Luck, Ministry, the Realities of the Market, and Money

I don’t believe in luck. I think it is a stupid concept most of the time. Most people use the word to indicate that they wish that things would work out for somebody in a positive way. For instance, you may have heard somebody say, “Good luck!” In that respect it’s fine. In the respect of believing that some people get a statistically improbably amount of assistance in life and others receive a similar amount of opposition because of weird moral forces seems bogus to me. If I were a luck believing man, though, I would never gamble (which I don’t) and I certainly would not bet on me.

In the past several years of my life, here are some coincidences that I have experienced:

  1. I had elbow surgery to repair damage caused by a genetic bone disorder and the fixator device that was used totally malfunctioned and I now have very painful elbow arthritis because of it.
  2. In high school, my new truck broke down on a bridge due to an electrical systems failure and I was rear-ended by a guy driving about 60mph, who “didn’t notice me stopped.” The truck was totaled. Note: the hazard lights were still functioning after the wreck, indicating that everything was kosher. The police officer refused to believe I was stopped when the accident occurred. He did not write the other man a ticket. Thus, I was sued for 32,000 dollars. Thankfully my insurance, which tripled in price, found me a good defense attorney .
  3. My high-school counselor forgot to send my transcripts and I ended up rejected from all of the schools to which I had applied.
  4. During knee surgery, the doctor accidentally cut an artery in my leg and I instantly became the only person with 5% body fat to ever need emergency bypass surgery and stay in the cardiac ICU for 5 days.
  5. I saved up for a year in college so that I could have one very busy semester without working (because the upcoming schedule just made that seem sensible) and during that period my truck broke down and depleted my finances while I fixed it and I had too many classes for any employer to hire me, but the truck broke after the drop date for my courses.
  6. The same truck literally burst into flames right before the recall notice came in the mail indicating that it was in danger of bursting into flames.
  7. I chose the grad school I attended in order to take classes under two professors who both left after I had only finished half of my program (the prerequisites for their classes). I found myself unqualified for every doctoral program in my field when I finished because none of the courses I needed were available. I did manage to finish by substituting intro courses in various subjects for the advanced courses I needed.
  8. I got a public school math teacher certification in order to make more money. When I finished it, I had several principals who wished to hire me. When I literally had the pick of schools after putting in my applications, the state of Texas approved of a massive budget cut (4 billion dollars). Everybody for whom I was a highly desired applicant then told me that they were struggling to keep their current staff and would be unable to hire me. Though this sucked, being a public school teacher probably would have been awful too.
  9. The private school I work for hired me at the beginning of what was described to me as a five year plan to have competitive salary with local public schools. This is year five and my salary, had I taken a full time job there, would have been only slightly higher than when I was hired. This is not a complaint about my employer. It is just an observation that somebody’s financial projections persuaded me to work there and due to factors beyond my capacity to predict at the time, they did not come true.
  10. I intentionally took a part time job at the school so that I could pursue an engineering degree. During this semester my wife’s job increased her hours in a fashion that could only be described as immoral. Due to the nature of her work, this is not something she can physically sustain. The problem is that I took such a pay cut that there is no way we could afford for her to quit and look for new work without eating up our savings. She’ll have to quit, and I am not sure what we’ll do.

Anyhow, I’m going to have to try getting some sort of job that won’t laugh at my two Bible degrees, which is not easy. While I was hoping for a teaching job, if I include online applications and the dozens of in person applications I filed, I applied for hundreds of jobs while I mowed yards for a living. Only one of them called me back (a managerial position at a dept. store) after I had been a teacher for a whole year.

There is a moral to this story. It isn’t just some whiny poor-me tale. Here it is:

“The results in this paper strongly support the hypothesis that graduating from college in a bad economy has a long-run, negative impact onwages. I also find a negative effect on occupational attainment and slight increases in both educational attainment and tenure for those who graduate in worse national economies.” Lisa B. Kahn, “The Long-Term Labor Market Consequences of Graduating from College in a Bad Economy,” Labour Economics 17, no. 2 (2010): 312

I essentially graduated at the wrong time (2008) and in the wrong field (Bible). The “full-time ministry” paradigm is dying in local churches in the United States. Nobody told us this when we were in Bible college, probably because nobody who would have told us knew. The paradigm can be salvaged in individual cases, but the reality is that cases of full time pastor positions are dwindling (the author of the linked article misunderstands the very evidence he cites in his article) in several denominations.

So, anyway, you never know what random stuff will come your way. For instance, while I was writing this very article, my wife and I received an email that her healthcare plan would be discontinued due to the Affordable Care Act. Similarly priced plans appear to offer only a fraction of the coverage and plans that offer similar coverage are literally multiple times more expensive. I still don’t have insurance because my bone disorder makes it prohibitively expensive. When I tried to apply for it last year it was like 300 bucks a month for a minimal coverage plan. When I get sick I follow this protocol: drink coffee, power through it, and hope I’m not contagious.

If you feel called to the ministry, then learn to do something else first. Jesus did (carpentry/rock working), Paul did (leather worker), many of the ancient philosophers did (teacher, leather workers, pottery makers, etc), and most of the prophets did. If you don’t do it before seminary or Bible college you’ll wish you did because once you’re married and can no longer in good conscience risk becoming homeless to improve your lot in life, then you’ll get stuck.


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