Student and Teacher in Classroom
Calling, Holy Spirit, Life, Passion, Vocation
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Workings of the Spirit Part 2: Mistakes, Passion, and Problems

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In Part 1, I told the story of how I ended up at my undergraduate college as a theology major, explaining three indications that it just might be the work of the Holy Spirit:

  1. A series of uncanny coincidences with impeccable timing
  2. Realizing you have a passion about something
  3. Feeling certain that you need to follow your passion, even if you’re unsure of how to proceed.

And #3’s Certain Yet Unsure is where Part 2 picks up.  

Yes-But-No

I was graduating with a BA in Theology, certain I was called to teach, but doubtful that I could find a job.  So I made my first big mistake with the Holy Spirit: I said “Yes, but No.  It can’t happen.  I’ll do it eventually, but I can’t right now.  I’m not qualified.”

Fortunately, making a “big mistake” in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit is really only a “temporary detour.”  God finds a way to make it happen.  Eventually.

2010_07_20_20_14_32

So I graduated and started working in Telecommunications, training people to use their business telephone and voicemail systems. It wasn’t theology, but at least it wasn’t (as Lloyd Dobler explains in Say Anything) “selling anything, buying anything, or processing anything.”


And in a post on What listening to God looks like, it’s worth mentioning that knowing what you absolutely loathe is as important to discernment as discovering what you’re deeply passionate about.  Just don’t confuse what you hate with what you fear.  More about that later.

I lasted 18 months before the longing desire to do theology won out. I was so miserable in a job that was crushing my spirit that I simply quit.  I scoured the want-ads for anything remotely touching upon “helping people,” and was working on figuring out how to send a resume to the Archdiocese when I suddenly got a phone call from a friend-of-a-friend (who may or may not have known I was unemployed). One of the religion teachers at her school was going on a trip to Israel for three weeks, and they needed a short-term substitute. She wanted to know if I was doing anything. Might I be interested?

Um, let me turn off this episode of Little House on the Prairie.

YES, I am interested.

I interviewed with the Archdiocese who promised that following my short-term sub assignment, they definitely had long-term and ultimately permanent positions available, should I be interested.

Thus began my teaching career.

Living Out the Passion

While I was confident that this was the path for me, I was still apprehensive. There was a lot I didn’t know about my subject area.  And I lacked the educational training.

Then the Lord said [to Moses], “I am sending you to the king of Egypt so that you can lead my people out of his country.”  But Moses said to God, “I am nobody. How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  God answered, “I will be with you.” (Exodus 3:7a,10-12)

Since this was God’s plan, not mine, I decided to take the leap of faith and trust.  So I took Solomon’s lead:
Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people. (2 Chronicles 1)

My prayer to God before I teach is simply: “grant me wisdom.” (I continue to say this prayer before I teach, even to this day.)

So I went for it.  I taught five classes of high school seniors in the biggest Catholic school in Philadelphia.  I poured my heart into my lessons and presented with the passion and excitement that led me to the field.  I used my organizational skills to clearly explain my expectations.  And I had a great team of colleagues to turn to for advice.  I didn’t have many problems with classroom management; though I probably should have written a few more students up for behavior than I did.

I found the “sweet-spot” of teaching – that “Ah-ha! Moment” – to be exhilarating.  This was it.  I was doing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

And Then Things Fell Apart

Just a month into the following school year, my life fell apart.  Like crisis-of-faith, deep-depression,  pick-up-the-shattered-pieces-of-my-life-and-move-across-the-country “fell apart.”

So, I finished teaching the semester, moved to Texas to be with my family, and committed to healing and rebuilding my life on a happier and healthier foundation.

Move to Austin 1999-1

After spending a few months working in telecommunications (isn’t it amazing that I had that skill-set under my belt and had a “real job” within weeks of my arrival?), I started teaching again in the only Catholic high school in Austin at that time (isn’t it amazing that such a small school had a position available for me the following school year?).

When I reflect back on this very difficult time in my life, I marvel at how the Holy Spirit was still actively working in my life.

A little over a year later, I met a man quite randomly through a friend of a friend (in fact, each of us showed up to this party barely knowing the hostess through separate friend-of-a-friend people… and then never saw nor heard from the hostess again). But commitment-phobic as I was, I wasn’t interested in or looking for a relationship. And neither was he: within months he was finishing his PhD and moving across the country in pursuit of a job. So with mutual understanding, we began to enjoy each other’s company. A lot. And before we knew it, enjoyment turned to appreciation, respect, and love.

First Picture of Peter and Julie

Possibly the first picture ever taken of us

The atmosphere of my job had changed substantially. So much so that I took the initiative to pursue a dream to go to graduate school. I can’t quite explain why, but the deepest desires of my heart yearned for Boston College. A colleague asked me which program I was interested in, and without much thought, I replied: the Masters in Theology. Erin encouraged me to look into the IREPM – a program designed for people like me, called the Institute of Pastoral Ministry and Religious Education. Consequentially, a friend of mine from undergrad–Susan–had been telling me the same thing. Of course, when I looked in to it, the program was exactly what I wanted and needed.  (The IREPM has since become part of Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry.)

Once again, I’m going to pause here and draw attention to a few themes:


  • Saying “Yes-But-No” to the Holy Spirit doesn’t really work.  Kind of like Jonah and the Big Fish, God will get God’s way with you eventually.

  • Actually Living Out Your Passion may involve taking some leaps of faith.  Trust like Moses, pray like Solomon.  It’s worth it.

  • Sometimes Things Fall Apart.  God is still at work in your life.  Pick up the pieces and move on.  God moves with you (and for you, and through you, but that’s another post).


Stay tuned for my next post, “Workings of the Spirit Part 3: Deeper Passion, Bigger Challenges.”


“Students and tutor in class © Depositphotos.com/monkeybusiness”

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