I used to write this magazine column about the towns of Vermont, suggesting fun restaurants, shops, and activities. Part of it was great.
I spent my day meeting people who had found what they wanted to do with their lives. They seemed fulfilled and happy, whether it was making clean, safe wooden toys or putting together gourmet meals for an affordable price.
Part of it was awful.
I spent my days meeting people who had found what they wanted to do with their lives. Every conversation reminded me that I was lost, wandering without an identity.
I was just a guy driving around a beat up Subaru like everyone else in Vermont collecting stories so he could scrape together a living. Meeting people who are sure of themselves can be terrifying if you’re lost. It’s a reminder that you don’t have it figured out.
I’d guess that there are plenty of people in their twenties who feel a lot like me at that time. It’s not like there’s a clear, natural step that follows college graduation. The choices are overwhelming if you haven’t figured out what to do with your life by the time you stick your cap and gown in the closet.
No one wants to admit: “I’m lost. I don’t know what the next step is.” Your parents didn’t make sacrifices to send you to college for you to get lost. Figure. It. Out.
Perhaps apathy and giving up is the worst thing you can do, but it can also be quite rough to pursue the wrong path. In my own case I figured that going to seminary couldn’t hurt. And while I made the right choice to a certain degree, I also tried to turn myself into someone I’m not.
I thought that I would be heading into full time ministry, and if you look at it a certain way, seminary worked. Seminary convinced me that I should not pursue full time ministry.
Instead of being grateful to add ministry to my list of things I can’t do, a list that included science, math, poetry, and anything requiring patience and good eye-to-hand coordination, I fought it. I wanted my original plan to work. Ministry was my identity, and without it I felt exposed.
I fought for my ministry calling. I wanted it to be true.
Stress, fear, and insecurity followed.
Years after graduating from seminary I finally got it. I wasn’t someone in ministry who wrote on the side. My calling is to write. When I write all day, every day, everything falls into place.
I wish I could tell you how I finally let go of my ministry plans or why I stopped fighting. I just stumbled forward, trying out many different things gradually clicked into place. The following quote from Fred Beuchner gave me a great deal of hope:
“Vocation is where a person’s greatest joy intersects with the world’s greatest need.”
Does the world need another writer?
Last week I attended the STORY conference in Chicago, and International Justice Mission told all of us to go to their table, hand them our business cards, and explain what we do.
At first I thought I would be exempt. I’m not some ministry superstar. I’m just another writer. Besides, I ran out of business cards.
Right before I left, I found a pile of business cards in my briefcase, so I walked over to the IJM table as they were taking it down. I introduced myself and explained that I’m a writer.
Suddenly an idea struck me.
“I really enjoy editing. In fact, if you send me anything, I’ll edit it for you.”
The IJM representative’s eyes lit up. “No one ever volunteers to do that!” she replied.
I walked away from that table grateful that I gave up on my ministry plans. Thank God someone needs a writer.
Ed Cyzewski is the author of Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life and A Path to Publishing. He blogs on Christian belief and practice at www.inamirrordimly.com.