I want the dream that we never had
Recently, I have done something insane, at least according to common wisdom. I have resigned my decent paying, secure, stable job with no guarantee of another one. I have done this at a time when the economy is bad and many people cannot find work of any kind. The reason for this is that I am moving in order to live in community with friends and to participate in starting a church with them. This is more than just something that I really want to do. It is an attempt to find and fulfill my life’s purpose and calling.
I have believed since the age of twenty-one that God called me to ministry of some kind. I have primarily felt that this calling was of an intellectual nature; that I was called to understand the culture I live in and how the Christian faith relates to that culture, and to help others understand that too. I pursued education to that end. Somehow, though, the opportunity to pursue that intellectual calling never seemed to come to fruition in the way I imagined it would, which is to say, through paying work.
As a result, I realized at some point that I would have to pursue this calling through unpaid work if it was ever to be fulfilled. This has been the story of my entire adult life, working jobs to pay the bills while seeking my true vocation outside the world of paid work. In that sense, what I am doing now is nothing different. The difference is that never before have I clearly allowed my sense of vocation to shape my actions and choices over and above the necessity of making a living in the everyday world. Prior to this, my reality has always been primarily defined by the need to have a job so I could pay the bills. This, of course, is conventional wisdom.
On top of that, despite my sense that I was called to ministry, I did not see myself as the sort of person who would be good at starting a church. It was, in fact, something I had no interest in doing whatsoever, and something I was sure I would be bad at. Yet the circumstances of my life lead me down this path and drew me into this group of people, and I formed relationships that I did not want to let go of. So I began to think about participating in starting this church. But that would mean having to move fifty miles from where I currently live, and that would make it too far for me to commute to my current job.
For a long time, I still believed I could not commit to quitting my current job and moving without first having another job to go to. Over the course of a year, however, the job did not materialize. I began to give up hope. Finally, after much struggling and soul-searching, and with the wisdom and guidance of others, I came to believe that this is what I should do.
So here I am, by all conventional accounts doing something that is incredibly foolish, leaving behind the safety and security of a stable paying job in order to pursue a calling that some people believe cannot even exist. It is simultaneously the most empowering thing I’ve ever done and the most frightening. Some days lately, like today, I wonder if I made the wrong choice. I think I must be insane. I have no idea what will happen in the months to come. But I have to believe that if God is real and he called me to this, that He will make it possible. And believing it means living like it’s true.
This, I think, is what St. Paul means when he says in his second letter to the church in Corinth, that we Christians walk by faith and not by sight. To walk by faith rather than by sight does not mean that we stick our heads in the sand and pretend like the realities of life in this world don’t exist. It means, rather, that though we are aware of those realities we don’t allow them to be the final word in defining our existence. We live as if life is more than necessity and mere survival. We are not prisoners of our circumstances.