For the first time in nearly a decade, I am at a place where I feel like I don’t know where the road I am on is taking me. The last time I felt this way was the transition from high school to college and trying to get a grasp of what major I wanted and the career I was headed for. Now I have come to the end of that degree and another one on top of it, and I rather suddenly have come to a place where I don’t know what’s next.
Well, that isn’t entirely true. I know what the very next step is: building our new monastic community, living with our friends in the household, and establishing a new way of life for our family. All of these are huge. In some ways, I really can’t complain about feeling directionless. The near future has a clear direction and depth of meaning attached to it.
I hope I am not alone in this sort of situation, that other people may have had similar experiences, and if so, I would welcome your insight.
I think what I am missing is the long term road map I am used to having for life. I am used to being able to think Now I’m working on my master’s degree, then I’ll get a job as a pastor at a church, then I’ll get my Ph.D., and then I’ll teach college theology (perhaps while also pastoring a church at the same time). It was a succinct plan that carried me well through the next few decades.
But it doesn’t work.
In some ways, it still sounds like the kinds of things I would be good at—I care about people and their personal and spiritual health, I’m gifted in shepherding, I find myself compelled to teach, and I love to learn. The problem is I don’t fit the mold we have put over the job that is a church pastor. I think being hired as a pastor at any of the majority of churches out there might kill me.
This week at the Evergreen Community, we talked about “What do you want Jesus to do for you?” In the face of difficulties, what is it we really want from God? What do I want? How do I even really know what it is I would ask for?
At the same time that I would be asking for direction, I would also ask Jesus to show me what to ask for. I cannot see enough of the road ahead even to know what turns I might encounter. It’s unnerving having to focus so exclusively on the present. In a lot of ways it makes me feel like things are out of control. I have to wait to see what is going to unfold to know how to respond, and it makes me nervous. I am used to the control—or at least the illusion of it—that comes from a long term plan.
Now that I have a Master of Divinity, but I am not planning on pastoring a church, where does that leave me? I know my strengths, but I don’t know what to do with them. I know my training, but I don’t know how it applies. I know something of my calling, but I don’t know how to answer it.
I am praying for direction and also for contentment, for trust that God knows where I’m headed even when I don’t. Even more I pray that I can find the peace to make the most of the present and not miss it or even ruin it because I am too busy looking to the future.
I have my wife and daughter, friends and community, Portland Jeremiah House to help build, and more I can do at Evergreen, all of which are invaluable and worthy of my present focus.
I think I can wait to know more about later. Now is the time for now, and if I can keep things in perspective, now is pretty exciting.