I’m a preacher. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to be. I haven’t always been interested in church, though.
A long time ago, I stepped away from the church I’d been working at and got a day job. I made this choice for all kinds of reasons, but the one that has come to mean the most to me is education. Moving through the “real world” has made me better able to teach and learn from the other people living and working in it. For years, I worked a 40-hour week while also teaching evening Unity classes and spending my weekends on the road, speaking at different churches every Sunday. Along the way, I’ve earned a set of skills and understandings that I would not have had any experience of in seminary or at church.
My life away from church has made me a better minister, because I have a better understanding of what people who aren’t ministers are going through. It’s made me a better minister, because I’ve learned things I would not have learned otherwise. It’s made me a better minister, because I know what I’m missing. Sometimes you have to go away to come back.
I’m on my way back now. It’s turned out to be a long journey, but I’m at peace with that. It could not have happened any other way. I feel ready now, and I’m hungry for it. The church I’m coming back to is different than the one I left, and I’m different, too. It’s time.
Right now, though, I have a day job. It’s been hard lately. Not bad, not unfair, just hard. There have been a lot of 16-hour-days and working weekends lately, and it hasn’t been easy to keep focus. Last Sunday, I got up early to work on the lesson I was to deliver a few hours later. At first, I felt angry. I saw the gulf between what I wanted to do and what I’d been doing, and I felt like a sellout. I thought of all the other ministers in the world who were working on their lessons, too. For a moment, I felt jealous.
I closed my eyes, took a breath, and asked for help. It came, in the form of a phrase burned into my brain as clearly as if it had been written in neon: None of that matters. I thought of one of my favorite verses, John 21:22: “…what is that to you? Follow me!”
You can get so distracted by the things you have to do and miss the beauty of the things you get to do. You can distort your view of the present by looking at it through the lens of the past. There is something you want to do. You can hate the things between you and that blessed day when you get to do it all the time. Does that help you get where you want to go? What does that do to your art, to your expression, to your experience?
Sunday morning, I got to listen to John Coltrane and prepare one of the best lessons I’ve ever given. It was good because I’d worked on it in stolen moments all week long. It was good because I had to fight for it. Contrast can work in whatever way you want it to. You can look at the good and hate the bad, or you can treasure what’s before you because you’ve worked for it.
What if whatever you are doing has something to teach you? I know that I’ve learned a lot. What if you are touching a life that wouldn’t cross your path otherwise? What if where you are right now will make your art better?
Do you have an hour a week to express your calling, to follow your heart? That’s enough. You are blessed. Use it. Get better. Build momentum.
I’m on my way home, one step at a time. One hour at a time. One Sunday at a time. I get there by blessing where I am and using it to get where I want to go. Right here and now, I’m grateful.