12 August 2010

Confessing the Cost of Vocation

I'm in Chicago with four of our students for Follow Me: Sharing the Gospel in a 2.0 World. It's been an enriching experience thus far: time to re-connect with colleagues, strengthen ties across the church and hear from others about ways to be the hands and feet of Christ in a culture becoming more and more suspicious of or apathetic to the church. I met Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, who I've appreciated from a distance for a few years now but never had the opportunity to meet in real life. (Her church, House for All Sinners and Saints, sells the awesome shirt shown here) I heard a passionate sermon from Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, which in itself is remarkable because, even with all of his many gifts taken into account, "passionate" is not a word I would have formerly used to describe the man. Seeing that side of a leader I greatly respect was empowering. His message, which was to meet the question, "Can anything good come out of Christianity?" with Philip's response, "Come and see" was inspiring. My hotel room is swanky and my roommate is gracious, especially when it comes to putting up with my snoring.

All of this good stuff, however, comes with a cost. Normally the cost is simply time away from my girls, which in itself is never fun, but endurable in the short term. Campus ministry is a specialized ministry that puts a lot of us out "on the island" in our local context, so we need this time together, even though it takes us away from family and friends. This time, however, the cost is considerably more painful. A flood swept through Ames this week, and unfortunately my being at this conference has left Beloved on her own with our girls in Ames with no day care, no potable water from city lines and heat indexes above 100 degrees. They're safe: friends have provided drinking water, there's water for bathing and toilets, the electricity is running and we didn't have any water in the house. But this week will never make Beloved's list of top ten favorite weeks of all time. Not by a long, long shot.

All of us, not just pastors, have these moments where your vocation, whatever it may be, comes with a price. For the farmer, it's the continual anxiety about rain, sunshine, hail and the gazillion other things that can ruin a crop every single year. For the teacher, it's the long hours, low pay and continual managing of all the different hurdles between a student and their educational progress. For the manager, it's juggling schedules and emotions, maintaining the proper balance between caring for employees and remaining the boss. Every job comes with a price to pay. I think the difference between a profession and a vocation is the willingness to pay the price - and maybe vocation takes an unhealthy turn when one doesn't even notice how high the price has become.

I'm going to be uncomfortable most of my time here, not because Beloved has laid a guilt trip on me, but because I'm torn between my vocation as a husband/father and my vocation as a pastor. Jesus help me if I ever stop noticing how much the latter takes away from the former; if that happens, I'm not sufficiently equipped to be either.

Grace & peace,

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