My Strange Vocation, Part 3
Nancy turned out to be even more amazing than I had thought. She was trained as an accountant, but she now exhibited the traits of a counselor. We spent hours, night after night, trying to make sense out of my calling. All I could share with her was a cluster of impressions, inner promptings, and “sensings” that were mostly nonverbal. I wasn’t sure who had the harder job — me, trying to speak the unspeakable, or her, straining to understand what I couldn’t put into words. She asked probing questions, and she did understand — better than anybody else ever had.
But I couldn’t understand how to proceed. I became increasingly convinced that my ministry was in the fields of writing and public speaking. But how could I write and speak publicly about ideas I couldn’t even put into words? Nancy helped me find those words. I became especially good at using analogies to hint at my ideas. I wrote down the following questions:
Is God intimately involved in the daily routine of the modern factory or office complex? Is God doing anything worth talking about in the day-to-day lives of biochemists, computer programmers, health professionals, or journalists? Is God at all active in the daily work of salespeople, city planners, or law enforcement officers? Does God appreciate the significance of the technical problems faced by people in their jobs? And is God in any way involved in the day-to-day work of the human race?
(You may recognize these as the questions I asked in my first post at this site. I took them straight off the list that I jotted down almost thirty years ago.)
Nancy helped me put my project into words. But there was still this major hurdle: that I didn’t know how to proceed to answer those questions. Meanwhile, I was a college graduate working in an entry-level blue-collar job, and I didn’t want to waste my life.
My pastor kept urging me to go to seminary. He understood that I had an unusual calling, but he thought it would become clearer to me if I began studying to be a UCC minister. I wasn’t sure he was right about that, but it made more sense to me than staying in the plateroom of a printing company. So I consented to the idea. In the fall of 1985 Nancy and I moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and I began studying at Eden Theological School. My pastor was thrilled to have me learn from the renowned Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann. I had never heard of Brueggemann, so that wasn’t a main consideration for me. Mostly I missed being in the pulpit, and I hoped that this would be the way back.
Just for the record, I have never regretted my decision to leave the Latter Day Saint movement. Nothing could induce me to remain with a religious community whose beliefs I considered false. But I missed preaching, missed the creative act of being moved upon by the Holy Spirit, missed the earnest faces listening in rapt attention, missed the chance to speak the truth from my inmost soul. I lost the joy of living when I stepped away from the pulpit, and I agreed to go to Eden Seminary because I wanted that joy back again.
But from the moment I chose to go, I was increasingly aware that it was a mistake. It seemed like the obvious way — the only way, really — to fulfill my calling. Who would listen to a lowly platemaker at a printing company? Who would read my books? But as an ordained minister. . . yes, then I would gain an audience.
So we left home and moved to St. Louis. And the Spirit of God kept telling me, This is not the way. . .