This weekend, I was privileged to officiate my first wedding. While there was quite a bit of running around, it was a joy to watch two members of our community begin a new life together as a husband and wife in Christ.
In the chaotic run-up to the wedding, between setting up a projector in an outlet that, hopefully, wouldn’t catch fire, sound-checking the new system, locating lost candles and pins for the boutonnieres, a random church member stopped me for a quick conversation.
It went something like this:
Person: I know a friend of your family’s from back home.
Me: That’s great!
Person: I heard from them that you went to Wharton.
Me: Yes, that true.
Person: Well, my daughter graduated from there.
Me: That’s great!
Person: She graduated with a degree in finance. What was your major?
Person: Oh, really? Then why don’t you have a job?
Me: My parents ask me that every time I talk to them.
Person: (Turns and walks away)
I suppose if I had a minute (or twenty), I would have spoken to her about the nature of vocation and calling, and that, while I don’t believe in the “professionalization” of ministry (i.e., let the paid professionals provide the religious goods & services to a passive consumer audience), I still believe being a pastor is a legitimate job. An awfully-paying job, but a legit job nonetheless.
I would have told her that it only becomes more difficult over time to realize what I sacrificed when I answered God’s call to go to seminary and enter vocational church ministry, and that – most of the time – I believe it is worth it, but I have a small panic attack every time I think of how we’ll pay for my daughter’s college education or the sting I feel when I realize we’ll most likely never own (or even be able to rent) a house.
I probably would want to tell her about how what seems small or insignificant looks like (and often feels like) failure, but that I’m convinced this is what it looks like to actually follow Jesus around, and that I want my significance to be found in joining God’s work of redemption in the world around me, not in owning more stuff (most of the time), and that I believe in the mission of God enough to hustle and scrap together what it takes to do this and still support my family.