I believe in the undivided life. There aren’t spiritual things and sacred things, not really. All things can be spiritual, and our most “spiritual” acts can become secular if they aren’t infused with the Holy Spirit. We can reduce Christ to a compartment in our lives instead of the Lord over it all — our day-to-day decisions, our politics, our theology, our community. Stepping back from earning our salvation through ministry productivity or platforms or titles meant that we learned how to invite God into our whole lives. (Out of Sorts, p.217)
I’ll be honest that this chapter was the toughest of the book for me.
Not because I disagree with Sarah at all, because I don’t. In fact, the subject of vocation has been at the forefront of my mind for what seems like 5 or 6 years now. It’s a constant passenger in my ministry life and Sarah speaks powerfully about it.
(We’re going to revisit this subject in the near future, because there’s a ton here to discuss. But that is for the coming weeks.)
No, this one was hard because up until now I’ve been with Sarah the whole way. She speaks my language and articulates thoughts I’ve had trouble finding language for. In many ways I’ve felt like she has spoken for me despite the fact we share wildly different backgrounds and experiences.
But here it feels like she’s moved beyond me somewhat. She describes how her family moved from a life of full-time ministry to one that is post-ministry to find that the line between sacred and secular didn’t really even exist. It’s beautiful and real, like Sarah seems to be herself, and there’s so much truth there.
This chapter, though, brings up a lot of feelings I’ve had to work through over the last few years.
There was a time when Trevor, Chris & I did ministry together. All 3 of us worked as youth ministers in the same regional area. We did camps and retreats and conventions together. Our relationship began here — with a shared mission and passion. It helped draw our families together. During this time Chris got married and I got to see my friends bring some beautiful kids into the world.
These are some of the most cherished years of my life.
Those days are over, though.
Chris left ministry to work with Teen Lifeline, where he’s doing some amazing work with teenagers and helping others who work with young people. Trevor left to pursue his PhD and is working a “normal job” here in Oklahoma. He’ll be a college professor before too long, and he’s going to be amazing at it.
I’m so proud of these guys. It’s inspiring to see them find their place in the world, using their talents in different ways to help others.
But there are days when I feel like the last in line to be picked for kickball.
Or a child staring out the classroom window watching his friends play at recess while he’s stuck finishing his homework.
I feel a little left behind.
And it’s not like I didn’t move on from those days, either. I moved to Oklahoma to work in a different area of ministry. I get to speak and teach, which I’ve discovered I really love to do. I love where I am and the opportunities I have in front of me.
There’s not a week that goes by when I don’t feel the tension of still being in ministry, however. Sometimes this is frustration with “church”, the way Christianity has become an industry in our culture or how politics colors what we do or how we seem to be losing relevance in our society.
More often is frustration with myself or doubting my own contributions.
I’ve seen my friends leave ministry and find fulfillment and purpose outside of the church context. I read Sarah’s story about their journey. So many of the cool kids seem to be leaving the party.
It makes me question myself and my place.
It makes me reconsider my own talents and motives and abilities.
But I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last couple of years. And in the process I’ve learned to think differently about my job and ministry and vocation.
Full-time ministry is just the setting of my story.
It is not the plot or the main character.
My job does not define who I am.
It simply gives me an avenue to do what I do.
It provides a way to use my gifts for the benefit of others.
We ministers lead the way in defining ourselves by our careers. But I suspect that it is a trap that we all fall into.
The reality is that I could lose my job tomorrow. Or I could be a minister for the next 30 years of my life. Neither of these situations will change my personality, my talents or my passions.
My vocation in life is not about my job title. It is allowing God to work through me so that I am the best version of myself in the world, no matter where I am or what I am doing.
So today may you allow God to work through you. May you be the best version of yourself you can be for the benefit of others around you. May you use your talents and passions no matter what job you find yourself in.
That is your vocation. That is your place.
You are never left behind.