I don’t know how long I slept. Maybe an hour. I was having dreams about something tragic happening with me or my remaining original nuclear family, and a moment of grabbing my son and just holding him and being full of love, and he knew in that moment how much I love him.
I probably slept the entire noon hour. The construction had dropped off, and now it is starting to pick up again. I think that maybe the dream had something to do with my Dad recently updating his will, and all of the unhappiness I’ve been experiencing over wondering if I’ve made the right decision to be here or not.
I don’t really know where I’m supposed to be. I talked to a recruiter this morning for a role that I could easily do, and a week ago I was gung ho about dropping everything to jump back into what I was doing before, and today, I’m not so sure. Do I really think that it would be worth it to make us pack up everything again, find a place on the outskirts of Austin, potentially needing to move again in a few months after we move because the first place doesn’t allow dogs, and then perhaps again in a year or two in search of the perfect home/community to raise our child(ren)?
On the other hand, I am pretty close to certain that God doesn’t want me to become a pastor, at least not of the denomination I’ve been a member of for the past seven years. I am not sure about a lot of things–my own pastoral abilities/aptitude, my own ability to fit in the liberal academic world, etc. All of the career options that open up in front of me after I get this degree look to be only semi-attractive, but so does going back to work and doing what I’ve done before. Every choice is laden with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and none of them look like an easy or ideal choice.
Back on the hand I started with, I certainly love the idea of giving my son and perhaps another little one every opportunity possible for them to grow up and become happy, productive adults in a middle-class America–whatever will be left of it in twenty-some years. I would rather spend my weekends taking the family camping, going to dinosaur parks, amusement parks or even just bowling and Chuck E. Cheese, instead of spending weekends juggling a bunch of commitments to others and always scrabbling to find enough money in the bank for this or that.
I was pretty certain that I had sorted out for myself that seminary was not going to be about what my mom would have wanted me to do, or what she would have wanted my little brother to do, and I was merely filling in for someone else’s dreams. I also thought that I had sorted out for myself all of that business about seminary “fixing me”–you know, like all of my psychospiritual issues that I still need to sort out would be sorted out by being in a community of caring people. I was pretty sure that I had separated any of that business, and that I knew why I was here–because God called me to be here and God had been calling me for some time. At the very least, I wanted to be more like the kind of Christian I’ve been reading about in the Bible, and not just some kind of weekend warrior Christian who volunteers for an hour and goes to church for an hour and writes checks to his church and favorite non-profits.
But then, as things progressed here, I began to wonder if maybe God was trying to tell me that I was getting way ahead of myself. That I was, in fact, still in the process of getting my shit together, and that such a weekend warrior kind of Christianity, while learning to be a consistently decent father and husband and hardworking member of society was more than enough for me to accomplish in this lifetime. I do have a history of seeing someone else do a thing, or read about it, and imagine myself doing that thing, and adopt some of the lingo of that person’s trade, and suddenly think that I, too, can become the next Jackson Pollock, Startup Entrepreneur, Jack Kerouac, Eddie Van Halen, etc.
But, I’d even sat for a long time and asked myself if that, too, was all I was doing–just going to blogs by pastors and seminarians and learning some theological terminology and all of the “real history” of the Bible and Christianity that they don’t teach in most Sunday schools–and I was certain that I was very much seminary material. I ignored many of the warning signs that said I was not. I ignored my own internal happiness-o-meter–that thing inside of you that lets you know when you’ve gotten into a nice groove with something and reached a state of happiness that runs deeper than your average three beers/roller coaster ride/orgasm/etc. that gives you momentary bliss/escape/joy.
My own internal happiness-o-meter says that there probably is nothing wrong with you if you want to work an 8-5 office job, save for retirement, take the family to Disneyland every summer and grill out in the backyard, following the local collegiate and professional sports teams with the right amount of zeal. There is nothing wrong with being the kind of American your father and probably grandfathers wanted you to be–and if not them, then at least most of the fathers and grandfathers of the past sixty years or so. How can anyone accuse me of turning my back on the poor and marginalized, when I am caught up in the system trying to survive and achieve a limited aggregate of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness?
What I do know, is that God is much kinder to me than I am. God is much more full of love for me than I am. God isn’t nearly as angry and judgmental and ready to condemn me to eternal damnation as my little childhood self still kind of thinks that He might be–no amount of theological education can undo the theology of your childhood completely. God actually wants me to be happy and to live out the rest of my life in a state of happiness and contentment with my family and a community of some kind or another. God doesn’t wish for me to beat up on myself every time I don a piece of clothing that was probably made by someone in nigh slavery. I think, however, God does want me to work toward breaking myself out of a dependence on being the blind consumer I was taught to be by my culture. Gestures, inroads, steps in the right direction–for sure. But, forfeiting a trip to Disneyland so that I can give more money and time to a good cause? Well, it depends. How will my son remember those years? What kind of character formation will take place? Sometimes, pursuit of pure fun on a highly superficial level is okay, all of the time, it is not.
At any rate, I don’t think that I am going to put together the right path out of here for myself and my family by sitting around making myself feel guilty about whatever choice I imagine myself taking. Of course, there are no perfect choices. But, the one that I will make must come out of a lot of prayer and discernment and careful consideration of what really matters and what I am realistically capable of doing, instead of just another rash decision that is made under the guise of doing what I think God wants for me.