Note: It’s late, but I really want to get this up tonight, so I’m reserving the right to edit it tomorrow.
It’s been a while since my last post, and I had been posting so regularly too. Ah well, such is life, and a lot has happened in the interim.
Two months ago I mentioned in my first post that I studied theology in college and was actually ordained as a pastor in my home denomination (or non-denomination as the case may be). I also wrote that I regularly question my decision not to enter the ministry, but I didn’t realize quite how prophetic that was when I wrote it.
Perhaps I should begin at the beginning.
I grew up in the Church, but like many, once I reached my teenage years I wasn’t exactly focused on God. My parents weren’t going to church at the time, and I began to live my life in whatever way I chose. A funny thing happened shortly before I turned sixteen. I realized that I would no longer have an excuse to avoid church. Of course, if I’m honest, I had no excuse before that, considering that I lived virtually across the street from a church.
Anyway, I attended for a few months, keeping up a Christian facade, something not that hard to do when you know all of the “right answers.” Somehow (i.e. through the providence of God, a couple of loving youth workers, and some quality peers), I was convinced to attend a week-long youth conference after a few months. There I reconnected with Jesus in a meaningful way.
Later that summer the church intern that I was dating questioned my quest for money (read: future Harvard Law grad). She was going into the ministry and asked me something to the effect of “What could be better than saving souls?” (It always comes back to a girl, doesn’t it?) At that moment the Holy Spirit broke something inside of me. I began to weep, and I realized that my desire to become wealthy wasn’t important, that bringing people to a saving knowledge of Jesus meant far more. This is, perhaps, the most embarrassing part of the story for me. Who wants to admit that one’s entire future was shaped by an ex-girlfriend? It’s also funny to look back on the decidedly crude language. Jesus will be doing the saving. Anything I do is only through His power and grace.
Rather than applying to a bunch of Ivy League institutions, I decided to go to a local school (not something that I wanted to do) because it was a quality Christian college (also not something that I wanted). Do you notice the trend of God doing things because He has plans for me in spite of what I want or where I may be headed? Take note of that, it doesn’t stop here.
When I graduated from college, I was done with school. That only sounds tautological; it’s not really. On a very personal level, I was done. I would have neither enjoyed nor flourished at seminary. I simply couldn’t handle any more classes or tests or papers. I needed a break from that. Consequently, I began to look for some kind of job in ministry. That was, after all, what I had been called to do, but the more I looked, the more it seemed that it seemed that doors weren’t opening. Those that were open weren’t where I wanted to be or where I felt God was calling me.
I must admit that this wasn’t exactly a shining moment in my walk with Christ. I suppose every relationship ebbs and flows, but I was seriously ebbing. I was preoccupied with my fiancee and graduation, and I simply wasn’t focusing on my relationship with God, in spite of the fact that I was trying to enter the ministry. In the midst of all of this I suddenly panicked and felt the need to be ordained. Shoot, I was going to be a pastor (or at least work in a para-church organization), I needed to be official. Who wants to hire a youth pastor who hasn’t been ordained. This is, of course, another one of those exceedingly embarrassing occurrences. Instead of recognizing the gravity and seriousness of ordination, instead of praying about it and seeking God’s will, I just jumped in head first. I wonder what God thought about that one.
Right around the time of graduation my fiancee was offered a job at the National Security Council. I hadn’t had any luck with my job search, so we decided she should take it. We got married in July and moved to DC the following January. (Those pesky security clearances take far longer than The Man tells you they will.) Through a combination of my friends I had at school, classes I took, an internship I had, and once again God’s guiding hand, I developed a passion for social justice. Out of this grew an interest in politics, and considering my inability to find a job in ministry and my relocation to Washington DC, I decided to pursue a career in politics.
Things were off to a pretty good start once I got here. Within two weeks I had gotten an entry-level job in a Senator’s office, and a year later I began a foreign policy program at National Defense University’s School for National Security Executive Education. My plan was to work in foreign affairs and effect change in American foreign policy on issues such as aid and peacekeeping.
Fourteen months after I started in Senator Bill Nelson’s office I was offered a position as a legislative correspondent, a fairly low-level position but a legislative job nonetheless and a stepping stone to a more significant policy position. This was shortly after the Democrats won control of Congress in 2006, and literally half of Senator Nelson’s legislative staff was leaving. There were seemingly limitless job opportunities for Democrats. The legislative director had the daunting task of trying to fill 10 legislative slots in a job market that wasn’t friendly to employers. I was sitting in his office, and he had just offered me the job. I accepted it. I told him I wanted it. I swear I did. I guess my memory could be playing tricks on me, but I swear I had already accepted the job when he asked if I wanted a night to think it over. I’m thinking to myself, “No, I don’t want a night to think it over. I want to get out of this data entry job.” Instead, I said, “I guess so, I interviewed for a position in the House and never heard back.” I e-mailed the person I had interviewed with there, and she said not to do anything without calling her first. I called her around 2:00 PM and told her that I had just been offered a position. She got me in to see the staff director and deputy staff director later that afternoon, and by 5:00 PM they had offered me the job. I didn’t know what to do. It seemed so evident that I should take the position in my current office, but I was praying about it and knew God was telling me to take the House job. It didn’t make any sense. The House job was doing web stuff. I had done that before. I didn’t want to do it again. I had no interest in producing websites for a living. Not to mention that it didn’t fit in with my career goals at all. Being a leg staffer and working on new media have nothing in common. Transitioning that gap would be like moving from being an an artist at Hallmark to being their accountant. Other than the fact that you work at the same place, they really aren’t related. I had no idea what my next step would be if I took the job in the House.
I took it anyway. I decided to trust God and see what would happen. I’ve since realized how good it is to do that.
I’ve found that I really enjoy technology, that design and coding get me fired up. Plus, I make more money and work shorter hours than I would have in the legislative position. In fact, I realized that I didn’t want to do policy work at all. I had found a new passion. I loved web design and development. I began to pursue that career path. I made connections with the right people. I learned PHP (a computer language commonly used online). I produced one of the most popular videos to ever come out of Congress. I began volunteering on the Barack Obama campaign and hoped to eventually get a position in the White House new media operation.
That all came to a screeching halt two weeks ago. I was sitting in service on Good Friday when I felt the call again. It wasn’t exactly a voice; it was just something I knew in my spirit. God was calling me back to ministry. He is bringing me full circle.
I spent the better part of the past three years confused. I questioned why God had called me to ministry in the first place. After a while I sort-of just “forgot” that it had happened. I obviously knew that it had occurred, but it just sort of merged in to this general idea of “Do good. Make a difference with your life.” rather than a distinct call to ministry. I figured that working for social justice politically was what I was going to do. Of course, after a while, this began to slip away too. It remained, but there was an ever growing temptation to just find a job I enjoyed (or start a business) that paid well, rather than really working for something I believed in.
I don’t know exactly what the three year detour was about, but He has taught me a great deal during this time, much of it about trust and integrity. And I imagine that these lessons were at least part of His reason.
I don’t know exactly what’s next. I don’t know what God’s plans are. I don’t know if his time frame is one month or six. I do know that this call was real. He has reaffirmed it time and time again for the past two weeks through conversations with friends and co-workers, not just by encouragement they have given me but advice that is timely and questions that are pointed and could only have come from God. I’m still working in the House, but I’ve told my bosses that I’m planning to enter the ministry and won’t be there long term. I’m working to find a ministry position, but I’m also trusting that God will put me where He wants me when He wants me there and that He’ll tell me where that is when He decides it’s time. It’s not for me to worry about.
I’m excited for this new stage of my journey, and I look forward to writing more as things develop.