The last few weeks have had there ups and downs, and I am learning a whole new way of life. I have spent the majority of my years in ministry working "other jobs" so as to be able to eat, sleep indoors, you know the little things in life. But life is a bit different this time around, I have a wife now and a baby on the way, so the stakes are much higher and I feel the weight of all that as I try and balance my jobs. There are the things that I am passionate about, gifts and talents I feel I have to offer, but those areas are currently available on a volunteer basis. That's just the way things work out I guess, but it becomes a bit of a battle trying to give all I can to those areas when my time is strapped and the little time I might have is filled with exhaustion and the desire to get some kind of rest. I would love to spend some real quality time with my family, spend some time hanging out with friends, and volunteering for the church, but 4:25 am is right around the corner and my brain, body and soul are aching for rest.
Now the job that provides income and insurance for my family is not what I would call ideal for me. It doesn't really integrate any of my gifts and talents, and to be honest, I'm not all that passionate about bread and food service. But this is where I am at, and I will give all I can to this job and be the best manager I can, because God has placed me in this position. It is my prayer and hope that I will be able to live out of my gifts, passions, and talents someday. My heart burns for the opportunity to serve and make a living with the gifts that God has given me, and so I wait.
And yet my time at Panera has taught me a lot, humbled me a ton, and has given me a new appreciation for those being the church outside of the church organization. I love studying, reading and thinking about the ideal way the church, and the way of Jesus could be inventively lived out. But it is easy to get disconnected from the real world and to lose a relevant compassion to the way the everyday is lived out. Not everybody gets paid to study the bible, hang out with friends talking theology and dreaming about how the church could and should be (What I did not say: that paid ministry is easy, but hopefully you catch my drift) . And I am finding how different it is to have someone share their struggles and tough times with you as a pastor, and having them share all their guts with you as a co-worker. In the last few days I have had some intense conversations with people who are struggling with their marriage, their families, and how to balance serving the church and working for a living (She wonders why the 40+ hours she works a week serving the community, doesn't always seem to be recognized or valued as being the church by the church. It honestly is a real interesting and tough discussion and she has handled it with such a huge and humble heart).
The first and third person approached me as a friend and a co-worker, but as I felt the weight of the situations I had to have us punch off the clock or wait until we had finished our shifts, so we could sit down and dive into things without wrongly getting paid. These relationships and connections have been given to me by God THROUGH this job and that just carries a weight that is just not found in words. And the other person shared their life with me because I asked, which is a wild thought, and they felt like I was a, "boss who cares about their life" (This just humbles and breaks my heart)
So although I long for the day when I can live out of the gifts and passions God has given me, I am grateful and feel blessed that God has placed me in a situation where I can match up an ideal way to be the church and the real world and real people who have to live that out. I think it gives me a unique voice in the organized church, and so I pray that God will continue to prepare me for the time when the church asks me to share that voice.