In the Spring of 2019, I went through the most difficult season in my clergy career. I’ll save you the gory (and boring) details, but basically I was looking at unemployment come July of 2019. I had no idea what my next step was.
I went to seminary right after I graduated college (with a psychology major). For almost 15 years of my life, I did nothing but ministry. So when it came to searching for a job, I realized that I was woefully under-prepared for the “real world.” I knew how to tell a story pretty well. But how does one make a living off of telling stories? I wasn’t (and still am not) good with my hands.
I had no idea how I was going to help support my family. I didn’t want to put the burden of bringing in income solely on my wife (though, I do have day dreams of being a stay-at-home dad). I had never felt such a desolate pit of fear and uncertainty within my stomach and soul.
Though I was filled with uncertainty — I never felt alone.
Not AloneOne way God answers our prayers is through other people. Sometimes we don’t acknowledge this as answered prayer because it doesn’t seem miraculous enough; it’s too subtle. But God’s presence was felt through people walking with us through this journey of uncertainty. I want my son to know, while we may never have abundance of materials, we always had (and will have) people.
Underneath all the frantic craziness, there was an underlying and undying sense of peace that followed me. If I took a breath and slowed down my thoughts, I’d be overwhelmed with peace rather than fear.
I felt the peace of Christ at the beginning of that season.
I left the meeting with my, then, boss shook and scared. I felt like crawling under a rock and hibernating for the next decade.
On my way home, I turned on the radio to fill the silence with something, anything. The song "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley started playing and I felt certain that “every little thing gonna be alright.” I didn’t know what the future held, but I was certain who held it. I was able to breathe for what felt like the first time since the start of the meeting.
Presence and Birds
Throughout that season, the theme of birds wouldn’t escape me. I stumbled onto the Celtic tradition of the Holy Spirit being personified by the goose, rather than the dove. The Holy Spirit as a goose resonated with me so deeply — particularly how fierce a mother goose can be in protecting its goslings.
Then we had the gracious opportunity to vacation at a place called Sweet Songs to help take my mind off of all that happened. We checked in and realized that the whole resort had the theme of Marley’s Three Little Birds. From the name of their dining hall (Three Little Birds) to their decoration throughout the property (paintings of three birds and lyrics ascribed on walls and sidewalks) to one of their signature (and my favorite) drinks (named Three Little Birds).
On that car ride home after the meeting with the Bishop, I felt that God was speaking to me through a song, telling me to not worry and that everything will be okay. God was telling me —through that song — to not simply believe in God but to trust in God; that everything in the end will be okay.
Yet, when I struggled with trusting in God; when I was short-sighted; when I deeply questioned if everything really would work out, God kept giving me reminders throughout the season by staying on the theme of birds.
Seeing the birds and reiterations of “Three Little Birds,” I was able to find peace in a raging storm of uncertainty. I was able to take a breath and trust that things would work out. I’m certain that vacationing at Sweet Song was more than a coincidence or serendipity; it was an affirmation that God was and is and always will be with me.
I commemorated this season with my first tattoo ever. It’s of three little birds: a goose (the Celtic symbol of the Holy Spirit), a dove (the traditional symbol of the Holy Spirit), and a sparrow (from Matthew 10:29-31).
It serves as a reminder to not simply believe but to trust that God is with me.
In the end nothing turned out the way I wanted, the way I desired, or the way I planned. Yet, God remained faithful to me, even when I wavered; even when I doubted.
That season has taught me that even though things rarely play out the way I wanted and designed, still, everything will (eventually) be okay because God — not me — is in control. I find peace in trusting that.