This is an excerpt from the new 48 Days to the Work You Love. The story here still breaks my heart when I recall it:
Pastor Jones sat in my office, slouched down in the big chair, struggling to relay the events of the last few days. After 19 years of faithful service as a pastor, he had been informed that his contract would not be renewed. No matter how gentle the delivery, the message screamed out at him – he had been fired, terminated, downsized, or uninstalled. How could this happen to a man of God? A man who had committed his life to serving God in the most socially recognized path of service. The anger and sense of betrayal came exploding out as we began to explore his options for moving on.
The portrayal of the preceding years, however, relayed a series of red flags that had been ignored. Pastor Jones was now grossly overweight, having drowned some of his frustrations in eating. He was on medication for depression and was been treated for a bleeding ulcer. Were these not clear signs of a life out of balance? Doesn’t God use physical unrest as a method of telling us something is out of alignment? In questioning this gentle, Godly man about his current life picture, he shared openly his naïve theological view. He simply thought that if he was committed to God, somehow everything would just work out. In his own words he said he was guilty of “sanctified ignorance.” This phrase jumped out at me and has haunted me ever since.
Sanctified Ignorance, the belief that if we love God and have committed our lives to him, everything will just work out, is an immature theology. Getting up each morning as a clean slate, just open to whatever may happen that day, will lead to a life of mediocrity. This is not the path of accomplishment, of excellence, of maximizing our impact and witness. The path of least resistance, just going where it seems easiest to go, creates very crooked streams, and very frustrated Christians. The truly Godly life is one of focused purpose, having like Paul, defined the goal and created a plan for its accomplishment.
Knowing God’s will is not some passive guessing game. Rather it is taking what God has already revealed to us and developing a plan of action. And God’s revelation to us comes through our bodies, our minds, our hearts and our spirits. Yes, we are submissive to God’s will, but God is not an angry taskmaster. He will not force you to be miserable day after day. The secret to creating a career that is both nurturing to the soul as well as to the pocketbook is, as theologian Frederick Buechner said, to find where “your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet.” There you will find a job, a career, a business, and a life worth living. We cannot talk ourselves into doing something we do not inherently enjoy, no matter how spiritual that something may appear to those around us.
Pastor Bob had for years resented the resistance of the people. They seemed slow to act and only moderately supportive of his ideas for growth and change. Their resistance was reflected in their lack of financial support as well. He had two paper routes, requiring him among other things to start each Sunday morning at 3:30 AM, with three hours of delivering papers before delivering his message. His wife was working a stressful job to add to their meager income. And yet all this was justified because he was “serving God.” His early interest in engineering had been discarded based on an influential person’s declaring that Bob was called to preach. With no affirmation in the actual doing, he was still struggling to fulfill that expectation.
What a dismal picture! God does not call us to this picture of Christian living. Sanctified Ignorance is no excuse for a life out of alignment, lacking joy, fulfillment and a clear sense of accomplishment. If you are a street sweeper, then do it with joy. The Bible does not rank the Godliness of occupations, only modern Christians do that. Look at how God has uniquely gifted you in your (1) Skills & Abilities, (2) Personality Traits, and (3) Values, Dreams & Passions. It is in these that we find the authentic path designed for us for a purpose driven life.
Yes, Pastor Bob is redesigning his life. The years of moving off track cannot be recaptured completely, but he can redirect to capture the value of his remaining years. He is working in an engineering firm with many opportunities to share his faith and values. His income has increased dramatically, reducing the stress and resentment of his own wife and children. He is on a stringent program to reduce his weight and is experiencing the immediate satisfaction of the tiny steps of success. Godly insight and action are replacing his years of Sanctified Ignorance.