Countless rejection letters… I started losing hope, and gaining weight.
For several years I had worked as a campus minister at the University of Oregon in Eugene. The college town was the right size and pace for me. The Newman Center community was life-giving and filled me with energy. Great job, great location… but time goes by and a change is necessary. This would mean relocation, and I had known it would take some time to make it happen. But this long?
It had been a challenge preparing for an eventual departure whose time was kept hidden (even to me). I had worked to enable volunteers to handle my responsibilities, made provisions for different possibilities, shared resources.
I even prepared my home for the move by cleaning, saving boxes, and giving away items not worth packing. I began savoring relationships and the Oregon environment, knowing that I might soon leave it behind.
The job search began. Amidst the rejection letters a couple of invitations to interview arrived. On one occasion, I drove five hours to Seattle to one church for an interview that lasted about an hour—no welcome, no tour of the facility, barely a “we’ll call you,” as I was dismissed for my
five hour return trip.
I clung to a positive attitude: “No problem, I’ll find something else.”
A couple of campus ministries in Utah and Colorado were actually excited to interview me, but they were located in towns so remote I would certainly go stir crazy. I pulled out so as not to waste their time and money or mine. Another interview was in Minnesota. A twelve hour journey to the interview ensued, and a fourteen hour return. It was a great university parish: professional, pastoral, and academic. I would have been great there… but it was so far from any friends or family and cold. I was both disappointed and relieved when they called me with the “bad news” that they had hired someone else.
Then—finally—an opening in Portland, just 2 hours from Eugene. The right atmosphere, a great city, nice people, collaborative—it all made it easy for me to say, “I’ll take it.” They went with someone who had better qualifications.
After that one came and went, I gave up searching and tried to put energy into renewing the ministry in Eugene.
Who was I kidding? I started to wonder if I had made mistakes pulling out of some of the less attractive offers. I questioned if I really belonged in church work at all. Was God at work or not?
Going into labor
A time came when I had to leave, even without something lined up. I had enough money for three months of unemployment, maybe four. It felt like I had lost all control of my life, but I walked out of the office on the last day with flowers and cards in hand, my chin up. I would not let anyone see the fear bubbling up in my throat.
For the next two months, I had to trust God and depend on the generosity of those who offered support, encouragement, and the occasional meal.
Finally—when the time was right—an opening at a parish church in the San Francisco Bay Area presented itself. From the moment I sent my first email, it was “green light” all the way.
Now I understand that I couldn’t have come to this place any sooner than I did. God’s promise
needed time to gestate, to be fulfilled. I had to wait for something I could not see or control.
It was worth it. Six months later, I am happy and many of the labor pains are forgotten.
Image credits: J.P. Regalado, BustedHalo staff photographer (train station); Ed Nowak,
CSP (winter trees); Oregon (map) and California state web sites (bridge and lake).