Tom Petty was more right than he ever knew- the waiting is the hardest part. By the time we got to our second adoption process you’d think CavWife and I would have had Ph.D.s in waiting. After all, both of us had spent most of our adult lives, then over 20 years, waiting for one thing or another.
We both waited vocationally. CavWife wanted to be a teacher, in a Christian school: a particular Christian school (mine is not to wonder why). After graduating with her degree in Elementary Education, she waited. No, she didn’t sit in a room by the phone waiting for them to call until she was covered in dust and cobwebs. She ended up working at the Bible Institute she had attended for 2 years. But her eye was always on that Christian school. For 8 years she waited, hoping, enduring long Adirondack winters.
She’d given up- the demanding anyway. She still had the desire, but she was no longer demanding God do this for her. She was amazed when they called. Oddly, it was difficult for her to leave upstate NY and her dearest friends that she met during that period of life.
I left the small city I grew up in just before I turned 25. I was going to seminary: over 1,000 miles away. I was escaping the cold, and a series of relational disappointments. Seminary wasn’t my plan even though it was The Plan. I thought God was crazy, but one day He turned the light bulb on and The Plan was suddenly sweet. So I wasn’t just running from things, I was also running to something. But my plan was to return to New England when I was done. Little did I know that I’d be stuck in Florida for the next 19 years. Sometimes the wait is how we move from our plan to His plan; it is a slow course correction. Our hearts need time to transition from our plan to His.
After seminary, ministry opportunities were hard to find. All the cards were stacked against me. I was a Baptist who had Reformed convictions before it was cool. My timing has always been a little off. I was single. I was honest about my sin before Christ. I was also scared.
Just before graduation I was talking with a church in AZ. I didn’t want to be a youth pastor, but they were hoping to build a biblical training center and that would provide the intellectual challenge I really wanted. But it was not in New England. And it was not in Florida where I some great friends. I rashly ended the process. Sometimes we wait because of our fear & stupidity.
I maintained the part time job I’d had the last 2 years of seminary. In my off hours I wrote 2 books which have still not seen the light of day. And I tried to find a full time position in ministry. I learned the hard way that churches don’t want you to be honest about your past. They know their pastors are sinners; they just don’t want them to have ever sinned. After 1 and ½ years I finally got a job at the parachurch educational ministry run by the man whose teaching brought me to Florida in the first place.
I spent the next 2+ years there. I changed churches, and (more importantly) views on baptism. I led 2 mission trips. The sense of call kept bubbling back up but I didn’t have “experience” even though I’d probably preached over a hundred times including the 25th anniversary of the ministry’s founding. I decided to return to seminary part time for another degree to add to my skill set to try again. Sometimes the wait is about humbling you and preparing you.
In the middle of that first semester a friend recommended me to a small church about an hour away. I had taken a few of the one week winter classes, and was disappointed that I would not start the practicum in the counseling center with the rest of my classmates. After an announcement at work about big changes in ministry philosophy, I spent my lunch hour at the gym asking God to get me out of there. That afternoon I was laid off. The next day I interviewed with the search committee. The next week I spent all my severance on a full course load including the practicum.
I didn’t get the position right away. They initially wanted someone else. I got an internship in a church plant in a different small city an hour away. But it was in the same denomination. When their guy fell threw, they came to hear me preach while the pastor was on vacation. Finally, after more than 4 years of waiting I finally became a pastor (and not a youth pastor). Somewhere along the line, thanks to John Piper, I became aware of Isaiah 64:4; “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.” I was learning to trust Him to work behind the scenes while I … waited.
[This is adapted from an essay I wrote for a book. It has been many months, and I don’t think it will see the light of day. So… here it is.