On a crisp Monday morning in early January, I have the luxury of sitting at my keyboard in pajamas. The holidays are officially over and I did not trudge back to work with the rest of America. Ostensibly I am on vacation, but this feels decidedly different than any vacation I’ve previously enjoyed. This is a precipice vacation, a place to breath before here and there. This is the grace-filled offering of church leaders who recognized that their pastor simply needed a break, a month of vacation before the final swan song in ministry. And I am grateful.
But as I sit at the keyboard considering the landscape, I realize that how I label this place makes all of the difference. Vacation implies rest and though I am engaging (thankfully) in that pursuit, I am also simultaneously soul-searching and job searching. What do I want to be when I grow up? What do I want to do with this one wild and precious life that is mine? This retirement’s intent was to close one chapter with intention in order that another might blossom. But what?
Truthfully, I would like to do just this: consider life and describe it with words at my keyboard. I would like to consider the profundities, the absurdities, the sacred intersections and invite others to do the same. I am essentially a ponderer at heart, with a vantage point that is uniquely my own and (perhaps equally importantly) a humble recognition that we each have such a window. I would like to describe mine in such a way that you look more closely through your own. Of course such an endeavor is not a profession but rather the pastime of an elite subsection of our culture, those privileged with time, a keyboard, and a passion to write. So in addition to pondering I have been engaged in various flirtations with potential employment opportunities.
With the singular exception of a very bad form job offer last Wednesday, I have had a woefully underwhelming experience in the job market. When I received the courtesy of a rejection letter today, tears burst to the surface. The position was temporary and not likely to lead to a longterm position, but I had assumed that I would be a likely match and the pre-interview rejection was disappointing. It is a tight market, to be sure, and I am an over-under qualified applicant for almost any position. The profession upon which I’ve spent my passion and talent is quickly unraveling and has little to no value in the wider community; in fact I’ve been advised to remove any reference to a church related profession in my resume and from interviews. And there is the harsh reality that I am “that” age; old enough to again have raging hormones and too young to retire. All of which is to say, I am all too keenly aware that I’ve walked out of safe zone and into the unknown.
Admittedly I am perplexed and even a tad affronted that my (very respectable) career in the church is actually an albatross as I venture forth. To be fair, by the time that women were accepted in ministry and I was entering the profession, the institutional church was already moving from the mainstream to the margins. In these few short decades since, the movement has become something of a landslide cruising past the margins to a place unmentionable. As the institution crumbles from the inside out, with denominations like my own seeing membership halved even as the decline quickens, the Master’s degree that I hold from an accredited seminary is at best a curiosity. My years of successful work in the church likewise apparently untranslatable. Whatever this new chapter holds, it cannot be built upon the last one and this is a most painful truth.
Inasmuch as this is a vacation Monday, I might treat myself to a hot bath and a good book. But insofar as this is also the first day of the rest of my life, I am aware that as the solid rock of the church dissolves so too do my credentials as a clergyperson. Having chosen to step aside from the institution, it is clear that I can take nothing with me. It is as if I were re-entering the job market after 27 years in purgatory.
This much I do know, the place in which I find myself today is neither purgatory nor limbo. This is a quiet place in which the spirit is speaking and I am seeking to listen. This is a place where the sky is brilliantly blue and the passion that is the coming of spring is at work deep within the earth. Admittedly what lies ahead has not come into view and what beckons in the rearview mirror is a taunting mirage.
Today must be lived on its own terms, which apparently includes a few tears, a couple of applications, a blog post or two, and (pleasantly) the season opener of Downton Abbey. Today, on its own terms, is gratitude for choice and acknowledgement of the anxiety that accompanies uncertainty. Today, on its own terms is one day. And this one day? It is very good.