So, those of you who are aware know that wife and I have begun to transition ourselves out of full-time ministry. Right now, we volunteer with Beta and are beginning to groom our students to take the reigns of the community full-time.
Because part of the process included (or perhaps was induced by) the disembowelment of our finances, I scrambled to find work. Place after place rejected me outright (the graduate school thing scares people out of their minds, apparently), until I landed in a Hampton Inn here last fall. Younger, naive, hyper-idealistic, stupid Brent (feel free to select your preferred adjective) would have looked at this situation and screamed.
You see, I was raised with the notion that I am a child of promise, that I was destined to be somebody of note. Often the refrain would come from others, and I believed that God had some kind of special plan for my life. So when realistic Brent is doing laundry because the guy working the previous shift decided to camp out on his laptop and quite seriously do next to nothing, the internal squabble rages anew between “Why the [expletive] are you folding towels?!” and “Um…so I can help support my family, moron.”
The only reason you’re seeing this published at some point in the five o’clock hour is because I’m winding down my overnight shift. Wife doesn’t like it when I’m not in bed when she’s in bed. She says she can’t sleep well when I’m not there. I wish I could say the same, but, when it comes down to it, I prefer waking up at 3 AM because she decided to burrito herself and leave me with the corner of a sheet. We read to know we’re not alone; obviously we get married under similar pretenses. Turns out, I love my job. It doesn’t pay well, but I am insured; the hours aren’t that great but I was fortunate to find a job in a down climate; be trained by one of the best managers I’ve had; work under a great boss and great second-in-command and generally be surrounded by good people I enjoy calling colleagues, that is, if colleagues is kosher in the grey-collar hospitality sector.
As an added bonus, as I wrestled with this thought folding towels and muttering under my breath about the aforementioned chump who left me with three commercial-grade loads of towels to wash, dry and fold, this job has taught me much about leadership and humility, far more than I ever learned in Bible college, my internship in Tallahassee or in ministry on my own. I fundamentally and skeptical of leadership classes and gurus and have been for some time. During my time at the gulag, I was inundated with tripe from John Maxwell and his array of Cosby sweaters, and even then it made no sense: how can someone teach leadership, when what they do, in essence, is create a market that needs guidance? Hence, John Maxwell is full of crap. You don’t teach leaders in some macro-economic model, you create acolytes, followers.
And followers there are a-plenty in the church world. It bothered me so much that I ended up walking away from church life and developing a personal philosophy of ministry that emphasized people over process, even if it means person, as in, there aren’t enough people here to call them people. Working in a hotel, though, has only reinforced my initial notions of investing in people over fitting them into programs. We have regulars here, they’re miles from loved ones and home. I know more than a few of them by name, and over time, they’ve opened up a little; not too much, but enough to let you know that they’re glad for a friendly face.
I never liked airports for the simple fact that I would see so many people that I would never see again. Each person had a story, loved ones, homes, lives and we were all penned into this stale government-controlled holding bay, waiting for a flight to take us back to a context. Hotel life really isn’t that different, but being on this end of it, I want to share in that person’s story, even if it’s a check-in or getting them a bottle of water. I’m not interested in proselytizing, most people here didn’t even know what I did before I donned the business casual garb. I just want to be helpful.
Not too long ago, I wrote about divine calling and how I don’t exactly believe in full-time vocational ministry anymore. Perhaps there are those out there who look at my situation now and say that I was never supposed to be in ministry in the first place. Perhaps others who think I’ve put my tail between my legs and slunk away from the scene. And to both of you I would gladly extend both middle fingers, because you would both be insulting and wrong. That child of promise stuff may well still be valid, but I guarantee you it won’t be in the way you think it will come to pass. Primarily because it’s not how I thought it would come to pass, and even more obviously because that’s not how God works in the least. And I’m still alive, though there are those who would rather that I weren’t, particularly those who were more than delighted to join in on slapping me on the disavowed list. Just saying.
But hey, I could be bitter, but why? I have been well taken care of, though it hasn’t always felt like a down comforter or a cold drink on a hot day. I have a wife who loves me, a job that, though is tedious at times, I find rewarding, our finances are stable (mostly) and I’m going to school to pursue my education and work toward long-term goals: teaching, investing in students, continuing to challenge convention and fight for truth and justice in the Christian world. Because once I have my Ph.D., I can start writing books and hosting seminars and creating a niche market only I can satisfy. And then you will have to listen to me…and put up with my God-awful sweater collection.
Hotel theology, Gideons notwithstanding. Who knew?