Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Keepin' It Professional

So I have spent some good time adjusting to Louisville. I always forget how much I hate moving. True, I love to meet new people, but I am trying to be hospitable. The prerequisite for hospitality is that you must actually belong in order to welcome. That's not to say that anyone has been rude or cloistered at school or the churches I have visited. It's more that I just don't like feeling this way. The problem is on my end and I think the only remedy is time.

The more time I spend surrounded mostly by acquaintances, the more time I spend in my own head. That leads me to plan and plot my life and speculate upon it. This can be healthy, so long as it doesn't wander down too many dark avenues of worrying reflection. It's much more likely when thinking about the far future than about the present or near-future. In either time period, the theme lately has been career.

At present, I'm working for a cigar warehouse here in town. It's close to home and the seminary, but it also has downsides. The work is very flexible, but also very sporadic. Normally I like that fact, but the appeal of it wears off as I keep eating into my savings to pay bills. I just can't live off what I make there. I have an interview today with a local bank for a teller position. That will pay more and offer more regular hours. It also rounds out my résumé better and offers more opportunities for advancement.

But when I think about advancement, I think about how far I would actually want to advance. Do I want to slow down my seminary education to work full-time? Would that be a nice fallback plan if I decide vocational ministry isn't for me? Will that actually enable better education because I'm soaking in my biblical studies rather than rushing through it? It would certainly enable me to stay afloat better as I try to sever ties with my folks' household.

See how easily short-term thinking can become long-term?

On that note, I am also thinking about where I need to be in ten years. Do I need to go from M.Div to a local church? A para-church organization? Or do I need to stick around for a Th.M and go PhD? Do I belong behind the lectern at a college or a podium in a Christian school classroom? Do I want to go through the strain and trial of more schooling for a rough job market after postgraduate study? Will it be a career I'm happy with? Should I combine high school/college teaching with a bi-vocational pastorate? And will I settle down and get hitched in that time or hold off on it until I achieve the postgraduate degree?

I have been reading through 1 Samuel for Old Testament class. (Contrary to the opinion of some, assigning the Bible for class doesn't rob it of its convicting power.) I see the stark contrast between Saul and David. Saul is a king who rules for his own glory and what he can achieve. He glories in himself and does what seems best to him. He is a very Machiavellian king, keeping Yahweh close to his lips but far from his heart. He has confidence in himself. But humble David is unimpressive physically. He puts his full trust in God and not in his power. He doesn't rule for his own sake but for the Lord's. His accomplishments are for God's glory and not his own. His anger at Goliath mocking the Israelite army is not for the humiliation of Israel but for the humiliation the Lord God; he burns with anger for the Lord's sake, not his nation's. The few times he starts to think about Number One, there are dire effects. Yet through it all, David is repentant and has a heart after God's.

I am trying to be prayerful in this time like Samuel. I'm honestly pretty bad about prayer as a spiritual discipline. When I'm out of the habit of prayer, I question its usefulness. I get functionally Deistic. Won't God do what He wants with or without my petitioning? Doesn't the world keep spinning if I neglect prayer to make toast first thing in the morning? When I'm in it, the worrying stops. "Relying on God" goes from being a Christianese buzzword to a reality where I tell God how much I need His power. Suddenly He is near at hand and His power reassures my fears. His hand is against my enemies. He is my strength and my redeemer. He rejoices in our relationship and I rejoice in Him. Prayer doesn't change God, it changes me. The Lord could go on without me for I am a contingent being. I can't very well go on without Him empowering me.

That really is the key I guess. Bank-tellers and college professors and even "professional Christian" ministers can operate under their own power and understanding. But can they do it with fulfillment? Can they endure well the angst of self-reliance and alienation? The creeping question of if what they're doing really matters, if their sand castles will amount to anything. Wherever I end up, it's immaterial so long as Yahweh is with me. I won't go alone and I know I shall prevail in this life or the next with Him there. I don't have obsess about having every detail of life figured out or make sure I've fasted for fourteen weeks to receive a vision of the angel Gabriel. I just need to have faith that God holds the future in His hands and remember that I can't screw up what God has ordained. I praise Yahweh that the future comes in His time and not in mine.

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