I’m closer to 60 than 50. I’ve had a really good first career. I was respected for what I did in my first career and I loved most of it. The honeymoon for that old life didn’t end till about 25 years in. And even after the honeymoon ended, my job, my life with that job and my feeling of daily accomplishment were still pretty good.
But I came to realize I wanted something more. I wanted to operate in the realm of the spirit, and feelings and whole people (certainly often wounded, but people with hearts and histories and soulful aspirations). All of us in my old life were a lot like some “advanced species” of aliens you might see on a low budget space exploration show. We were brains lying out on a table with a glass dome over top and mysterious tubes coming in keeping us alive. We believed ourselves a master species of thinkers that had taken the world down to its essential analytic elements. But I wanted a heart, personal history, a spiritual journey and I wanted to share those with others who also prioritized those non-head parts of themselves. I wanted to be in and run meetings where the meeting stops, total change of direction when someone shares a sorrow of import. Not a work meeting where you may not even acknowledge that someone’s parent died a day or so ago.
But I worry that at this age, at this time in life, I may never be really good at this career. Will I have a fraction of the skill of those ministers who have seen tend to congregants, who I see light up a congregation with wit, wisdom and life changing spirit and inspiration? Will I have a clue as to how to handle the really challenging things that come up in congregations and soulful community? Will I be able to talk with people in a heartfelt way with the appropriate balance of gravitas, humor and at least some wisdom, without crying as my heart breaks open once again at the wonder and awe of it all?
A friend shared a post in the “Ask Polly” column that provides a few tentative answers. Ask Polly is Ann Landers for the modern world. The question was from a middle aged writer who has had successes, but doesn’t feel successful. She particularly doubts her calling when she measures herself by friends who have been on Oprah and have thousands of Twitter followers. Polly answers with some wise words suitable for a second career minister in formation. “So what do we deserve? We deserve to work really hard at what we love. That’s a privilege. We deserve that.” And this is her concluding punch line “We wake up very early in the morning, before the sun comes up, and we say to the world: I AM OLD AND I AM A NOBODY AND I LOVE WHAT I DO. You will be just like me someday. If you’re lucky.” I am just that lucky.