Vocation, the Chrysalis and Labors of Love

As I sit sipping my second cup of french press coffee I have some time to reflect on my life and the shape it has taken. Last year’s Labor day was not a day off for me, but one among many as I was unable to get a job. Today, I am home from work and have enjoyed the lazy morning. Later I will climb down the embankment in our backyard to see if I can forage enough blackberries for blackberry jam. But for the moment I sit enjoying my coffee in the midst of the chaos that three active children create.

This is not how I imagined life. I graduated seminary a couple of years ago and envisioned that when my wife finished up her degree we would step into pastoral ministry somewhere, in some context, hopefully urban. Frederick Buechner has written somewhere, “Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.” I feel most alive doing ministry: preaching, visitation, praying with and for people, communicating the gospel. And I see the need to pastor, to shepherd God’s people into deeper relationship with God and care for one another and their communities. But then I couldn’t find a job as a pastor and while I have had opportunity to preach occasionally, my present occupation does not even allow me to even worship regularly at my church. I work at a hardware store in a small town on the verge of Canada in Northwest Washington. I am not doing with my life what I feel I was made to do.

This doesn’t mean I hate my job. Stocking shelves is physical work and certainly feels cathartic. It feels good to do something productive with my time. I also like helping people find what they need. I guide customers to the mystical land of nuts and bolts and other odd fasteners, scan the shelves quickly and then dig my hand into a drawer and pull out a jam nut or a cap screw and say, “Here, this should do it.” Of course I feel far less confident when people ask me questions about their plumbing or why their jerry-rigged solutions to what-have-you don’t work. But I like being invited to brainstorm creative solutions for people.

A friend asked me recently how it feels living where I am and doing what I am doing. I had a one word answer: stuck. This is an in-between-time and as an old prof of mine put it, “I feel muddled in the middle.” I am a caterpillar who has spun a chrysalis (called Blaine, WA) and I wait, unable to move and immersed in utter darkness (the sun is shining but this is the NW, the darkness cometh). I wait and wonder, when will I emerge? What will I become? Or will I ever become?

I admit, some of my stuckness is my fear and inaction. I have applied to churches, been weighed and found wanting (I didn’t get the job). I know if I am to move on from here, it requires risk and my life has become too safe. I likely will find a place where I can do what I was made for, but the road to get there will mean more rejection, more failure, more occasions for self-doubt. But I am feeling a little thin-skinned and fragile at the moment. this is part of life in a chrysalis.

So I wait and enjoy the time I have, watching my children grow and take on new challenges (my oldest daughter starts Kindergarten this week!!! OMG!!!). I savor the sweetness of late summer blackberries and the yield from my garden plot. I struggle to love my wife as we both wait and long for the what next. In the chrysalis we grow, learning patience, humbleness and how to be gentle with ourselves. One day we will soar. Until then we labor quietly here with love.

4 thoughts on “Vocation, the Chrysalis and Labors of Love

  1. I admire your faith James. I have found literally absolutely nothing of my adult life has gone how I expected or even wanted,but I will continually strive for finding what God wants me to learn in each new scenario I find myself in,as you do the same!

  2. In the chrysalis we grow, learning patience, humbleness and how to be gentle with ourselves. One day we will soar. Until then we labor quietly here with love.

    Beautifully said, James. Such good (and necessary) traits to learn for the meandering, unpredictable paths of life.

    • Thanks Ryan. Hard to write some of this, because I don’t want to sound ‘whiny.’ But it is an act of faith to hold on for tomorrow while being faithful with the day. Thanks for reading!

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