10: New Direction

10: New Direction

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen

New Direction

You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.

~Paulo Coelho

Fired, I thought as I navigated my car through the late morning traffic. I can’t believe I just got fired.

Even though I saw the conflict escalating and expected I wouldn’t be at that job much longer, I was truly surprised when I showed up at work that Thursday morning and was told my services were no longer required. I didn’t think the politics had gotten that bad, and I had been sure I’d be able to find another position and quit first. I was wrong.

Now I had a mortgage, a car payment, credit card debts, and living expenses, and no job.

My house felt strange when I arrived home and entered the workday stillness. I put down my purse and thought, now what?

I’d been combing the Help Wanted section of the newspaper for a couple of months already, applying for anything that seemed like a good fit for my skills and experience. Nothing had materialized.

By Friday afternoon I began to wonder if maybe I was going about this all wrong. Being without a job was frightening, certainly, but it was also somewhat freeing. These were desperate times, and desperate times sometimes mean drastic action. I’d felt like I was in the wrong place doing the wrong thing for a while now, but with my financial obligations I couldn’t justify quitting my job to pursue my dreams. Maybe now I could consider a change in direction. Maybe now I could consider a new career path, one a little more fulfilling than sitting in a cubicle all day, tracking numbers in a spreadsheet and making sure they all added up. Maybe now I could further my studies, and do what I really wanted to do.

By Saturday I was completely confused. I needed a paycheck. Dreams were for people with money, and I didn’t have any. I could expand my job search outside my field and hope for the best, but that was all I could afford to do. I had responsibilities.

On Sunday I stashed my worries for the day and drove to a large convention center forty-five minutes away. My denomination was celebrating a significant anniversary in my state, and was doing it up big. My church had recruited me to help distribute communion to approximately ten thousand people, so I did my part and worshiped in the largest gathering I’d ever seen. It was hard for me to pray in such a venue—I was used to the smaller, more intimate space of my home congregation—but I prayed anyway: Please, Lord. Show me the way you want me to go.

After worship I wandered around the vendor hall. Various ministry organizations, publishing houses, charitable foundations, congregations, and schools were advertising themselves to passersby. I stopped at a few tables, vaguely curious whether a job opportunity was hiding behind any of the tri-fold displays. None was.

I worked my way through the hall, row by row, until I was finally near the exit. There I found a table advertising a prominent graduate school about an hour east of my home. The slightly gray, middle-aged gentleman standing at the table got my attention and began chatting with me.

“Enjoying the festivities?” he asked me.

I told him I was, and he asked if I’d been raised in this denomination.

“No,” I said. “I just joined my church about two years ago.”

“Where were you attending before that?”

Without intending to, I laid out my whole convoluted faith journey, including my break from my childhood church, my stints with atheism and agnosticism, and the two other traditions I’d visited before settling on this one. “I wasn’t looking for the perfect church,” I told him. “Just one where I’m comfortable serving God, without always feeling like I’m doing it wrong.”

He asked me about my profession and my undergraduate degree, then a few minutes later he informed me, “I think you’d make a great pastor. Have you ever considered going into ministry?”

In fact I’d been having this conversation with my own pastor for several months; I was even taking a couple of courses at a nearby seminary, just to see how it felt. I loved the coursework and, as much as the idea frightened me, I had to admit that I felt somewhat drawn to ministry.

“I’m the Dean of Admissions,” he said. “Based on what you’ve told me, I’d like to offer you a full merit scholarship for our Masters in Divinity program. The scholarship will cover your entire tuition for the duration of the program. We’ll also give you a small stipend for books and fees. I can’t make it official until I get back to my office next week, but what do you say?”

What could I say? If he’d made this offer one week earlier, I’d have turned him down immediately, citing my financial obligations and the necessity of my keeping my job. But now, with no job and a willingness to think creatively about my finances—maybe this was the answer to my prayers.

I gave him my contact information and went home. A few days later I got an official letter reiterating the offer he’d made at the convention center. I looked up some student loan information and discovered I could borrow enough money to pay for my living expenses—if I was able to sell my house and live in student housing.

I called the dean and asked about student housing. A room was available in a shared house two miles from the school; it was mine if I wanted it.

I contacted a Realtor. My house sold five days after being listed, just a hair under my asking price. I accepted the offer, put most of my belongings in storage, and began my new life as a full-time seminary student, ordination-track, that September.

God had set me in a new direction, one I never would have taken if I hadn’t been fired from my job that Thursday.

~Karen Goltz

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