In my previous post I set the stage for this post, so if you haven’t read it (and you want to understand what’s going on here), you should read it.
My faith has come a long way over the years and it is still evolving. The relationship between “faith” and what I call my skepticism or critical thinking isn’t always clear-cut. (As an aside – I would encourage you to read this article on the nature of faith by Greg Koukl – it helps you understand what I mean when I use the word.) Sometimes I don’t know how to interpret the things that come my way.
I don’t believe faith is just wishful thinking – it should have some foundation in fact. If I have no good reason to place my faith in something or someone, I don’t do it. I find no nobility in believing something in spite of evidence or in the face of no evidence. When someone tells me something that they believe, I want to hear why they believe it. But when I think through the various events of my life, or different things that happen, I’m not always sure what to believe.
The whole thing that prompted these two posts is my current job situation. At the beginning of 2008 I decided to no longer pursue ministry as my full-time career. At first my goal was to find a job in some kind of HR position. I thought I didn’t want to be a teacher. I applied to dozens of jobs – probably around a hundred – in the HR field. For months, beginning in late 2007, I applied to all manner of companies, from Google to Safeway to places I’d never heard of. At first I only applied to jobs I liked the description of but later I became less discriminating. I had one interview for a job with a NASA contractor in Mountain View but was the “runner-up” for the position. I received a phone call during the last week of January asking if I wanted to take a long-term sub position at Washington High School beginning the next week. Having previously decided I did not want to enter teaching as a career, I figured this would at least be consistent work while I looked for an HR position.
This “sub” job changed the course of my job search. Upon my arrival a few days after the call, I was informed that I would in fact be the teacher. On my first day I told them I wasn’t really planning on becoming a teacher so I’d let them know if I wanted to commit to the whole semester. After three days with the students, I knew teaching was the right career for me. I enrolled in a teacher credential program, threw myself into the job, and had a great (and exhausting) semester. I’d found the right career. Or perhaps more accurately, the right career found me.
Last week I was listening to the zillionth news report on our economic woes, on the tens of thousands of layoffs, and realized something. If I’d gotten into the HR field I would likely have already received a pink slip. As a newbie in that field I would probably be among the first to go when the cuts came – and they are coming. Right now our financial situation isn’t spectacular – Janelle is student teaching (making no money) and I’m subbing and tutoring to make money. We’ve taken out gobs of student loans (thankfully that is our only debt) to pay for our credential programs, and we will be trying to find teaching jobs in a district that is facing millions of dollars of cuts next year – but we are in a far better place than we would have been if I were an HR mook somewhere. How did I get this job and get put on this path I didn’t even know I wanted to be on?
While I was searching for an HR job I ran into one of the women from the office at Washington and let her know I was available to sub. A week later I received that phone call about the opening. There are two ways I could view this situation.
First, I could consider it a fortuitous coincidence. Yes, it is possible that things just worked out this way. Another possibility exists, though, if I am willing to have an open enough mind to entertain it.
This is the kind of situation that might cause a person to say “I wanted an HR job, but God had other plans for me.” I could look at this situation as dumb luck, or I could take it as God providing for me and my family. Viewing the world through my lens of skepticism this is coincidence, but through the spectacles of faith this is an example of God’s love and provision for my family and me.
If I choose to believe this is God providing for me, does this mean I’m the same as the person who thanks God for their awesome parking space? Maybe, maybe not.
I’ll explain what I think the difference is in my third and final post.