I sat in the middle of a crowd, tears streaming down my face. I tried to wipe them away discreetly, but I couldn't stop crying. The other congregants probably didn't notice, but I felt on display. The pastor was giving what should have been an encouraging sermon, and the crowd was responding well. But for me, each word ripped the scabs off recent wounds.
"Work is a calling on every person's life," the pastor said. "God called Adam and Eve to work in Genesis 1:28, before the Fall. That means work is good. A middle-aged factory worker has a calling, even if he feels as though it's just a job to pay the bills and take care of his family."
As a young woman just entering the workforce, I connected to that fictional middle-aged man who felt ashamed of his factory job. I had spent three-and-a-half years earning a master's degree in Christian formation and soul care because I felt that God's calling on my life was to serve others in that capacity. Even though seminary would cost a lot more money on top of the pile of loans I had already accrued, I knew a master's degree would fulfill the passions and abilities God put in me. That was worth whatever price I had to pay.
Yet here I was, cutting fabric and stocking shelves at Jo-Ann Fabric to make ends meet.
The High Cost of Education
I came to Jo-Ann's by way of Panera. I had finished my master's program, gotten married, and moved across the United States for my husband's residency. Having worked at a Panera to make ends meet during seminary, I was able to transfer to another location in our new area, thinking it would be a short-term fix to keep us afloat financially. In the meantime, I searched for a job in soul care.
As the months passed, I spiraled into a depression of self-doubt. Few jobs fit my education, and those I applied for neglected to respond to my resumes. It was a lonely period in my life. After nine months of this, my husband's residency ended, so we moved halfway across the country again to live with my in-laws since we were unable to find jobs to sustain us financially.
It felt like we had hit a new low. My husband and I moved into his childhood bedroom, framed master's diplomas in tow. Our furniture collected dust in a warehouse under boxes of unopened wedding gifts and seminary textbooks. Had God pressed "pause" on our lives, and then walked out of the room?