Monday, April 15, 2013

For This

Is this what we left Korea for?

Since coming back to the US, I've asked myself that question multiple times. 

Is this what we left our life there for? Our friends, our apartment, our successful jobs? Medical insurance and a city we loved? Community? Financial independence? 

There have been times when I've wondered if we made the wrong decisions; if we were deluded when we thought that this was where God was leading us.

Here, we've struggled finding community. 
We've struggled finding jobs. 
We've struggled financially. 
It hasn't been easy. 

At times this has left me feeling lost and desperate. 

On January 22nd, I wrote a blog which I never posted, called That Guy
It was written during a time of deep vexation with the situation in which I found myself. 
Here it is: 

Hi. My name's John.

I'm that guy. Yeah. That guy.

You know what I'm talking about, don't you?

I'm the guy who became a Christian as a teenager, and became really passionate about his faith.

I'm the guy who had an amazing youth pastor...and therefore wanted to be a youth pastor.

I went to college, saddled myself with enormous student loans, and took my time graduating.

After college, I got married to a wonderful, beautiful girl. She'd gone to college, gotten a normal degree, and graduated with no student debt.

For the next 5 years, she worked her fanny-pack off to try and help me pay off my debt, which was now hers too, since she'd hitched her wagon to mine.

Without the debt, we really believed that now was the time. Now that we were financially free, I could afford to take a ministry job, the kind of job that doesn't pay so well. Most people don't know how little the youth pastor at their church makes. Go ahead, look at your church's annual budget. It's public information. If he's lucky, he's making $40,000 / year. Most churches don't even hire full-time youth pastors. They'll ask him to wear 3 or 4 different hats. He graduated with a $35,000 - $50,000 Youth Ministry degree, but he's the youth pastor (for every grade), the children's ministries director, the worship pastor and he does the building maintenance. Either that, or he's working a second job, because they were only able to offer him "part-time" work...more often then not, he's working full-time, though. He's just not getting paid for it. Working overtime, probably...and holding down a second job. I had one friend who applied to work for Subway. They looked at his application and turned him down on the spot. Said he was over-qualified. He got a BA and couldn't even get a job as a sandwich artist.

Many - many - of the guys I went to college with - getting degrees in Christian Ministry, Pastoral Ministry, Theology, Biblical Studies, Youth Ministry - aren't working in their fields of study. They're not pastors or youth pastors. They're not working for Christian charities or non-profits. They're working at restaurants, in retail, for secular non-profits, media companies, or law firms. Many went back to school and got "real" degrees. Was it because they left school jaded, and turned away from those things they once wanted to do? Maybe, in a couple of cases. Others got jobs at churches and got burned - not burnt out, but burned...screwed. Still others, tried for years to find a good job at a church with whom they believed they could partner, in which they felt their family would find family - a church home - to no avail.

Turns out churches aren't exactly in a hiring boom these days.

Now, I'm that guy, the guy who's best bet for employment starts at minimum wage - on nights and weekends -  who's sitting at home, applying to Starbuck's over the internet, hoping they'll call him for an interview, while his wife - the one with the useful degree - is now carrying the financial burden for the family. Oh, I'm doing ministry. I'm busying myself 3-5 nights a week, and spending all the time I can studying. I'm even considering going for my MA in Uselessology. I wonder, though, from time to time, if I'm just kidding myself by being involved in so many church activities throughout the week. Chances are, it won't lead to a job. And in the mean time, I'm being picky about what jobs I may or may not take, because I don't want anything to get in the way of all the ministry I'm doing!

I'm that guy - unemployed, under-educated, unskilled - all in hopes of doing ministry, ultimately to people who I probably won't be able to relate to, because they're all working normal jobs - truck drivers, lawyers, business owners, CPAs... They all think I don't work. They think that working for a church is 4 hours of devotions in the morning, coffee at Starbucks all afternoon, a small group meeting in the evening and impromptu worship sessions throughout the day. They think I don't know what it's like to be a regular Joe, working a job to support the family... and I guess they'd be right.

Pretty sad, eh? 
You can probably recognize it for what it is: fear, frustration, a creeping depression. 
The trouble with it, though, is that some of it's true. 
I really am that guy. 
I really am either under- or over-qualified, depending on how you look at it.
My best hopes for employment really were minimum wage jobs. 
I really was upset about it. 
I really did fear that were I ever to go into church ministry, that I wouldn't be able to relate to many of the men with whom I'd be working.

And I wonder if God read this as I wrote it, or just knew how I felt, because He's God and all, and took it as a prayer - a prayer for more experience, for a different kind of opportunity. 

Because recently, I got a job...
At JiffyLube. 


I'm gonna be a lube tech. 

It's not exactly a dream job. 
However, it's better than no job. 
And to be honest, I'm pretty excited about it. 

Truthfully, I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity. 

It's full-time. 
I'll be eligible for benefits in 6 months.
It's keeps me free for ministry and life evenings and Sundays. 
It's slightly better than minimum wage.
And I'll be learning all kinds of new skills. 

What's more, I'll be working with my hands. 
I'll be doing a blue-collar job, literally.

Upon getting the job offer, my wife said something profound, perhaps even prophetic.
(She does that from time to time.)
She said to me, 
"You know, this job may not be exactly what you wanted,
But it may prove to be exactly what you needed."


And after this, no one can really say that I don't know what's it's like to be a regular Joe, with a work-a-day job. 

God is good. He's provided exactly what we need, as a family. 
We've got a great apartment. 
We live in one of the best places in the world. 
We're surrounded by friends and family. 
We've got our cat.
We've got a great church, 
and God is using us in some really cool ways. 

Perhaps this is what we left Korea for...


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