When I was younger, I would dream of the day when I, like Lucy, would give my first sermon. I would play church and memorize all of the Sunday School songs and hymns out of the giant, heavy hymnal. I would dream of helping people and making connections with them in ways that only God could orchestrate. I would dream of standing at the pulpit with the heavy black robe on, and pretty stoles, and speaking into people's lives about God's forgiveness, having passion in one's life, and fixing the brokenness of our world. I suppose you could say, I grew up!
Some people find it hard to imagine what a day is like in the life of a pastor. Now that I'm older, I've realized that it isn't as simple as it seems and there is much MUCH more to being a pastor than coming up with a 10-25 minute sermon once a week. There are others though who still hold this romanticized view of being in ministry.
I read an article in a TIME magazine about people who are happy. On a spectrum of people's careers, it said that ministry leaders/pastors were the most happy with their career. I can see why! They are out there making a difference in the world and following God's call in their lives! It seems very obvious that they would be happy, right? Perhaps this article also romanticized the idea - or perhaps they didn't.
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines romanticism as "the quality or state of being impractical or unrealistic." I use this word because we often consider all the wonderful aspects of ministry as being more than the nitty gritty that it comes down to. My youth pastor once said that for a 15 minute talk, he would spend 30 hours preparing - whether that was research, study, prayer, etc. That seems great until you add all of the counseling sessions, meetings (lots of committee meetings), hospital visits, coffees with new members, struggling members, otherwise curious members, etc. That seems really fantastic until a phone call of a death in the church interrupts your lunch or dinner with a long-lost family member, or your spouse and kids. Perhaps it doesn't seem so nice when you are an itenerant pastor who moves every 2 to 4 years, uprooting your kids, leaving family and friends behind, and being unsure of what the future holds.
Perhaps you are wondering why I'm even talking about this when I am pursuing a degree in education. Special education - at that! Some are upset that I'm not going to be at the forefront of the movement to allow LGBTQ folks to be ordained. Some are curious to know why education, when I got out of education in the first place. Some still see the "pastor" in me and struggle to understand why I'm "not pursuing God's call in my life." I'm not going to answer all of these things in this post. But you should also know that this romanticism occurs in just about every career. How many times have you thought, "Oh, teachers have it pretty easy - they have weekends and Summers off." Or have you ever thought about doctors - "They dictate their own schedule and they have a giant, marvelous salary." Perhaps I'm not at the forefront of LGBTQ folks having the ability to be ordained and maybe I do love the church and know a whole lot about it! BUT - I also have a huge passion for those on the outskirts, especially those with disabilities. You will probably never find me at something like PRIDE or an event similar. I don't like labels. I don't like when there are boxes to be checked to classify us a something different. My marriage is still a marriage. My chronic illness labels still make me a person with feelings that can be built up or broken. My ministry is still a ministry, even if I don't wear the robe or give sermons on a regular basis anymore.
Special education in and of itself is a label. I get that. You just read my rant about labels - but special education is more than the label. It is the opportunity to even the playing field. It is the ability to allow kids to be kids and help them to live into their dreams. It is the opportunity to teach the children who are most in need. The opportunity to teach those who need extra help and learn from them as much as they learn from me. It is the opportunity to teach. Life skills, academics, social skills, behavior management skills, etc. It is the opportunity to teach. Did I mention the whole teaching thing?
About 5 months ago - or so, I was asked what I loved the most about the idea of being a pastor. Knowing the "crap" that pastors have to deal with on a day to day basis, of ALL of that, I said the ability to teach. Whether that is to teach a class or to teach/preach a sermon, that is what most appeals to me. That is when I realized that maybe I had it wrong. Maybe I was relying on the romanticized idea of what it meant to be a pastor and that was limiting me from being able to be able to see other career choices. I have always wanted to be a preacher, a teacher, or a librarian. Perhaps what I was missing was the connective link between all of them. Perhaps if I had looked hard enough and deep enough into myself, I would have seen that I just want to teach. To acquire a lot of knowledge and share that knowledge with the world around me. I want to teach people of God and "peace & love Jesus". Teach people that they are more than the limits of labels and everyone's perception of who you should or shouldn't be. Teach people that the ability to learn is within us all. To teach is a skill and an art that I want to perfect. Do I miss preaching? YES! Do I miss teaching people the backstory of a Hebrew word? Of course. Do I miss the romanticized idea of being a pastor? Sure. BUT - I can tell you that I will be just as happy, if not happier, being a full-time educator. And who knows, maybe I'll become one of those crazy professors that teach the teachers. Maybe I'll take a summer off and explore Israel and speak Hebrew fluently. Maybe I will inspire others to learn of other languages and cultures by hosting foreign exchange students. Maybe I will be able to serve in student's and kid's ministries and share more about "Hippy Jesus" challenging them to look at God in a very real and personal way while still being crazy cool. Maybe I'll lead (or even run) summer camps and mission trips. Maybe I'll share my love of reading. Maybe I'll lead a Bible Study some day that talks about how we, as people, can do something to Tikkun Olam (repair the world). Maybe, just maybe, I'll impact the life of one of my students and he/she will live and fruitful and thriving life because they were taught that they were valued and loved.
Maybe I have a romanticized view of teaching too...But maybe, I can learn how the nitty gritty of the job does make an impact. Maybe I can learn to teach and utilize my every day to teach those who need some extra time or to learn it in a different way. I believe fully that I, in this moment and at this time, was created to teach. For now, perhaps that is in a school. Maybe someday, and I won't put it past God, that teaching will occur behind a pulpit....BUT - I hear those are going out of style anyway. Living room couches are much more comfortable, not to mention the glorious smell of coffee shops!
FInd your niche, people. Don't expect to know it right at 18yo when you're picking a major...but find what you're passionate about. Explore what is out there and what God cares about. Don't ignore any clues along the way. Perhaps I should have realized that I was meant for special education a lot sooner than now. BUT for right now, in this moment, I am glad to be pursuing my certification. Do I wish I had started sooner and already been in a classroom? Sure! Will I be happy in 25 years doing the same thing? Who knows?! I may be doing something totally different by then. But for right now, I am happy.
Are you happy? Did you have a romanticized idea of your career before you got into it? Do you still hold a romanticized idea of any particular career? Consider it your challenge to see the good and the nitty gritty in each career. Consider it your challenge to appreciate the people who do the job you could never do (or would never want to do) and focus on the impact you can make right where you're at.