Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On Faithfulness

Life can be kind of a crazy journey. Ok, a really crazy journey. My life is no exception.

Eleven years ago, I was a young girl with a story, headed off to college to make sense of herself and her world. I had my bags in one hand and my baggage in the other, which necessarily led me into the psychology program at the local Christian college. I loved the intricacies of the human mind, loved digging through people's stories to get to the heart of the matter, and loved figuring out my own demons in the process. At the same time, I wasn't entirely sure what I had to offer someone else out of the whole mess. I wasn't confident in my ability to be a good therapist or counselor. And I really didn't want to spend my life fixing people. Or even helping them fix themselves. (And as a therapy regular for 12 years, I knew that nothing I would ever do as a therapist would matter if the client wasn't just as engaged in the process. That's hard to come by.) 

Thankfully (and painfully), life stepped in and stopped me. After a change in course, I wound up at the college just a few blocks from home. I wasn't impressed with their psychology program - it was mostly theory, and if there's anything that drives me bonkers, it's trying to deal with people using theories. Life is more dynamic than that. So I went with my back-up plan: journalism.

I had a few journalism awards from high school, including some of the highest honors. I had a fearlessness and a knack for story that lent itself well to the field. But from day 1, I trudged through that curriculum. I hated every minute of it. I still loved writing, but not necessarily reporting. I enjoyed storytelling, but not really interviewing. It's a very intimate, yet hauntingly impersonal business and the incredible amount of politics involved in simple reporting is amazing. For what it's worth, I don't fall on the right side of politics. I was still good at the work, but I was miserable and wondering what I would do with that degree. 

A smattering of coursework in magazine production and visual communications made things a little better, and I broadened out to more a "professional communications" approach. Public relations, graphic design, community relations, media, spokesmanship. Creativity in communications (and I still have an idea that will win the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest, if anyone wants to help me pull it off). That answered some of my questions, and a few opportunities started opening up by accident. When I graduated six years ago, I hard-core pursued the communications path.

And never held a job in my field.

Oh, I picked up some freelance work here and there. Not enough to really be anything. I worked one two-week contract for an organization, but there were some serious leadership issues and that never quite panned out. It was only temp work anyway. For five years, I beat my head against the wall, trying to explain to potential employers that I was both gifted and dedicated to do their work. In the meantime, I even applied for "scut" jobs (no offense) - retail, food service, labor. Nothing. I began to wonder if I was ever going to find anything. And the more I watched my bank account dwindle, the more I started to worry about tomorrow.

You know, kind of, where this story is headed. Last July, I found the chaplain education program I recently completed. Within a week of applying, I had an interview. Within a week of my interview, I had a spot in the program. Within a week of that, I had a rejection letter for every other job I'd applied to in the past six months. All communications jobs, mind you. And within a week of that, I began. That experience, those four months, were incredible.

It wasn't easy. For those five years, I admit: I had read every chaplain job description I'd come across. I had thrown a half-hearted application at a few. I had despised that they all seemed to require this special education. I had even applied to similar programs a couple of times, only to be told I didn't meet their minimum qualifications. But at each of those moments, I was throwing that out there because it sounded like something fun to do, something I could do. I was looking at communications and thinking I could land in chaplaincy until something "more up my alley" came about. Once God put the work fully on my heart, though, and I gathered the courage to take an honest, diligent, disciplined step toward it...things moved quickly.

After finishing the program in mid-December, I started submitting my application materials to seminary to move toward the profession full-time. I have already received acceptance to one of my top school choices and am eagerly awaiting to hear from another. I took the rest of December to deal with some family situations that came up. Then in January, I reworked my resume and got back into the job market, hoping for something less than another five years' waiting. 

This week, six weeks from day one of the job hunt, I begin my new position. It's in the activities department at a senior living community, which means I get to spend my days engaging the residents. We get to play games together, watch movies, go on trips (they're going to train me to drive the bus), and just chat. It's very similar to chaplain work, albeit without the frequency of crisis. It's a really good position for "now." And all it took was for me to finally start taking small, obedient, faithful steps in a holy direction. And God has shown His faithfulness. 

It all goes back to what I said about my calling, and about the presence ministry and what it means to me. Unlike psychology, I am not out to "fix" anyone; I'm out simply to be there. Unlike journalism, I'm not out to tell a story; I'm there to help them tell theirs. It's about being there, letting people lean on me, and being a part of a community that needs someone like that. So it's really cool, and I am so blessed to be in this place right now.

I tell this story in an effort to offer encouragement. Life can be kind of a crazy journey. And sometimes, it's agonizing. And it doesn't seem like things are ever going to work out. We spend so much of our time trying to figure out what to do, where to go, who to be. We spend our days beating our heads against the wall, getting nowhere, all in pursuit of this thing that we think we want, or at least that we would settle for in a time like this. 

But life is not about settling. It's about taking small, obedient, faithful steps in a holy direction and watching God unfold His faithfulness before you. It's about doing what you should do, even when it doesn't seem possible or doesn't make sense, and finding out all you will do as time goes by. It's about being engaged in the now and knowing the steps to come, not necessarily fifteen years from now, but the steps for today. The ones that get you to tomorrow. The ones that lead toward something holy. Life opens up when you do this, and it's amazing the places it might take you.

So I ask you, as I take another small step that still seems so big, what little, obedient, faithful step in a holy direction do you need to take today? And what might that mean for your tomorrow? 

**Note: Someone really famous, and I think spiritual, said something about taking small, obedient, faithful steps. I have seen it quoted on Twitter many times in the past six months, but I cannot for the life of me remember who said it. All I know is that I am in his debt for the words to this thought, and he is absolutely right in his wisdom.**

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