God sent me a raft–a red raft (at least that’s how I envision it). It’s one of those inflatable rafts that’s a little bit translucent so that you can see the water below it and the sun reflecting off of it at the same time; one that’s just long enough so that your feet caress the water when you stretch out on it; one that’s just wide enough that you don’t struggle to keep your balance if a wave rolls under you.
My raft came in the heat of summer when I was swimming hard to get somewhere. I had been applying for full-time jobs for months. By my count, I completed nine applications in a span of two months. Eight of them required much more than a resume. If cover-letter fatigue is real, I had it.
Most of my applications went to their eternal rest in some Human Resources database. (I have zero confidence that anyone actually keeps my application on file in case I happen to be a fit for another position. Once I hit submit, I’m more often than not at the mercy of an algorithm and not an image-bearer.)
But then I received an email that someone wanted to interview me. It felt simultaneously like a joke and a miracle. I hadn’t made it past the application stage for a regular, non-contract job in ten years. Imposter syndrome and hope competed for space in my mind.
The initial interview felt like a disaster. My palms were sweaty, I fumbled my words, and an alarm kept going off on my phone. But something must have clicked, because I had an email five minutes later requesting an on-campus interview. I purchased a navy blue suit, prepped an interactive presentation, and brushed up on a few topics that might come up in conversation. I left that interview confident I would receive a job offer.
The week of my interview, a few requests for contract work appeared in my inbox. Someone wanted me to do some writing. Another person wanted me to develop an online course. A friend wanted to chat about how I might help his organization with their upcoming pastors’ conference.
I thought it odd, the timing of all of those emails. Surely God knew I was applying for full-time jobs. I asked most of the people who had emailed me to wait because I was waiting to hear about the job I was sure I would get. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
By the three-week mark, everyone I knew started urging me to send a follow-up email. Patience, I told them. Job offers take time in academia. You wouldn’t believe the bureaucracy. So I waited. And I prayed. I sought the Lord’s direction even though I was sure where he had pointed my compass needle.
Then my spiritual director did her thing—that thing where, after having listened attentively, she tells you what you just said and makes a statement come across like a question. Or rather, it’s a statement that makes you question…to the point you come completely unhinged a few days later.
For months, we had been sorting through matters of identity and calling. I sensed that my calling had something to do with being a theological educator, or maybe teaching people about God. I love teaching. I love the Scriptures.
“Your calling, as best as you can discern, has to do with theological education, and you are contemplating taking a job that focuses on faculty development for medical educators,” she said.
The halfway point of my walk—that’s when it happened, the unhinging. Those paces up Aurora. “Holy, Holy, Holy” in my ears and on my lips. How could I take a job where I could no longer talk regularly about the holiness of God? If I worked in medical education, theology would have to sit on a shelf. Sure, it could inform my work and shape me as a worker. But mostly, it would become a hobby. And I’ve seen what I do to my hobbies.
I came home and told my husband I didn’t think I was supposed to take the job and that I would turn it down if they offered it. We both thought I was a little bit crazy. But maybe I could start with those requests for work in my inbox and build my consulting business. Maybe I could teach a bit more. Maybe, somehow, with all of that work, God would keep us afloat.
The next day, the automated email came from human resources. I didn’t get the job. I was surprised but not dismayed. Within days, those requests for work in my inbox turned into contracts. I sought a few new clients and took on a couple new classes. The paychecks came…sporadically.
Didn’t some preacher once tell us a story about a flood, a man, two boats, and a helicopter? If you want to be saved, you have to do your part; you have to climb aboard. When God sent me a raft, I climbed aboard. Sort of.