ch ch ch changes.

I know I've been neglecting the blog, and I'm sorry. I've found myself with a little bit of unexpected free time today, so I would like to pass on an official religious life update for those who have been wondering, or have heard rumors.

For the last few months, I've had about one conversation a week with church friends, colleagues and family about decisions I've been making. Apologies if we haven't talked yet and we should have - everyone has been completely supportive, but the conversations are heavy and require a lot of emotional energy, so I've been trying to space them out in order to maintain my trademark sunny demeanor. In short, I'm in the midst of an ongoing process of renegotiating my relationship to the church - some of that is practical, some is emotional - and have made some shifts lately, all tied to a decision that I don't want to be a priest.

Practically, if you're a part of the St. Margaret's community, don't worry - I'm still doing the youth ministry thing! What is changing is that, while I'm still officially a postulant in 'the process of discernment for ordination to the priesthood', I'm about 95% sure that I'm going to switch long-term career paths. I'm also still officially enrolled at Seattle U, but I'm not taking any classes right now and I'm also about 95% sure that I'm not going to do the 'back to school' thing anytime soon. I'm also not doing the Commission for Emerging Mission job anymore. In unrelated events that experiment has been dissolved by general consensus and executive order, and the work we did is being picked up/retooled in a variety of other venues. I still have my hands in some of that, but for the most part I'm pulling back. I'm in a little bit of a holding pattern, working half-time and thinking about what's next.

Personally, I don't want to make all of these changes sound negative. I'm really enjoying just having the one part-time job. It's the first time since 2002 (the first year we were married) that neither Angel nor I are in school, and we're both working part time so have been able to spend time together in a way that we haven't in years. We're training for a triathlon at some undetermined point in the future (May/June probably), and have been exercising 6 times a week for the last six weeks. I've lost some flab and have been really noticing the endorphine boost. I've also been spending a lot of time writing, which is what I've wanted to do for years. We're going to Mexico in a couple weeks to celebrate our 30th birthdays, and I'm generally feeling much better about life than I did six months ago. Everyone has been telling me that I seem a lot happier lately, and I definitely feel it. I don't know for sure what I'm going to do for money in the long term yet, but honestly I'm not too worried about the move from a financial perspective. I've never made more than $28k/year working for the church, and for that I was working 50-60 hour weeks, giving 10% of the money back, and paying for my own insurance. (As depressing as it is, I'm not kidding when I say that I was making more money at the warehouse, and that taking a job at Starbucks would be a good financial move at this point.) I'm a smart guy with a low-maintenance/supportive wife and we're having no problems making ends meet. I have a few ideas, and I'll sort something out.

People have asked whether this was a decision that I made across time, or whether something triggered it. If you've been a regular reader here, you'll know that I spend an unnecessary amount of time agonizing pathetically about almost everything before I come to a decision, so you'll be right to think that it hasn't been a snap judgment. But I did ultimately come to a clear sense of direction after all of my agonizing, and I did shift quickly out of school, the official discernment process, and a lot of the work that I was doing. The equation that eventually added up to a decision were: bad financial prospects for clergy + a sense that ordination would come with more limitations than benefits for me + my own religious issues/experiences making church work unnecessarily high stress + a realization that I don't really want to give my life for the cause (and that's what ordination would require) + burnout from too much work and too little pay + school stress = the process of discernment doing its job, helping me to realize that this isn't what I want to do. I finally made the decision one afternoon in early December when I was walking around at Discovery Park, stressing out, and asking 'why am I doing this?' without being able to come up with a compelling answer.

So, that's what I've been up to across the last few months when I haven't been posting substantially here.

Comments

Jason Sierra said…
Hey buddy, I think you set a high bar here in terms of honesty and willingness to really engage with the process. I wish more folks were interested in honest discernment and fewer in just maintaining momentum. Let me know when you're ready to write some about this as there's a definite need for your voice :)
Paul said…
As I read your post, Tim, I sense the sense of peace and "this is all making sense now" that's I usually see with people who are where they're supposed to be. Don't get me wrong: I think you'd make a good priest. And you'll be even better at whatever you end up doing.... :)
Father Steve said…
bad financial prospects for clergy + a sense that ordination would come with more limitations than benefits for me + my own religious issues/experiences making church work unnecessarily high stress + a realization that I don't really want to give my life for the cause (and that's what ordination would require) + burnout from too much work and too little pay + school stress = the process of discernment doing its job, helping me to realize that this isn't what I want to do.

This is one of the most mature and sensible pieces of discernment I have read in a decade!
Tim said…
Thanks for the support and kind words everyone.

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