Scuttle It and Swim

Shortly before I left my job at the church, a long-time parishioner and “straight shooter” stopped by the parish office. Seeing me there and knowing I was leaving soon, she inquired what I would be doing next. I told her I hoped to be writing full-time for the Church. She gazed a moment at me, a slight smile creasing her face, then asked, “Are you seeking a life of poverty?”

Her practical candor caught me off guard, compared to the wonder and well-wishes I had received up to that point—as did my off-the-cuff reply: “Well, there are worse things!”

I have now been a month without work. Our bills are paid thus far; I’ve done one small freelance job for a former colleague, and I have a couple more freelance proposals out for review, but no response to date. I’ve applied to a handful of full-time communications jobs at Catholic organizations and several non-Catholic (and even non-writing) positions. The budget will be tight in the coming weeks.

There are worse things.

Am I nervous? You bet. Do I regret stepping out of the boat and onto the water? Not yet. I am not looking back, even though looking forward presents little consolation at the moment.

Are you seeking a life of poverty?

I am seeking a life of freedom. How many saints have found exactly that by letting go of the things that tie them down? In Resisting Happiness, Matthew Kelly writes: “To love is to freely give ourselves to another. In order to freely give ourselves, we must first possess ourselves.”

We can’t give what we don’t have.

I can’t give myself entirely to my wife and kids, to this new calling, to God, because I am a slave to comfort. I want a steady income and the perceived security that comes with it. So I spend my time sending out résumés and neglecting the call I set out to answer. I pitch myself, piecemeal, to prospective employers, and what is left? Unless you count cover letters, I write only sporadically. I justify it by saying, “I have a wife and kids to provide for.”

God knows this. Did He ask me to write or not?

I, like so many men before me, am my own worst enemy. Evidence abounds that He has not forgotten us: friends spontaneously reach out to us in prayer on our worst days; my own prayers and spiritual reading align in profound ways, urging me forward. Yet when the waves pitch beneath me, instead of reaching for the Lord I clutch at the boat behind me.

It’s still there—but why do I care? What is that bit of bark compared to the Word that created the world?

Scuttle it. The horizon awaits.

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