(When) The Hamster Wheel Is (Not) Heaven

As a minister, people oft-assume I deal with strictly ethereal matters, things “other-worldly” and “spiritual”. Nothing could be further from the truth, and more theologically errant. I think of the time I engaged in the “spiritual practice” of spending the night with heroine junkies and going in the morning to deliver a death notification of one of them. I think of the “otherworldly” matter of lobbying on Capitol Hill for immigration reform in my best purple bipartisan tie. I think of the “ethereal” quality of working through a church budget, trying to stay faithful to the realities of a church’s needs in juxtaposition with the values of the Kingdom of God.

Ministry is not spiritual, only. It can be unapologetically earthly. In fact, it should be. And one of the most “earthly” areas is that of working not with other ministers and “spiritual” people, but with people who are of-this-earth, some of whom work closer to the earth than others, with the dirt in their fingernails to prove it. Others are further up from the ground, laboring in the lofties, stationed up in the sky-rises on high, but are nonetheless very concerned with “earthly” matters. They all come to me. With pressing questions about this earthly thing called “vocation”. Nothing could be more spiritual.

How is my Mon-Fri, 9 – 5 significant? It doesn’t feel so.

Is it just about “making money” for the kingdom? Is that all it is?

Ministers are “called” – but what about the rest of us?

I’ve hit a rut in my career – and I don’t know what to do now with my life.

How do I make sense of this mid-life career crisis I’m in?

As a person with a vocation too, a career, I am not immune to such explorations – and at times perturbations – myself. I am conscious when I am working out of a deep joy, a sense of purpose, and indeed, a calling. But I am also aware – like many of you in the “marketplace” – when something feels off; misaligned; and the pleasure of work becomes more of a driving grind. I know what it is like to try to convince myself that the hamster wheel is heaven, when lurking in the back of my mind is the suspicion that maybe it is not getting anywhere. When we persist in the delusion, we wind up on the therapist’s couch. You wind up in my office.

I am learning something, just as I am often teaching something. It is that SERENITY is the code word to unlock many secrets; Serenity to accept that which you cannot change, because in your vocational wanderlust it may not be advisable to throw your stability into the wind – especially if you have a family – so that you can pursue your lifelong dream of becoming a comic book artist, or a stuntman, or the next-big-thing-that-lives-in-Brooklyn, or a professional blog-writer.

But sometimes Serenity is NOT the thing to be asking for.

Sometimes it is the COURAGE to change the things we must (and indeed, the WISDOM to know the difference). Enter in the good pastor, listener, counselor, life coach, or A.O.T.A. Because if wisdom is in the abundance of counselors, and they, the insightful few, can corroborate what you are feeling, then maybe you should indeed pursue that career in comic book artistry, or stuntman-ing, or moving to Brooklyn, or writing this blog, or whatever-the-hell-else crazy endeavor you have on your mind.

Only let us not be driven – or paralyzed – by fear.

Let faith be the motivator, not fear. Faith has the strangest way of making us do the things we fear most, and conversely, fear motivates some of the most faithless actions. Faith may embolden you to step off that spinning hamster wheel. But faith may also have you stay on it just a little bit longer, and to ask for Serenity in the midst of running it.

Published by Wayne Park

Asian-American clergyman thinking about issues of faith, place, race and culture-making in the vast city of Houston, TX

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