Thursday, April 24, 2014

When I Grow Up, I a Wanna Be a...

(Note: This blog post has now been sitting for a couple of weeks because I was afraid to post it – afraid that it would be viewed as whiny, afraid that no one really wanted to read a blog about my problems figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, afraid of letting people see the real Tim Schwamb.  But…here it is.  Once again, I’m just like Jango Fett:  Just a simple man trying to make his way in the universe.  Maybe you've had similar struggles...)


When I grow up I want to be a…?  That's the question I've been asking myself for a few years, because at some point, it dawned on me that when I take the uniform off, I'm going to have to do something. And while I would like to answer with "full-time traveler" or "professional hiker", my wife would be quick to point out that AF retirement typically does not leave one independently wealthy, and those preferred professions tend to have more out-flow than in-come.


But I've had trouble deciding what it is I do want to do. Should it be an upward mobility position, where I can make money and continue to achieve, or should it be "just a job" with predictable hours and little extra required since I've required so much of my family over the last several years? Ideas have run the entire gamut from landscaper (that requires manual labor, so I'm thinking not!) to national park ranger (since I love history and the outdoors) to writing for a travel book company to working for Disney World to being a bottom-feeder defense contractor. I've also considered going into ministry as a worship leader.


That last option is one I've considered for the last 5 years or so based on my experiences in working with, leading, and in some cases, building foundations for, worship ministry. But it's fraught with peril. Why, you say? What a noble profession! see, I've never had formal vocal training. Everything I've learned, I've learned from being around others. That’s even truer when you talk about leading a praise team. I don't know the first thing about how to teach people to sing the right notes, or to tell it's the alto that's sharp, or the bass that keeps missing that note. Being in that position frankly scares me to death. So I'm not sure a church that's looking for a serious worship leader would even hire me.


Second, and sadly, after watching several minister hirings and firings first-hand and being a part-time worship leader, I've come to realize that our churches have some of the most unloving, hateful people in the world -- or at the very least that they don't think about how their message will be received before speaking. I know for many that will read this blog, that sounds overly harsh, but I am amazed at what some people will say or how they will say it when they feel like they don’t get a vote in leadership decisions, or whether we “allow” clapping in church (yes, that is actually still an issue in some of our churches!), or they don't like the song selections for two weeks in a row. I often wonder how they would feel if someone made similar accusations to them in a similar tone. I also struggle with self-esteem. I absolutely hate to not be liked. I'm not sure I could handle people being critical of me routinely.


Third, I feel like I've routinely been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Because that sequence of events is hard to explain and because some of it is better left unsaid, I'll just leave it that I started to wonder if God perhaps wasn't calling me into that role.


Fast-forward to earlier this week. We said goodbye to my boss this week, and I volunteered to do the invocation for the Relinquishment of Command (for my oldest daughter, that means I said the prayer). Afterward, one of the Colonels that went through the Air Advisor Academy with me, Col Fryer, came up to me and said, "Wow! That invocation was really good! You can just tell when that comes naturally to someone, that it's a part of who they are, and clearly it is for you. Have you ever considered doing that for a living?", to which I responded that it was one of the things I've considered doing after I retire. He then told me he thought I'd be really good at it. Just a few minutes later, our Wing Vice Commander came up to me and said almost the exact same thing. It started to make me wonder...


That night, I was eating dinner, and Col Fryer sat down with me. Now let me take a minute as an aside to talk about Col Jim Fryer. I can say without hesitation that there is only one other officer that has had the impact he has had on both my professional AND personal life.  If leadership is the ability to motivate people to get stuff done even when they don’t want to, he models it every day.  As I’ve alluded to before, people don’t really line up to give attaboys to the guy that runs the chow hall and the gym and base security.  In fact, there are a lot of people that know how to do my job better than I do.  Just ask ‘em.  So I take a fair amount of grief from the population at large and a lot of pressure from up above.  Col Fryer is always there, encouraging me, telling me that he notices and appreciates the work I do.  To be fair, I have received positive feedback from several, including my boss and my boss’s boss, from time to time, but…well…there’s no other way to say it other than Col Fryer is an encourager.  Not everyone is.  One day, I was having a really rotten day and was ready to spit nails at the first person that got in front of me.  As I walked through the gym trying not to make eye contact with anyone, Col Fryer saw me from a distance, interrupted his workout, and walked over to intercept me to ask how I was doing.  If ever there was any doubt as to whether I wear my emotions on my sleeves, there’s not anymore.  He could tell from that far away that life was not good.  Being that mad, I was in no mood to talk.  But the simple fact that he went completely out of his way to check on me made a huge impact on me.  Another day, I had had about enough of frivolous taskers and ridiculous demands.  We are in a war zone.  I am not worried about whether there are ruts in the gravel or not.  Fortunately, that day was our weekly dinner with my Air Advisor classmates.  While the group covers just about all ranks, we’ve deemed the time non-attribution, so we can pretty much say anything we want.  That night I let it all out.  Col Fryer then used his sense of humor to get us all laughing at the absurdity of it all.  By the end of the night, we had all laughed as hard as we ever had, and I was healed enough that I could go back to work the next day without killing anyone.


Anyway, back to the story…So Col Fryer sat down to dinner with me that night after the Relinquishment of Command ceremony, and the first thing out of his mouth was, “So tell me more about you becoming a man of the cloth.”  I started by telling him that I had thought about doing a lot of different things after I left the military, including becoming a worship leader, then said, “This is going to be a long story.  You may be getting more than what you bargained for.”  He responded that he didn’t care; he was truly interested. 


After I had finished walking him through all of the reasons I outlined above of why I wasn’t sure I could become a worship leader, he asked, “Can you see yourself doing that?  Is that something you want to do?”  I responded, “It’s probably the career choice I come back to the most.”  He said, “Well, do you think you would enjoy doing it? If you woke up every morning and had to go do that, would you look forward to it?”  I said, “Yes.  I think so.”  Then he simply stated, “Well then maybe you have your answer.”


At that moment, it was as if a great darkness had suddenly become light.  After all these months of wondering, worrying, praying for answers, there was finally clarity, as if I had finally gotten a message directly from God.  Now I still don’t know with a 100% certainty that my future is in ministry, but that one conversation, from someone who cared enough to ask, listen, and offer an opinion lifted the oppressive weight of uncertainty after so many years of not having to think about what I would do after the military and suddenly realizing that the time to make that decision was sneaking up on me.  That conversation gave me the freedom to prepare for and pursue a dream and to realize that the future didn’t have to be so scary, or that I might be forced into something I wouldn’t be happy doing if “professional traveler” or “Chief Ride Tester” at Disney World don't work out.

1 comment:

  1. This was all goodness. Thanks for sharing brother. I can relate with what you are going through. Be safe.