It’s confirmed. I will be employed again full time beginning May 7.
Bethany Presbyterian Church in Grants Pass, Oregon has offered me the interim pastor position–an offer I was glad to accept. It represents emerging from a sort of financial and professional desert of recent months. As I have shared in recent posts I found myself on the receiving end of the social safety net. I have relied on the free Oregon Health Plan and on food stamps for a few months. Yesterday I had the pleasure of sharing a bouquet of flowers for my caseworker and watched as she cut up my EBT card with a pair of scissors after I signed the form for voluntary relinquishment.
But this desert of sorts went beyond the mere financial. The consistent flow of rejections for professional positions left me wondering if the gifts that I bring to the world were slightly out of sync with the world’s needs. I was beginning to feel like one of those puzzle pieces that look to the eye like they fit, but don’t quite easily snap into place. Despite my intention to write weekly posts on my Pedal Pilgrim site, I found myself slogging through psychic mud to find the inspiration to write, wonder, and share.
As the news of this position become more real I found myself reflecting back to a past pilgrimage. This period felt very much like the nine day endurance test crossing the Nevada desert by bike in 2011. In actuality, however, this felt harsher. At least in Nevada I knew exactly how far I had to go to conquer the desert. I knew that as I neared Carson City that the Sierras would signal the end of the desert and the beginning of a new kind of challenge.
This time I had no idea where the desert would end. A couple of times the mirage of an oasis appeared in the form of a final interview only to have it evaporate away just before reaching its source of refreshment. I wasn’t sure if I was preparing for a month long endurance test or a new way of life where I was forced into a certain degree of deprivation. The uncertainty was worse than the actual day to day circumstances.
In the midst of it I continued to have ideas for blog topics, but they rushed through my head like a chance celebrity sighting–just long enough to recognize it by name, but not long enough to get to know it and explore its themes.
I am more convinced than ever that there is something to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. My editor reminds me that it is hard to be creative when one is consumed with scratching the earth for food and looking for the nearest shelter. Despite my attempts to be disciplined, I often had the time to write, but couldn’t find the energy or the muse. It was as if my voice had gone underground. Writing about the discovery of the soul and the way of the pilgrim seemed so irrelevant as I concentrated on sleep, food preparation, working out the physical kinks or labor, and keeping my anxiety in check.
The news of full time work, a regular paycheck, and enough income to put my worries to rest has loosened up the creative juices again. I suppose if I was a completely trusting person such temporary challenges wouldn’t put such a damper on me. But it is what it is. Somehow, while facing challenges on my pilgrimages, I was able to write my way through them as a reflection of the nature of pilgrimages. I had a message to the world that I wanted to share. What changed is that I began to think that my current challenges were the world’s way of saying, “I have a message for you” and I wasn’t sure that I liked it.
I have at times been grateful for this experience and, at other times, bitter. I felt the same way riding across the Nevada desert in 2011. I remember tasting the dry deprivation and getting lost in the profound emptiness. The truth is I have come to love the desert.