“I don’t work at Pneumat anymore”, Marrett texted, and I let out a heavy breath. It had been coming, I knew, but the reality of him being unemployed for the second time in two years took the wind out of me.
Almost two years ago, my husband lost his career to an unfair decision I’m still not inclined to talk about, the appeals of which are ongoing. We’ve spent so much energy on this fight, and two years later, what we have to show for it is a hefty chunk of personal debt and little else. The job at Pneumat was a gift of God through members of my church, when we had desperate need, and I continue to be grateful for it.
The gift wasn’t a permanent solution though. It became increasingly apparent the job wasn’t a great fit for Marrett’s passions, skills, or schedule. When his dad got sick in January, requiring us to take over his decision-making, the amount of time he needed off made it clear to both us and his bosses that is was time to end his tenure. And it wasn’t the job loss that took the wind out of me, as much as it was we still didn’t know what Marrett is meant to do with the rest of his life.
So a couple of days after that breath-stealing text, Marrett and I agreed we’ve got to stop waiting to figure out our future. We can’t move without changing our shared custody agreements, and there are no jobs in his field within commuting distance. A career change is the only option. Maybe an MBA, he said. Maybe an accounting degree. He’s always been good with numbers, and a friend of ours just sped through the local university with her own career change from pastor to CPA.
“I will support whatever you decide,” I told him, “but neither of those options sound like work that would make you happy, where you’d be fulfilled.” His face told me he knew I was right, but his sense of obligation keeps telling him he needs to be the primary earner for our family again soon. “I don’t know what it is,” I continued, “but maybe God is calling you to something new. Maybe this isn’t about a career change, but a new calling.”
His expression went from pained to irritated, as he hurled an accusation at me: “I told you when all this began that I wanted to think about being a pastor, and you said no.”
For a moment, I was shocked in to silence. What had I said? I remembered him mentioning it shortly after losing his job, but I didn’t remember the conversation well. Which meant he was probably right: I’d blown it off as a whim, and tried to convince him that having two pastors in our family wasn’t the right answer to the big question his life was forcing him to ask.
In those moments of silence, I felt the familiar weight of the Holy Spirit settling over us like a nesting bird. Dammit, this was something I needed to pay attention to. With that realization came a second one, less welcome than the first: I’d been wrong to respond the way I did to my husband’s first inkling of call, and I was going to have to apologize. I hate apologizing with an intensity that is unbecoming of a Christian and a pastor, but even concerted effort hasn’t changed that feeling.
Fortunately, it has changed my behavior, so I invited my husband to lunch the next day, as I’ve found that apologies are easier mustered and received with Diet Coke and fries. “I’m sorry for shutting down your sense of call. What I should’ve said was: you have so many traits and talents that would make you a wonderful pastor, and if that is what God is calling you to do, then we will follow together.”
* * *
That was the beginning of Lent, and this is the week before Holy Week. And while I stand by what I said, it’s not the whole story. Yes, we will follow, but I’m not excited about it. Yes, he will make a wonderful pastor, but I never wanted to be married to a pastor.
Our family life is complicated enough, with 5 children, one of whom has autism, and the wonky schedule of one church’s demands. This Saturday night, as we negotiated the Sunday morning schedule, all I could think was “there no way we’ll be able to do this with two separate churches”. Not to mention the stresses of going back to school, jumping hoops in the candidacy process for our denomination, and finding work that will keep us from adding too much more to that personal debt.
I know I should be thanking God for revealing this next part of her intention for Marrett, and part of me is. The other part is muttering grumpily under those thanksgivings about the complications that will come with this call. I know Jesus never promised the life of faith would be easy, but I’d really appreciate it if he’d stop making it THIS hard. I feel like we’ve only just gotten our footing as a couple again after the addition of baby Ceci, and here comes Jesus to shake things up again. My most honest prayer these days is the title of this post: Dear Jesus, stop f***ing up my life. On a good day, I add “please”.
Mercifully, Jesus answers prayers like these too, and with a devilish sense of humor. The same day I was going to take my husband to lunch to apologize and affirm his call, it was my turn to lead the morning bible study at church. We were studying Galatians, and that morning’s text was chapter 2, which ends with these words: I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.
That’s a little heavy-handed, Jesus, don’t you think? Do we really need to use the word crucified here?
But Jesus knows me well, and in moments like these, knows I need a big serving of humble pie. It’s not your life anymore, remember? Jesus says in his gentlest voice. When your parents dedicated you as a baby, when you were baptized in the Lutheran church, when you made ordination promises at the same altar where you were confirmed, your life and mine were joined. You are my person and I am your God. We belong to each other, even when it’s not convenient for either of us. But dear one, remember how much I love you? I’d never call you to a journey that will harm you, and the same goes for your family, who I love even more than you do.
And the life I now live in the flesh, the apostle continues in his letter, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Right now, faith is all I’ve got as I look toward a future I’m still not sure I want. But if the past is any prediction, faith will be all I need.