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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

One Year in Toronto: Feel the beat of the music

It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. I was meant to marry a pastor, a missionary. Like the tall stranger I met the first month of my freshman year of college, his shock of sandy brown hair falling over his eyes, the same boy who took me on midnight walks and played his guitar. He works full-time for a student ministry. Or the baseball player who sat behind me in American history, who graduated and played minor league ball, with whom I broke up up the second day of his visit to France where I was studying. He’s a missionary in Eastern Europe. But the boy I fell in love with, the boy I stuck with, the boy I knew I could marry because he was the only boy I had ever admired and felt hopelessly inadequate for, that long-haired boy with the flannel cap and blue fleece, well, he was a math major. We traveled to Mali together for a summer missions’ project after our junior year and fell in love under the African moon. He loved Jesus, just didn’t want to be a pastor.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this, me married to an executive. The consolation long ago was that at the very least, if we weren’t going to serve in any sort of official ministry capacity, we’d at least take those executive dreams and go abroad, living the gospel in less-saturated places.

For so many years, time passed us by. Our letter of willingness was written and waiting for the winds of a call; we’d let ourselves be sent. And the recruiters brought opportunities for Paris, London, Switzerland.  Nothing ever materialized.

And then Toronto.

I suppose deep down in my gut I’ve been struggling to make sense of this script in the making. I have long lived weighed down by my burdened categories of right and good. It’s right to be poor. It’s good to be a pastor. It’s best to do what my brother-in-law and sister-in-law have done, giving up ambition, money, and safety and moving into Chicago’s West Side, where little girls die on their front porches because gangs fight with guns.

But can Jesus call people to run companies, to live in Toronto and send their children to private school?

I posted months ago about the sight of Glen Campbell giving a concert, and initially, before my friend and I recognized Campbell and remembered that he’d been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, we had thought it strange how the teleprompter scrolled at his feet. We watched his clumsy and awkward movements, concluded he was drunk.

I’ve thought so often about Campbell, thought about how living life with the expectations of others scrolling at our feet ends up making us look terribly strange and clumsy. I should know. I’ve done it long enough. I’ve lived in the fear that either what I would choose to do or leave undone would somehow give you reason to judge me. I’ve been living to answer that grace-less, clumsy question: “Am I enough?” I’ve worked my fingers to the bone for a unanimous yes.

You want to find the wings of your call? You, little you, with the clammy hands?

Close your eyes, and feel the beat of the music. Dance like a fool.