Saturday, July 14, 2007

Wrestling, revisited

I've been off the blog here lately, dealing with a pretty major issue (actually two related issues). I've decided to write about it here.

The friends who've been keeping up with my employment situation are aware that, as things stand now, I have two disparate areas of work: my position as part-time minister of music at my much-loved church, and my scrambling efforts to stay employed in the secular business world as an administrative support worker. The former is very stable; I find a great deal of satisfaction ministering in an area in which I'm technically very competent and which is a good match for a number of my strongest gifts. The latter, unfortunately, is sapping much of my strength and energy. The work isn't; here again, I'm more than competent and bring a lot of good skills to the positions I've filled. The problem is that over and over again, the positions that could have/were supposed to result in a job offer, have fizzled or shifted or been eliminated. As much as I try to tell myself it's no reflection on who I am, each disappointment rips out a piece of me. I suppose that's because I don't just show up and work like an automaton; I put a lot of myself into my work and take pride in the excellence of what I do. When the job goes away, it's difficult not to see that as a negative judgment of the value of who I am and what I can do.

The obvious answer (for quite some time now) is to work full-time at the part-time job. That would be great, if I could only afford to stop doing secular work. But I am my own sole support. A pitifully small retirement fund is my only "nest egg." Other than marrying for money--something for which I have had exactly zilch offers--there's no way to make ends meet if I ditch the secular employment. This is not whining, this is fact.

(It's this reality that makes me laugh sometimes at the patriarchalists' pontifications that claim a woman's only godly option is to "be a keeper at home." That's all well and good and should be a viable, honorable choice--for those women who are truly called to minister primarily to husbands and children. Those of us who have neither, simply don't exist in their myopic little world. But I digress...)

A United Methodist church the next county over is searching for a full-time music minister. After much prayer and consultation with the dear friend who is also my pastor, I've applied. After speaking with the pastor to follow up on sending my resume, it appears I'm a strong candidate. (This was confirmed by my pastor, who also spoke with him.)

The thing is, I hate to even think of leaving my church. It's a seriously painful prospect. However, the ongoing pain (to say nothing of the financial uncertainty) of never knowing if I have a job to go to that will pay the bills, has become overwhelming to me. With every assignment I accept, it has become harder and harder to psych myself up to be perky and optimistic and positive. (I'm not genuinely any of those things even at my best! So I'm doing a whole lot of faking of it now.)

(Note to my readers: If you have an administrative assistant or associate with anyone who does administrative support work for you, PLEASE don't treat such people as disposable, as though there's ten more just like 'em where they came from. That's a unique, gifted child of God who is doing a valuable job for you, probably for pay most other people would laugh at. Cherish that person as an intelligent employee. They're not human wallpaper, even if they're "just a temp." Too many people have no concept just how poorly they treat administrative support personnel. That's somebody's life they're messing with. If they're not doing things up to snuff, talk to them! They are probably capable of a lot more and with a little encouragement could end up being invaluable to you. End of rant/suggestion/encouragement to keep on loving your admin support folks.)

A full-time position like this is what I earned my degree to do. It was a cold blow to learn, upon searching for a full-time music ministry position, that that degree would have to be a stepping-stone to an advanced degree if I ever wanted to work in such a position. It was when I was doing just that that my marriage failed, my money ran out, and God seemed to be moving me toward a different kind of ministry. I'm still not out of that bewildering territory. Just what AM I called to do? In answer to that ongoing question, this door seems to be opening. Is this going to be the means by which I eventually return to school and finish SOME master's degree? I don't know. I do know that I'm called to be faithful, trusting God to reveal enough of the way so that I may follow. My heart's been in the desert for a long time, ever since leaving pastoral ministry six years ago. During those four precious years, I knew without doubt that I was where God wanted me to be, doing what God was callign me to do. My soul almost died when I left. Now, the grace and love that surround me part of the time, at my church, serve to underscore just how lacking in grace and love much of the business world is. I have tried, very hard, to be faithful in that desert, offering God in whatever ways I could to those with whom I've worked. But that's very different from the clearly ongoing call to help equip the saints to minister in the world.

Is this possible return to full-time church ministry God's supply of a field in which to labor? I don't know. I suppose I'll know when and if the position is offered to me. All the experts say to do what you love, and the money will follow. I don't know about that. I do know that I've longed for a very long time to do what I'm passionate about: helping fellow disciples to grow in Jesus Christ and to develop and use their own gifts for ministry. It's what I'm gifted to do. It's what I'm called to do. It's what I want to do. Dear God, you know it's what I've been trying to do for all these years.

I'm trying to trust you.

3 comments:

P.S. an after-thought said...

I've wondered where you've been. But since it is summer....

Your posting was extremely open and honest about where you've been and where you might go.

Sounds like your present church is one that has nurtured you to nurture others.

Have you worshipped at the other church to see if you like the atmosphere?

I'm sure it is difficult for all but a very large church to have enough for a full time musician to do. I'm not saying that I take the work for granted, because I do think that musicians ARE taken for granted from what I've seen, BUT that the members could wonder what the person could do "full time."

It sounds like you have gifts for encouragement and the "growing" of other people's talents and ministries. I hope that you can do that in where ever you decide to go.

I can sure understand your feelings about the other jobs. I've seen where personal numbers were "reduced through attrition." In one case, three districts were put under the direction of one person. Yeah right, that didn't last long.

But so often when somebody leaves a job, a new person isn't hired in time for the old person to train them. Makes it look like the boss doesn't have a clue of how complicated some jobs can be.

Psalmist said...

Hi, P.S. Actually, since I'm on vacation from my church, I did visit the one at which I've applied. While they're decidedly less friendly than where I now work and worship, I can tell that I'd be able to work well within their worship framework. As open as I am toward innovation and new music, I'm still quite traditional in both my training and personal preferences, and it's definitely a traditional church.

Thank you very much for commenting. I appreciate your words of encouragement, more than I know how to convey. You're a blessing!

zorra said...

I'm glad to get an update. It sounds like a new adventure may begin soon!