Spiritual Adventures in the Workplace

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My Strange Vocation, Part 5

Now my training began in earnest—and on three fronts:

The homefront: I continued reading commentaries and the required texts from Eden’s other courses. I kept studying the New Testament in the original Greek and even wrote out interlinear translations, focusing on the good news for working people. But I also studied world history (with emphasis on the modern era) and lots of specialized histories: of the various physical sciences, of technology, of medicine, of transportation, of electronic media; urban histories, histories of various professions, and so on.  I studied modern literature, both prose and poetry. I read the required texts in the field of American Studies. I wrote a novel and joined a writer’s group.

The employment front:  I worked in the produce department of a supermarket and puzzled over the technique of rotating stock. I tried my hand at professional storytelling. I was a substitute teacher in the public schools, covering all ages from kindergarten through twelfth grade. I worked in the advertising department of a suburban newspaper.

The education front:  I wanted to go on to graduate school, but in what field? Unsure how to proceed, I chose something general: the Graduate School of Education at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. By the time I finished there, I was certified to teach high school social studies and obtained a Master of Education degree. This, however, fails to describe the wide and varied studies I engaged in during my time there.  I took Masters level courses in American and Asian history. I did a Directed Readings on the US court system.  I studied economics and geography. I learned the history, philosophy, and methods of the American education system. And I gained valuable teaching experience at a local high school. Most importantly, I now knew a lot about how to learn, and I used that knowledge to gain more knowledge.

At the time I finished my Masters degree I was working as an operator for Western Union, taking orders for telegrams and money transfers over the phone. It was the most interesting job I had ever had, but of course I viewed it as temporary.  (I didn’t get a high school teaching position.) Nancy and I were members of a small UCC congregation, and our pastor persistently urged me to return to Eden.  We had long talks about my mission, and he kept shaking his head and sighing: “I hear what you’re saying, but to me it sounds like you’re describing the ministry.”  He realized that I had been pursuing a broad study of the larger culture and of the place of work within it, but he asked me what I was going to do with all that knowledge.  “You need a soapbox,” he said.  “How are people going to hear what you have to say?”

I was unable to answer his questions.  Nancy and I were house hunting for the first time in our lives, and going back to seminary (and quitting my job) would disrupt those plans.  We decided to pray about it together and do whatever God directed us to do. If I was told to return to Eden, we would do so; if I was told to do something else, I would do it. Deeply impressed by Nancy’s willingness to go wherever we were led, I prayed explicitly for “a revelation.” And I got it.

It was the only time I ever actually heard a voice in response to my prayers. I had often had dialogues with God in which I asked something, then a thought came back in response, and it went back and forth like we were conversing. But on this occasion I heard a voice. Have you ever been about to fall asleep and you start dreaming while you’re still partially awake?  You can hear sounds and voices, but you know they’re part of your dozing dream? That’s what it was like, except I was wide awake. I was sitting in my car at a nearby park, and I was praying about this issue. Once again, I asked for a revelation.

Then a voice said, “I’ve been giving you a revelation all along.”

My mind immediately ran through this story I’ve been telling you over the last few posts.  I vividly remembered the inner guidance I had received through all those years. That was the revelation.

Follow it,” the voice said.

So… we bought a house and prepared for the next phase of this strange, uncharted journey.

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