My Strange Vocation, Part 10 (Conclusion)
One morning we were all informed that our bank had been acquired by another bank. Weeks passed before we had solid details, but finally they told us: our call center was no longer needed. In a little less than a year, our jobs would be eliminated. Nancy had an interesting thought. “Maybe we can go back home.” The company I worked for was located only in Ohio, but the new corporation was much more broadly situated. One of their call centers was in Kalamazoo, Michigan, just an hour south of home (Grand Rapids). And the new company had a policy of trying to find other positions for those who were let go. It took several months of prayer and applications, but in the spring of 2005 I started working for the new company in Kalamazoo, and Nancy and I returned to West Michigan after 20 years away (1985-2005).
It was good to be home, but it was also right. Confirming signs were abundant, not only in my life but also in Nancy’s and even in our daughter Emily’s. This was where we were supposed to be.
It was also clear where we were being led to worship: Portage Chapel Hill United Methodist Church. A few Sundays before we joined, I read the liturgy, and our senior minister, Barry Petrucci, approached me after the service. “Can I get you to preach?” he asked. I stared at him uncomprehendingly. “Can I get you in the pulpit?” he asked again. He knew my story… knew that I had dropped out of seminary and had served in a number of work settings, in search of God in the secular world. But one thing he did not know: that I had wanted all my life to be back in the pulpit and had thought that it would never be possible.
But Barry and the others at PCHUM welcomed me like no other church had ever done. Within months, I was preaching sermons, developing and teaching adult courses, and writing devotions for the congregation’s Lenten booklet. The following year I was invited to write the entire booklet, and the end result was a series of short stories called Into the Danger Zone.
In the meantime, I still worked in the call center. I tried to get opportunities to teach night courses at the local colleges, but I was unsuccessful. During a chance conversation at my daughter’s basketball game, however, I met an admissions representative for Spring Arbor University, which is about an hour away from Kalamazoo. He put me in touch with some people at the university, and I was asked to develop and teach the online version of the Graduate School of Education’s Philosophy of Education course. After a couple of years of that, I was also given the chance to teach face-to-face courses in History, Philosophy, and World Religions at SAU’s Kalamazoo and Battle Creek locations. It’s part-time, and I work at the call center during the day, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Spring Arbor University is a Christian school whose mission is critical engagement with the larger culture—the very thing to which I have devoted my life. So I’m not just teaching now… I’m applying all the things I’ve learned. And I’m sharing my thoughts in two blogs: this one and an audio blog called Mythic Adventures.
Although that brings you up to date, it’s not the end of the story. I’m at a critical moment in my life. In the last several posts I’ve described my strange vocation and the meticulous training I’ve gone through to prepare me for it. I know (roughly) what I’m called to do, and I’m proceeding ahead with it as much as I can. I do not believe that I’m meant to remain in the call center. But I also believe that I’m living on God’s schedule, and that I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’m still wearing that hair shirt I talked about last time. Some days it drives me out of my mind. But on many, many days I experience the peace that passes all understanding… and I wait…