Over the last three months I have done some journal writing and personal reflection, and have worked on a few small liturgical writing projects that will be published in some forthcoming collections. However, my blog has been barren. Admittedly the last several months have been disappointing – and dare I say it, painful – as I have been waiting for a full-time church appointment. These ever-lingering months were nothing like my original vision for life after seminary. I have dealt with some pretty raw emotions, and quite honestly, I was and still am not willing to expose those deepest parts of myself in such an open forum. I will say, however, that I have learned much during this time of exile and desolation – I have learned about myself, I have learned about others and I have learned about the resiliency of the human spirit.
My part-time customer service job has given me a new understanding of people who live in poverty, people who work for little more than minimum wage and are forced to choose between buying groceries or health insurance for their children. I have learned first-hand how corporate decision-making affects hourly-wage employees and have watched co-workers silently bow to unrealistic demands for fear of losing their jobs. While my own placement in such a situation is temporary, this is a long-term reality for my customer service colleagues. I have talked at length with co-workers living in homeless shelters and those who walked a few miles to work even in the harshest conditions because their bus fare was used to buy medication. Though I taught in the inner-city and have previously worked with people in poverty, my seminary education has given me a new perspective. I now look at these situations through a theological lens and ask myself where is God in the midst of this? What is the Body of Christ (the Church) doing to alleviate these situations? What am I personally doing to affect change? Do I speak up when I see an injustice or do I sit back and maintain the status quo? I have surprised myself at times when I have vocalized my displeasure with management decisions and advocated for the needs of the employees. I can’t explain what came over me in these situations, but I felt a compulsion to do so. Were I to do anything less, I would be just another participant in the corporate injustice. I HAD to do it. Though I would have never chosen my current situation, through it I have a greater understanding of the realities of human suffering and I have discovered a voice that lay dormant inside me. Both of these things will ultimately make me a more prophetic, passionate and compassionate pastor … and for that I am grateful.
Until next time, peace …
Welcome back. This is so well said. That you can take a difficult situation like this and learn from it, that you can feel close enough to God to question, and yet keep your faith, is inspirational. Joni Erickson Tada has a song that goes, “I want to thank You for the gift of Your Son, and for the mystery of prayer, and for the faith to doubt and yet believe that You’re really there.”