November 6, 2012

The Good in Defeat (or what feels like it)

She didn’t bother to say, “Hey, call me back when you get this,” which, now, in retrospect I kinda understand. Hearing this would have perked my ears and imagination to think I got the job. Alas, it was all there, everything I needed to hear in that simple voice message.

Honestly, I was a little surprised I didn’t get the job. Maybe I was too positive about it. I went in for an interview last week for a youth pastor position at a church in Bellevue, Wa. Overall, the interview was good. I was told that I was the only person called in for an interview. Shocked, I excitedly figured I had a good chance, no? The pay was good, which I wish wasn’t a deciding factor (but anyone who has shaken hands with the devil and successfully found themselves floundering in student loans will readily attest to the necessity of a decent salary). And it was a job I wanted: youth pastor. Hello! Just the thought of seriously engaging students--junior to senior high to college--in matters of Christian faith and spirituality can spark an all-too-easily-lit fire I usually keep contained in the bottom of my heart.

This is all I want to do: saturate young imaginations in God’s narrative, the story he’s writing, ya know, the one from the dawn of time and give them an example, a life of a struggling, attempting-yet-failing, loving, thinking, experimenting, life-taking-serious Christian and preach the best sermons I got and teach them about faith in a way that’s creative, embodied and wise. Ok, there’s more, but this sums up a major chunk.

And some may find this fascinating or stupid or both, but I spent a good amount of time this night talking to myself--by social standards that is. But I wasn’t, technically. I was preaching and instructing teenagers--in my imagination! Although, youth workers got some attention as well. A little weird I know.

Today though, honestly, felt like a defeat. It wasn’t just about being rejected as youth pastor from the Bellevue church. That was the culmination of a number of setbacks. Amongst other things, there are emails I set to churches and pastors that were inquiring or needing a youth pastor that have yet to be responded to. Emails are pretty impersonal, sure. And I know pastors get a ton. But if some guy takes the time to send an email, cover letter and resume seeking about an opportunity at your church send something back. Right? In the face of the neglect I would have seen even one simple “thank you” as super pleasant.

You can ask a bunch of my friends: I was perfectly torn, and for a long time, upon graduation, between youth pastoring or teaching english abroad. Constantly, like a pendulum, my mind alternated between these two options. I had legit reasons for both. Doing the latter is still something I would love to do somehow, sometime, somewhere. But I want to youth pastor. Hands down. I minored in it for a reason.

Amidst feelings of frustration and disappointment, and in true Davidic style, tonight, I encourage myself: Son, what great warrior, athlete or CEO has never been shackled to defeat? What hero has achieved their status flawlessly, with no cuts or bruises, embarrassment or shellacking? Could such a scoundrel be remembered as great? I know it’s not about fame or glory, but you must see properly the nature of defeat. Do you see only failure, only a sight to be mocked? Wrong! Of course there is more to it than that! God sees you son. And where he sees you he will lead you. So rejoice that he would bless you with such a gift, with such a great teacher. Everything that happens, remember, passes through God’s purifying flame of love, his ever burning agape. In such divine love, even the most unpleasant thing is consumed in order to bring about what's authentically good. Carry on!