I had my moments of thinking that perhaps I hadn’t tried hard enough to make something happen here in Waco, but I just can’t seem to arrive at a solid feeling that this ever would have been home. There are too many odd and angry people running around up here. I suppose I should’ve gone straight to the church that serves the homeless, and thrown myself into volunteering as much as possible, letting IS simply be a way of making money. There is definitely a truth to the fact that I am still too much of a coward to get my feet wet. I’d rather continue to dip my toes here and there in a volunteering activity and then retreat back to my books.
I have more than abundantly demonstrated that I go nowhere if I don’t have a concrete plan–preferably one that feels imposed upon me by an outside entity or force. If I simply have a vague and general notion of becoming more involved in the community and helping others as I get to know more about the community, I am most certainly going to be waylaid by other attractive ways of spending my time. Volunteering and giving of one’s self to others has never come easy and naturally for me–I am uncomfortable much of the time, and I grow despondent when I don’t really see my efforts making much of a difference. Contrary to what other people say, volunteering usually doesn’t make me feel good–maybe for a few brief hours afterwards, but most of the time it is hard and the people you are helping can be ungrateful and difficult. The path to righteousness is not a slickly-paved one full of delightful encounters like vignettes in a movie.
If I truly knew and understood the enormity of the task ahead of me, I probably wouldn’t even get started. I, a forty-year old man with a two-year old son, have abandoned my so-called career completely in order to get a Master’s Degree to become an ordained minister in a church that most would say is a dying church. Egelicals hate us because we are too liberal and liberals hate us because we aren’t Atheists. I’ve only been marginally aware of my denomination’s divestment of Israeli companies, but I can see that we are probably hated by a lot of Zionist Jews as well. If I had opted to just go find the highest paying Marketing Automation job (in relation to a market that had an affordable cost of living) I probably would have moved us to Dallas or Minneapolis or Raleigh and taken a position that was slightly under six figures doing what I’ve always been doing. Instead, I am going to be happy to find a full-time pastoral gig that pays at least $35K at the end of my 4-year seminary and ordination process. So, I will be a 45-year old man with a young child or children completely starting over again as if I were twenty years younger. I will have to spend every day working against the clock, as Time wreaks havoc upon my body and younger, more energetic clergy take the better paying roles. I will likely see myself retired at 70 with a 25 year second career and a nominal retirement. I will lean heavily on my wife, and her profession doesn’t pay a whole lot, either.
There are plenty of reasons to see all of this as an utterly absurd, if not downright selfish and self-destructive decision. It’s hard sometimes to remember back to the dark days of hopping from one Marketing Automation job to the next, getting little if any respect from anyone, and seeing people mostly demand that I push buttons for them that they considered themselves above pushing. I was utterly and profoundly miserable. I hated almost every aspect of the work except the paycheck that enabled me to not worry about money and to travel to a few nice places. The office environments were all pretty much the same–young people full of new ideas that were really recycled ideas trying to push themselves to the top without having to pay any dues while the old farts crapped on those of us stuck in the in-between generation. People getting overly excited about what the company did–selling software isn’t sexy but changing lives is.
It is hard to remember the fact that I have been thinking about becoming a priest or monk since at least college, and how much I wished I could be like Thomas Merton–utterly immersed in holy texts and activities. It’s been a long time coming.