From NOTHING to SOMETHING
This past week, I got a chance to talk with one of recent grads who I had the pleasure of teaching in my first class last year. As we talked, a question came up that brought with it an interesting (yet understandable) response. When I asked “So what are you doing now?” their response was very similar to grads from our institution who don’t end up in a pastoring job:
“…nothing really…just working at _______________...”
So like always, I should clarify why this stood out to me...
Where I work, we make it a goal to train people, who sense God’s call on their lives for ministry, FOR ministry in whatever context (Check out a post on the theme of calling here). That said, not everyone ends up with a job post-graduation, no different than students leaving other universities or training institutions. I do believe that our students who graduate are best equipped to serve our churches but it doesn’t always happen that way. And so, to pay off loans and to begin the next chapter, a job is taken UNTIL. What’s the UNTIL? It’s different for everyone, I guess. (The same conversation took place about a week earlier when a good friend and I went out for coffee and saw a former student of ours working at a popular franchise…)
And so the feeling of “I spent X amount of dollars on school and all I got in return was a retail job”-shame settles in. A feeling of "why them with the job and not me". A feeling of bitterness as others succeed. A feeling of silent anger at God. A feeling of “…well, nothing really…”
This can happen in various stages in one’s life:
- ...To the one who graduates and simply doesn’t get any calls from people.
- ...To the one who realizes after four years that vocational ministry isn’t for them.
- ...To the one who gets a job and bombs out after their first time to bat due to ineptitude, bad attitude and lack of altitude.
- ...To the one who gets a job and bombs out due to moral failure of various kinds.
- ...To the one who gets stuck in a rut and leaves to protect themselves.
- ...To the one who gets out of ministry to protect their family.
- ...To the one who gets married and lives with the “you went to school to get married”—stigma while their spouse is the one who gets the ‘ministry glory’.
- ...To the one who decides to get another degree in another field of study, unrelated to Christian ministry.
- ...To the one who tries various jobs but nothing ever seems to stick...
…the list is long and extensive but the feeling of “I’m doing nothing” remains.
Well I’m here to say this today: Your perceived NOTHING is SOMETHING. Until we are dead, we are doing something. It may not be the something we envisioned at the altar of a camp, at our bedside or after careful prayer and counsel. It may not be the something like THAT person’s something. But it’s God’s story for your life at the moment, and it’s good. And that goes ditto for anyone who went to school for __________ and ended up on a different path! So with that said...
…If you’re working in retail (or wherever) because you didn’t get any calls after graduation or after transitioning from your former post for various reasons, don’t worry about the calls. Worry about honoring God there. God’s using you.
…If you’re staying at home with your kids, even though you too went to school for ministry training, you’re NOT not called. Your kids need you. Your spouse needs you. And at a certain point, God will use the stories gained at home to bless people of various ages. And it may be in a church setting. Or not. That's okay. Stay sharp. Stay learning. God is using you.
…If you bombed out or failed but you’re doing the RIGHT things to get back on the horse and have to work a lot to make ends meet, don’t worry about the crowd of present people with the face of “but how are you REALLY doing?” Instead, focus on your health, your family, real friends and making things right as best as you can. Your renewed strength will bless others. God is using you.
…and if you’re working where no one can see you and feel sad because you didn’t make it, you did make it. Your money and time wasn’t and isn’t in vain. You’re not doing nothing. You’re doing something. Let your dreams continue. Let your heart, mind, soul and strength love Him and others as your love yourself.
Sometimes we start from the bottom and well...you get the rest... :)
Our NOTHING is God’s SOMETHING. And he has a great track record of using our SOMETHING.
“For the honor of Your Kingdom”
Whose reign will never end.
We give our lives in sacrifice,
Until You come again.