Enjoying the freedom of being good enough

Will work for validation

I find myself in an interesting, often frustrating, situation employment-wise. For the last couple of years my “day-job” has been with a drug prevention coalition that is funded by grant money.

Our former grant expired the end of June. We fully expected to receive a new grant in August.

Chalk it up to the economy or politics or whatever, but the grant didn’t come through. This has forced us to cut salary and hours by over half. Fun times.

Thankfully, God opened up a door for me to pick up a part-time position with a church providing pastoral care. Now I have four part-time jobs. Again, while I’m very grateful for each and the income they provide, it’s not exactly what I anticipated at this stage of my life.

Much of the time I struggle with thoughts and feelings of being under-employed. My self-esteem takes a hit on a regular basis.

Part of the angst is a return of some of the struggles I had while serving a church as its pastor.

Many times I wrestled with feelings and beliefs that I didn’t have a “real” job.

My job description consisted of things like praying, studying, and talking to people. Who gets paid for things like that???

I often secretly hung my head in shame with the gnawing sense I wasn’t accomplishing anything of “real”value.

  • I didn’t have a line of products that I’d manufactured that I could point to at the end of the day.
  • I didn’t have numbers showing how much I’d sold.
  • I didn’t even have a time card that I’d punched to prove I’d actually worked.

My work was people- and soul-formation. There was never a completion, unless you count funerals. About the time I thought I could see progress, a parishioner would have an epic marital spat or quit coming to church for no apparent reason.

I found I actually enjoyed painting my house on my days off. At least I could see something tangible. There were now 10 painted boards.

Doing pastoral work is a strange animal.

I often compared myself with the men and women who had “real” jobs. I never felt like I quite made the cut.

I began to think differently when my son was in the hospital for an ear surgery. Once the surgeon completed the procedure, I met with him in the physician conference room. After telling me the customary report about my son’s ear, the conversation turned.

“I wish I could do something meaningful with my life, like you do,” the doctor confessed.

“What do you mean?” I stammered. I was sure I misunderstood him.

“You really help people. I want to do a job like that someday.”

I was befuddled. Here’s a guy who repairs ears, restores hearing and makes a ton of money doing it. What was he talking about?

He obviously didn’t realize what a pretender I was.

I began looking at my vocation differently at that point. But the old thoughts and feelings continued to haunt me. I would occasionally slip into the belief that a “real” job would validate me in a way that being a pastor couldn’t.

I’ve found myself struggling with those myths over the last several months.

“If I only I had a viable job . . . if I just had that salary . . . THEN I would count. I would have validity.”

I’m still fighting my way through the jungle of this deception. Some days I think I see a lot more light than I do on others.

I’m curious if other pastors ever struggle with similar thoughts and feelings?


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4 thoughts on “Will work for validation

  1. I know the feeling, my friend. I’ve experienced it as a pastor and an Air Force Officer. Those may seem like opposite ends of the spectrum, but both gave me the feeling that I hadn’t produced anything.

    I don’t have a direct solution, but I have found that I can see more clearly when I have people from a variety of backgrounds speaking into my life and giving me perspective. And my wife helps immensely! She sees what I can’t see and tells me like it is.

    Consider the words of your doctor friend. I believe he speaks the truth.

  2. “Don’t muzzle the ox while he’s treading out the grain.” Keep treading, my friend. Keep treading.

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