One of the most vivid instances was having been laid off from a job I loved. I traveled with my job and my prized possession was my frequent flier card that gave me benefits such as free flights! Then, about a month after 9/11 it all ended. I was a training and certification manager for a small association that depended upon donations. Donations dried up because, rightfully, money was going to agencies like Red Cross or United Way. So, in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon, I found myself, along with all but one member of my department, packing my desk and saying goodbye. To say I was devastated was an understatement! There was the emotional loss, the financial loss, and a great deal of fear. Soon the God’s straight with crooked lines began to appear.
The next morning, to get myself out of bed and start to organize a job search, I attended 9am Mass in the Day Chapel where I cried through most of Mass. Fr. Bill and others whom I had never met, including Marie, comforted me. Marie became a dear friend. I met another friend, Peggy, who was also unemployed. We journeyed together, and when a friend of mine told me about an opening at a parish in Lake County, I shared it with Peggy, and told her the job sounded like a perfect fit for her. She said “no, it sounds like a perfect fit for you!” Parish work could not have been further from my mind! Along the crooked lines over the next several months, there were many “messages” from our God who loves us unconditionally. For the most part, I did not recognize them, or flat out said “NO WAY!” I pursued leads, scheduled networking meetings, attended a job workshop offered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, revised my resume and cover letter multiple times….and kept going to daily Mass. The interviews that I was lucky enough to land did not pan out, and frankly did not feel like a good fit despite each job being in the field from which I had come.
Finally, as I was preparing my resume for the opening at the parish in Lake County, the head of the interview committee suddenly died! Which was just more proof to me that I was not called to pastoral ministry work. Besides, churches do not pay what the private sector pays! I mailed the application anyway, and much to my surprise, I was invited to interview. Talk about an intense interview! I saw one of my “competitors” for the position dressed for the part with a fairly prominent cross on a chain across her chest. Another was a chaplain. And me. Not me Lord! Following the interview, I called my husband from the parking lot to tell him how poorly the interview went. A block later, I pulled to the side of the street and called him back, trembling, to say that honestly, the interview had gone so well that I was overwhelmed and frightened. I could potentially be called for another interview, which is exactly what happened hours later, along with it being revealed that a job offer was probably coming as well.
When the second interview went exceedingly well and the offer came, my fear intensified….and the tears flowed, and flowed and flowed. How could I, an ordinary practicing Catholic with no background in parish ministry possibly be up to the task? No background in pastoral studies though, yes, active in my parishes over the years. Not to mention the huge pay cut! How could God expect me to take that leap of faith? And what’s more, how great a sin would it be to say “no!” To essentially turn my back on God! Fr. Bill counseled me to “trust the Holy Spirit.” My heart and soul were not ready to hear that message yet. I retorted “easy for you to say. You are a priest!” Perhaps he still laughs about that conversation. A bolt of lightening while I was driving one day and praying for a sign finally moved me. Yes, literally! A bolt of lightening, and I said yes to the job offer.
God’s crooked lines became perfectly straight. For instance, the computer that came to reside in my office had belonged to the head of the interview committee who had died. In it I came across an interview question that would have blown me out of the water. Then, soon I learned that Fr. Bill’s parents were members of the parish and I was blessed to minister to them! A parishioner approached me about starting a ministry for job searchers. Two amazing things unfolded: Latter Day Saints, with no strings attached, gave us all the materials for presenting their job workshop at the parish. Imagine a collaboration between Mormons and Catholics? Is that not God writing straight with crooked lines! What’s more, it turns out that the parishioner who approached me about beginning a job ministry and I have relatives in common in Minnesota! So now we call ourselves “step cousins once or twice removed.” And that pay cut? God provided of course. Why did I ever doubt?
I give God praise and thanks for calling me to be a member of a parish staff coordinating pastoral ministries such as Ministry of Care, Bereavement Ministry, Grief Support Groups, Job Ministry and half dozen or more others as well of course! I thank the pastor who took the leap of faith to hire a virtual unknown. May he rest in peace and be rewarded for his goodness! I never looked back once after accepting the position, and assumed it was the role from which I would one day retire, which is how it unfolded. I still miss the people and maintain many wonderful friendships. The blessings along that straight path have been tremendous.
Today, as we face tremendous uncertainties and might feel anxious about what the future holds, I find doubts and fears creeping into my thoughts and soul still again. That is human. And my God has my back and all of ours. I rely on friends who encourage me, and through them, I once again see God writing straight with crooked lines.