Today we got really good news: soon and very soon, Pete will be getting a job. In fact, he has department heads fighting over him pretty much as we speak. We’re just waiting to see who wins, and then Pete’ll sign the paperwork.
The backstory is a bit long, especially for those of you who know it already. But here’s the smallest nutshell I can fit it into: Pete worked as an engineer for 18 years. In the midst of those years, he spent 7 years going to seminary to earn his Masters in Divinity, all while continuing to work full time. We both felt that we would one day be a ministry couple–a pastor and his wife, a chaplain and his wife, something along those lines. But even though there were lots of opportunities along the way, nothing ever came of any of it.
Last year, it looked like “it” had finally arrived. Pete quit his engineering job and we packed up and moved away–over a thousand miles away–from the church and friends we’d loved for 18 years. It was a risk we were ready to take. Pete was going to be teaching junior high and high school kids, something he adored. In fact, I was able to teach as well, which, though I didn’t expect to, I adored.
Things didn’t turn out the way we thought. After about four months, we had to leave the school (a topic for another day). So, for the past three months, we have not had steady paychecks. I have done okay with freelance editing and a bit of writing. Pete entered chaplaincy training (in case you’re wondering, no. They don’t pay you for that.). And we’ve been struggling. Which brings me, finally to my point. (Okay, that wasn’t a nutshell. It was more of a pie shell. Sorry.)
For the past few months, I have been living with an extremely discouraged man. I don’t know if there is anything more heart breaking. I have known all along that my job/duty/calling/honor as his wife is to encourage him, particularly when he is down. I have known that any criticism or whining I might indulge in would only sink him deeper into his discouragement and not do either one of us a bit of good. Unfortunately, that hasn’t made things any easier. I have been afraid as I’ve seen our savings account shrinking. I have been embarrassed as I’ve watched my daughters go to school in torn tights and beatup shoes, with no other option available in their closets and drawers. I have tried to hide these feelings from Pete, but most of the time that means being unusually silent, and that doesn’t help him in his discouragement either. He knows that when I am silent, something is seriously wrong. I have wanted to say the right things, but being in the pit along with him has made it extremely difficult to know what those things are.
When he told me that he was going to apply for an engineering job nearby, I honestly did not know how to react. I have spent the past 12 years encouraging him to follow his dream of ministry. I have spent the past year assuring him that turning our lives upside down was worth it, because we were on a grand adventure together, pursuing full-time service to God. Was this engineering thing a test of my veracity? If I supported the engineering thing, would I actually be turning my back on Pete’s dreams, his calling? Or, if I rejected his move back toward engineering, away from ministry, would that just be flat out stupid?
A wise friend of mine (C.B.) advised me: “Why don’t you ask him?”
So I did. And when I did, I could see where his heart was. He was feeling like a failure and he didn’t want to anymore. He wanted to provide for his family. This is something that, I think, is hard-wired into a man. He has to know that he is the protector, the provider. That is his first call from the Lord. People have been telling me all along, and I have heard them, I promise, that Pete can minister anywhere. Not only do I know that to be true, we have seen it for ourselves. Pete had an incredible ministry at his engineering job. Some guys that didn’t know the Lord before they knew Pete are now seminary graduates, looking for ministry work just like him.
I don’t know what will happen next. I hate that. All I know is that Pete needs me to be excited for what he’s doing now, even though neither of us understands it. If that’s my mission, I choose to accept it.