What if seeking your heart’s desire grinds you to dust?

Right now I’m writing from a place of bitterness (not my usual abode when blogging). I have finished Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. It ends with one of those middle-class exhortations to go out and find an adventure to live, to seek what your heart really desires, take risks, and then — then you’ll really start to live.

I do wonder how my working-class ancestors in the North of England would have felt about such advice.

Well, what have I always desired? Writing, teaching, learning. I love these things. I love literature, history, languages. I also believe the study of the humanities is an important part of a well-functioning society. Oh, hey! I know!

Why don’t I become a university professor?

Well. Golly. Here’s a career that I actually love. I’ve taken “risks” other men wouldn’t have taken. I’m holed up in my in-laws’ basement pursuing it. This is my dream. Teaching at a university and doing academic research is actually my dream, and from what students and colleagues say, I seem to be good at it.

So, why is that, having had my viva voce examination (“viva”) for my Ph.D. in August of 2015, I have had four one-year contracts since then and have been unemployed since August 31? For how long am I to continue this existence? How long should I drag out unemployment?

Am I betraying my true heart, giving up on adventure, letting the poser within or the world without crush the real me, every time I apply for a non-academic job?

Oh, John Eldredge. You took risks. And they paid off.

People like to say, “Jeremiah 29:11, brother. ‘I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD…'”

Well, let’s consider plans God has had for His people. For me, I keep circling back to the Russian Revolution, probably because I’ve read things by some of the Christians it exiled, like Archimandrite Sophrony and Metropolitan Anthony Bloom.

I’m willing to see that God could use Bolshevism for the outworking of His providential plan for His church, for the purification of the soul of Russian Orthodoxy or something (?). But I’m not sure that it’s the sort of adventure Eldredge was writing about. Just think of the adventure Anthony Bloom got to live, being exiled from his native country in the 1920s and growing up in Paris!

Of course, Bloom did seek out his adventure. He became a monk, left a career in medicine, then became a priest and ultimately Metropolitan.

But he lived through the Russian Revolution first.

I am not pursuing academia for the money (no one does). All this crap people write about vocation says this is a place I could be happy.

Why will it not then take me into its warm embrace, provide me with employment and some money for my family?

Now, perhaps I need to rethink where and how I teach and write and learn. Perhaps. And perhaps I actually have to get a job that does not involve those things and make them my hobbies. That’s fine. My working-class ancestors wrote articles about fishing in a local magazine in the late nineteenth century. You can do more than one thing.bu

But please stop telling men that if they chase their dreams they will come alive.

My dream is crushing me like a millstone.

4 thoughts on “What if seeking your heart’s desire grinds you to dust?

  1. I hear your pain Matthew and am so sorry for this jobless time. May the Father comfort you all!

  2. I lost my position teaching literature last year, and your thoughts here resonate with my own. I remind myself of the words of Lamentations 3: “It is good that one should wait quietly / for the salvation of the Lord. / It is good for a man that he bear / the yoke in his youth.” God has blessed me with other dreams than this–a family to raise, a small farm to care for–but the vocation I had pursued for twelve years has turned to dust by all appearances. Vanity of vanities, I suppose.

    My heat is deceitful above all things: it’s desire is often to give up on the callings and responsibilities that are mine. There are those, no doubt, who need an exhortation like Eldredge’s, but scripture reminds us that the fruit of any of our labors or adventures in this life are not ultimately harvested here.

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