“You wasted your time becoming a priest,” the voice on the other side of the line said. My heart sank, there was nothing I could respond to that. How does one even respond to such a thing when you know you are on the right path and when it has been affirmed by so many? I think I responded “okay, well have a good afternoon,” but to be honest, I don’t remember. Regardless, the conversation was over and I only remember being told I’d wasted my time.
The statement was from someone whose opinion I cared a lot about, but I care a lot about most people’s opinions. I care a lot more than I probably should. To be honest, it threw me off for years, chasing dreams that weren’t mine and that ultimately distracted me from my walk with God.
Early last year, 2016, I started to get this sinking feeling that I was wasting my time, spinning my wheels at the biotech job that I held. I had worked for the company for over eight years and the work was good, but I could see it going nowhere. I grew more and more frustrated and with each added frustration more depressed and discouraged. One morning I woke up and realized, I’m wasting my time.
I talked with friends, some encouraged me to stay and others saw that it was time for me to find a new road. They did this, not because they wanted me to go away, but because they saw what I saw. At the end of the day, it was time to move on. It was time to stop wasting my time.
In late August I accepted an assisting priest position at a small Anglican church outside of Asheville, North Carolina. I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place to live. Out of my office window, I see mountains, there are mountains everywhere, it is truly beautiful. Yet, sometimes I feel lost. I am still a self-supporting priest, and it’s hard.
I couldn’t balance my call to be a good priest and pastor at my old job, and I constantly felt like I was wasting my time at the biotech company while failing as a priest. I know the congregation I was serving understood my position, but I kept hitting my head against one wall after another. It wasn’t anything they said or did, it was just how I felt. Still, my heart would soar on Sunday mornings and come crashing down when I’d return to work.
Lately, for better or for worse I’ve been trying to cut it as a freelance writer. I can’t say I’ve been met with an overwhelming amount of success, but it has been okay. Then someone asked me why I did something for my writing career and everything came to a halt. I suppose I hadn’t really considered it a career until I read those words. I know I should, or at least I should treat it like a career.
One of my dear friends and my former bishop wrote me at the time of my ordination to the diaconate words I will always remember. Ordained life is not a career, it is a vocation (or something along those lines). I try to be on guard to not treat my priestly life too much like a career. It is not a career it is a vocation. Yet, I’m struggling to discern how it is that I live this life as a priest, pay my bills.
In all of these struggles, I don’t want to waste any more time, I don’t want to bumble along doing anything less than being the best presbyter possible. Doing anything less than living as one who has been redeemed.
I have read from friends that their time of travail, their time of uncertainty, unknowing, yearning for something more than they’ve been given and how they came out the other side more faithful, stronger in the Lord. I know that this season is the same as they’ve discussed. I know that when tomorrow comes I will be stronger, more faithful than I was today. Yet sometimes in the valley, it seems hard and dark.
I can say without a doubt in my voice, that becoming an Anglican presbyter was not a waste of time, in fact, it’s the only thing I’ve done in my life that I’m sure of. I could spend a day listing my regrets and still have more, but that would only serve to prove that I am a sinner, whose God is more merciful than I deserve.
Our vocations are no light thing, they are our callings. People are called to be mothers and fathers, called to be doctors and plumbers. We grow to be content in these callings, but it takes time and God is glorified in them. I don’t want people to walk away thinking the only way to be a faithful Christian is to be a presbyter. This is only my account of working out what which I am called to with fear and trembling.
As I write this, I ask for your prayers. That I would trust in God alone for His provision. That I would persevere through these times and come out the other side with a heart of joy, even in difficult seasons, that I would be a stronger, more faithful presbyter and that I would have peace.