your God-given gifts, you know what I'm talking about. And, I really feel for you.

You can't maintain the initial excitement of starting a journey all through that journey. And, like a school project, a painting or recording an album, sometimes it's hard to know when it's done. I think ministry is winding down for me, and maybe a new adventure looms. I've got some ideas about what that adventure might be. But I'm not 18 any more. And the adventure I choose will be a lot different, and for better or worse, less idealistic and more practical. Our Nashville move has kind of purged any last drop of that career idealism out of me. Maybe that's alright. I don't know. But I do have the drive to do it, to do something. And that literally is better than nothing.

Check out "Just Begin Again" by Spinal Tap in the video below. It starts at the two minute mark.