Still Untangling a Confused Life   12 comments

When I stepped through the gate of adulthood, I turned the wrong direction, and with the best of intentions, trudged deeper and deeper into the wilderness.  I should have gone into teaching Bible or Theology–it was my gift and my joy–but I was told that missionary evangelism was God’s real calling.  At the age of 40 I discovered my whole worldview was cracked, and I started over, trying to understand life from the viewpoint of grace.  I did my best to recalibrate my life’s occupational trajectory, but seemed to keep getting it wrong.  I tried pastoring, then social work, and though they were both fulfilling, the structure in each demanded that I deny my true self in order to succeed.  In the end, I was forced to leave because the pressure to conform was too great for me to bear, and I began to languish.

I was deep into midlife when I ran out of meaningful work and had to settle for something uninspiring that would meet our basic expenses.  That has proven harder than expected.  All my education and experience is of no use to land a professional job in another field.  I now realize I have to get more training or education just to find work that will cover our simple lifestyle (almost half my wages now go to health insurance alone), and that means years of effort and tens of thousands of dollars in costs just to start applying for jobs… jobs I may hate after all the effort.

Becoming a college teacher would require a Ph.D., and there is a huge market surplus of competition to contend with, and I would be in my 60s and just starting out, a very dire prospect.  Since becoming an electrician or plumber would take just as much time and money as other professions (yes, I looked into it), I have been thinking of getting my M.A. in counseling (since my other joy in life is connecting redemptively in a deep way with others).  I haven’t done well so far in every effort to reconfigure my life, so this too could be a misadventure.  We are thinking and praying.



Posted June 27, 2017 by janathangrace in Life

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12 responses to “Still Untangling a Confused Life

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  1. I don’t know whether to comment here or on fb. 😉 I feel a lot of your sentiment. I, too, am a Bible teacher with a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies and cannot find work in my field. I do not recommend that direction–the Christian academic world is in rapid transition… I have thought about a counseling degree, too, but the 5,000 intern hours are discouraging me. So… USPS? UPS? Grocery sacker? I am open to whatever. Carmax turned me down, I assuming because I am overqualified. I’m just sharing this as a means of empathizing and to warn you away from a Ph.D. in biblical studies. I do NOT regret getting it for where I was in my life, but it is anything but lucrative. Hang in there, Janathan!

    • Sorry to hear of your own struggle in this area, Greg. Yes, I gave up on the teaching idea some time ago, but thought I should mention it here lest folks swamp me with recommendations in that direction. I’m curious to know what you mean by “the Christian academic world is in rapid transition.”

      • Many many undergrad Bible/Christian colleges are closing due to the church changing (not recognizing formal academic Bible training as a prerequisite for advanced church leadership) and the commodifying of education. Non-relational models like online are much more cost-effective. Higher education middle management across the board is bulging and, in my opinion, burdening an educational model where teaching faculty were once the core decision makers of education. Seminaries are finding it difficult to adjust to cultural liberalization and maintain their mission. I could go on…

      • Wow, that sounds fascinating. Anywhere I can read up on those trends?

  2. Janathan, thanks for your transparency and heart in sharing. I know it’s been a long time, but I will affirm your ability/gift for “connecting redemptively in a deep way with others.” I will look forward to seeing what God has for you in this next step, friend.

    Robby Richardson
  3. As always Kent, blessed by your transparency. I am in the midst of exploring a career shift towards teaching as well. The public school arena or something overseas perhaps, with the latter being my preference. My biggest fear has been that it is too late to make such a big move or worse, as you referenced, I get down the road and realize I am not cut out for it. In the words of Rich Mullins, ‘I am shaking life a leaf’….
    This life of faith is definitely a crazy ride!!

    • Brett, I found in India at least that there is plenty of opportunity for teaching (though you would need to raise funds). I hope you find your way through this difficult world with as little heartache as possible. Actually it was my kind of giving up on finding anything meaningful that put me in such a funk that I finally decided it is better to try something, anything, even if it doesn’t work out in the end.

  4. Janathan, Thank you for your continued openness and honesty. Having switched careers several times (some more successfully than others), I hold your journey in my heart. The quote, ‘Find a job you love and you will never work another day in your life’ may be true. It isn’t a promise that one will be able to afford even a simple lifestyle. As your current transition is neither, I encourage you to stand on the cliff of now, look at the lake of your dreams and jump. You will find out how deep the water is when you get there. You will figure out what to do once you discover that. If then your dreams change, jump into a different lake. Of course, you will be holding Kimberly’s hand throughout the course. This is not intended so much as advice as a description of the last 40 years of my life.

  5. Thanks, Dion, for writing and for your invaluable support in the journey. One of the large difficulties for me is that I seem to lose more and more steam as I try out new directions that don’t work. I have very little energy left emotionally. If I had hope and clarity, it would give me a lot more energy, but I have neither. But I’m grateful for your encouragement.

  6. So many of us seem to be trapped at subsistence level work without real meaning and without hope for the “retirement” the previous generation took for granted. I definitely find meaning and joy in moments… interactions of real connection with rare friends like you, for example. My relationship with Dion of course is the central value and hope giver and joy in my life. But discouragement in the area of making a living and paying for necessities like healthcare seems the rule rather than exception of our generation. Perhaps it is time to consider intentional communities and barter again. I would need a lot of help figuring out how to make that viable without simply relying on partners with wealth. But I feel it may be a concept worth exploring, living as we do in a spreading desert of support and community.

    • Yes, we definitely need to somehow come together into genuine supportive communities, whatever that might look like. My work schedule at Home Depot largely prevents me the normal social avenues of connection (I work 2:30 pm to 11 pm, including Saturday and Sunday), so that is a serious problem as well. I don’t have the emotional energy to do anything very creative or that takes special initiative, only ways that are obvious step-by-step choices… oh, wait, I don’t have the energy for that either–but I can force myself, kind of go into emotional deficit for the hoped for payoff later. The emotional equations are the hardest to sort out. Thanks for your friendship.

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