Reading an interesting book at the moment –
The Making of the American Conservative Mind — National Review And Its Times. What has struck me at the moment is the discussion of Utopian-ism versus Pragmatism. (Why one requires a hyphen and the other doesn’t is another story.)
I was trained to be a pastor. As such, I was schooled in the very depths of my religion, the terminus of which is Utopia. At the same time, I was trained to understand that, while one should not compromise one’s beliefs in the mean time, one also shouldn’t be expecting to be liked or appreciated for being uncompromising. We spoke at length of the church militant and the church triumphant.
As I have transitioned away from the sacred arena and into the political theater, and, at the same time, had to deal with the practical matters of putting bread on the table and keeping the fire going, I have found it quite difficult to find the pragmatism that the secular world requires. I am not Jesus, after all. I want to feed the 5000, but I can’t multiply loaves and fish.
Perhaps there is nothing more difficult than to have proverbially been to the transfiguration mount and then to have to plummet back to the gloom and grind that is daily life. One day, you have a captive audience to hang on your words, follow your lead, supply you with daily bread (a nice salary, or at least one to live on and enough side benefits) and a sure purpose for getting up every morning. The next day you find yourself just one of many voices, having no more or less authority than the next, and little to say to the world, much less any value given to it that you can eat with.
That was some 26 years ago for me. Since then I have kicked around for a new career, eventually found one, threw caution to the winds in an attempt to grab the brass ring (became materialist), and discovered too late that sure things only are sure if the timing is right and your chosen investment area doesn’t have a complete meltdown.
Some time ago, I started working with ex-cons. I have discovered that ex-cons and ex-pastors have a lot in common. You never get over the stigma of what you once were. Once a criminal, always a criminal. After all, only some people make mistakes bad enough to land them in prison, so they must be less trustworthy, more hotheaded, or something than those who didn’t land there. In the same way, an ex-pastor has to have something wrong with him to be an ex-pastor. After all, that’s what he trained for all those years. If he couldn’t cut it in his field, he certainly can’t be trusted in a field for which he has no training. Besides, he’s probably a little too honest for this sales job, or too high and mighty to be happy with this low level job, or too stupid for this technical career.
On the bright side, Jezebel has not threatened to kill me before the day is out. My only threat is from financial swords. I’m hemorrhaging badly. So I find myself, on this day, wanting to run and hide, wanting to admit defeat, throw in the towel, wait for the world to finish crashing in and just get it over with already.
I feel like Elijah. He ran far away from Jezebel and hid in a cave. I am running and hiding in plain sight, but I am still hiding. God gave Elijah a few days to pout and consider his terrible lot and what a failure he was. Then he told him to prepare for his coming. First God sent winds and earthquakes and all kinds of apocalyptic signs. But God didn’t come in those signs. He came in a gentle whisper. And he told Elijah, “Get back to Israel, because there are 7000 there who still believe in me and need a leader.”
I don’t know that God will ever call me again in the way he called Elijah. I don’t know that I will ever find myself leading a congregation, expounding the truths of God from a pulpit. By I do know that I am called to be a priest. I have a purpose on this planet, even on the days when I seem like a total failure and have no idea what to do next. And so I am listening for a gentle whisper. That gentle whisper will come to me as I dig into the fifteen centuries of his revelation of himself and his plan as recorded in the Bible. I will not wake up tomorrow with all the answers. But I will wake up with the answers that matter–God still loves me, he still has a plan for me. And even if he never makes it plain to me what my purpose is, I can believe that he will accomplish it.
I am a weak human being. Each year that passes, I am a little weaker It takes more effort to harness my energy to accomplish something. At the same time, each year that passes, I am a little wiser. It takes me less time to figure out that he is the power that makes my feeble efforts accomplish something. This little blog is evidence of that. Maybe it will never mean much to you, but it means something to me. You see, any preacher worth his salt always preachers to himself first.