So as you know, I am perpetually hunting for a good ministry job. A place where I fit well, I am doing something significant and I am thriving in my gifting and passions. In the past year I have interviewed at a couple of churches but didn’t get a job. I have also gone from the short list for a couple pastoral positions to the scrap heap without so much as a conversation. Its been really frustrating and disconcerting and I have struggled to maintain my self worth while wondering what makes me so unemployable. I have also looked for work in the area, including with Logos Bible Software. Despite knowing a number of people in Bellingham getting hired there, the only position they interviewed me for was a little past my expertise and the countless other positions they have which I think I could have done and done well, they didn’t even considered me for. I’ve applied for other positions which were well within my expertise and I haven’t even heard from my potential employers. It’s been really frustrating.
But hey, I needed a job and got one with a local farmer’s co-op! So this week I have had some training on using a forklift, filling propane and the features and benefits of various animal feeds (horse and chicken, I’ll get more training later on other types). Today I get to spend actual time in the store. This is a job that I feel I could do reasonably well, but it is not the sort of job I thought I would be doing. I mean, I’m a city boy who has worked for urban ministry para-church organizations with homeless and senior citizens, and at-risk youth. I’ve done ministry with college students and am kind of a theology nerd. I’ve drafted and worked retail jobs, but nothing like this. I have a masters of divinity and I can’t get the satisfying ministry job I long for (My hunt is on hiatus), but I can get a job selling animal feed and fencing. Which brings me to my question, “God, What are you doing?”
In Let Your Life Speak, Parker Palmer reflects on his own vocational wanderings before he found his life call. He writes:
If we are to live our lives fully and well we must learn to embrace the opposites, to live in a creative tension between our limits and our potentials. We must honor our limitations in ways that do not distort our nature, and we must trust and use our gifts in ways that fulfill the potentials God gave us. We must take the no of the way that closes and find the guidance it has to offer–and take the yes of the way that opens and respond with the yes of our lives. (55)
These are challenging words because the story I find myself in, is not the story I would have written. As I my life, I wonder what God might be up to. Is this simply an opportunity for me to connect with friends and neighbors in our community (something I’ve been praying for)? Is this something that ’rounds me out’ so that I can relate better with people in a more rural context making me more appealing to rural and suburban churches? Is this just something I do now to feed my family while I bide my time for something better (with my pay check, not with animal feed)?
I feel confident that I will one day look back and be thankful for this season and all that God has been doing inside my heart. Certainly I’ve been able to explore pieces of myself that I may not otherwise have time for. One day it will all make sense. Right now I haven’t got a clue about what God is doing, where he is leading and where I will end up. But that is an adventure worth pressing into.
8 thoughts on “The Misdirection of God: Discerning God’s Will When You Don’t Have a Clue.”
Hey, James – please allow me to introduce myself. I’m Tim Prussic, a brother in Christ. I can sympathize to a high degree with your struggle, as I was largely unemployed for over 18 months whilst searching for a pastoral call. I also took work that was WAY out of my experiential comfort zone (e.g., accounting!) in order to make ends meet. Late last year, a little congregation called me to be their pastor. So, now we’re down here in Oregon (I grew up in Bellevue, went to school in Bellingham and Tacoma and most recently lived in Olympia).
Anyhoo… I just wanted to make your acquaintance. It turns out that we also have some common connections over on Oahu, through First Prez of Honolulu, unless I’m mistaken. My parents-in-law know your parents? Maybe. Anyway, something like that. If you’re interested in tracking it down, my in-laws’ names are Bruce and Tyne (pron. Tiny) Cody. I hope to run into you in the future, brother.
thanks for your encouragement! Indeed my dad and step mom are at First Prez. I do not know the Codys but have had other friends involved with that church and know and love it (it’s been 8 years since I lived in Hawaii so I don’t know who I know there now). Thanks again for your note!
Thanks for your post, friend!
Thanks for reading! Love seeing you online!
James: hang in there man; hold onto those words of spiritual direction received @ Midwinter… I distinctly remember the sense of purposefulness as u shared w me over dinner.
Besides, I’ve heard the average turnaround for sem grads these days is anywhere from 8 mos to 2 yrs – you are not “so unemployable”
Definitely, I hold on to it! Honestly I know I have gifts I bring to the table and will do well when I am finally in a position, but I have had my moments of self doubt and honestly don’t know what God is up to. Thanks for your encouragement brother!
That’s a great quote from Palmer. Grace and peace as you continue to seek and search and “press into” the adventure, James.