Unemployment: The Forced Sabbatical

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I graduated from Fuller Seminary nine months ago.  Prior to finishing my degree I completed my requirements for ordination in the PCUSA denomination and submitted all of the documents to the hiring database. I had been working at La Jolla Presbyterian Church as a Pastoral Intern assisting in a bit of a bunch of things but my hands weren’t and hadn’t really been dirty in the inner-workings of the church for some time. I was ready, ready to jump on board at a church and be involved in the vision planning, the energizing of a community and  the equipping and mobilization of people to serve the world for Christ. I was ready for the meat of church leadership. And then…nothing happened. Nothing.

LJPC was gracious in extending my part-time job through the end of 2009, waving the requirement of being a seminary student. I browsed the job database frequently, emailed multiple churches and even interviewed with some.  And still…nothing. Before I knew it the end of 2009 was just around the corner and now 2010 is in its second month. I’ve talked with some more churches and am excited about a couple of prospects, but the truth is this time away from ministry as a paid job has been just what I have needed.

Yes, Hailey and I are having to figure out what it looks like to live on one salary. And yes, my pride has taken a bit of a hit as I cook, clean, and attempt to be the homemaker in our condo (I made pizza from scratch the other night…the kitchen was covered in dough!). But in an odd and refreshing way, I am more at peace with who I am and where God has called me now than I have been in a very very long time.

There is something to be said for having balance in one’s life. I thought I’d be bored, feel down or be overwhelmed with the fact that I’m not contributing financially to my family’s well being. Nope. I thought I’d be antsy and eager to compromise in my search for the right church. Didn’t happen. And I thought, by not working in ministry, I would find it hard to wake up every morning seeking to serve Christ in the world in which I find myself. Not a chance. The truth is, during the last month, I have been more excited about taking care of my wife than ever before and am fine with her being the sole wage earner in our relationship. I know now more so than even a month ago the type of church/call that I feel God is leading me to (and am shockingly okay with it taking as long as it needs to for it to happen). And, probably because I have much more time to spend reading and in prayer, I feel more equipped to love those who I find myself around on a daily basis as I have been loved by Christ.

My somewhat forced ‘time off’ has gotten me more inline with who God has called me to be. I am a loved husband and son. I am a student, writer and cyclist. I am a chef! And I am a beloved child of God, called to serve and live among the sick, unsettled and afraid. Unemployment does not define who I am, it is a gift that has brought me to where I am.

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