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Why I Kissed My Career GoodBye

Why I Kissed My Career GoodBye

A Spiritual Quest

Years ago I set out on a personal quest, a pilgrimage of sorts, with the goal of re-discovering God. I wanted to see if this faith thing was true, to see if I threw my complete dependence onto Him, he would let me down.

That might seem strange to you. “After all, Jonathan, you’re a pastor,” you say, “aren’t you supposed to have this God-thing figured out?” Maybe. But you might be surprised to discover that my spiritual pilgrimage didn’t necessarily include with it the goal of becoming a pastor. That has become a particular leg of my spiritual journey rather than a result.

So here is a confession that you need to know. When I left my career as a pharmaceutical representative, I lied to everyone (including myself) about my reason. I told them I “wanted” to be a pastor, and I was going to school for it. The truth is far more complicated. Becoming a pastor may have been my vocalized reason, but my heart was searching for something deeper, more authentic.

From Drug Rep to Gospel Rep

After an eight-year stint as a pharmaceutical sales representative, I was spiritually spent.  I had climbed the ropes of the pharma industry, achieved great success, and was even eligible for incredible promotions and financial incentives.  But on the inside, I was lost and hurting. The God of my childhood seemed distant, and the complications of life were overwhelming.

So I did what any “rational” person would do, I resigned my position and enrolled into seminary full-time (tongue-in-cheek)! Yes, I walked away from a six figure income, corporate benefits, prestige, and stability all in the process of searching for real truth. I kissed my career good bye. Occasionally I have looked back, but never in regret.

My wife, Ivey, was supportive.  Deep down she knew that I had to do this. You see, part of my motive was a desire to really live and to stretch my faith. I wanted to experience life and to live it. I mean really live it and find truth, to find God.

So my pilgrimage took me to four different seminaries representing three different protestant traditions: Wesleyan, Baptist, and Reformed/Presbyterian. I encountered all kinds of people from all kinds of theological backgrounds. Some I agreed with. Some I didn’t.

For better or for worse, I tried on different theologies almost like you might try on a pair of shoes. I like this, but I don’t like that. I finally settled on the fact that I was an evangelical with a particular bent towards liturgy. More importantly, however, a sense of the truthfulness of Jesus Christ began to soak into my heart, and I began to see something in Jesus that I never seen before. He was really real!

While attending seminary, I often heard disparaging remarks about certain groups of Christians. Most of the time the comments were made by a few students who were on their own journey, struggling with their own faith backgrounds.  For me, I was looking for something reliable, a solid foundation other than what I thought had let me down.  Why?  Because while I was in college pursing my undergraduate degrees, my faith had been so challenged by certain professors that I nearly lost it. As a necessary reaction, I compartmentalized my faith letting it out only periodically and only in certain settings.

This is why I enrolled into seminary. My faith simply would not remain in the intellectual ghetto I had placed it. Jesus was not content to stay in the polite box I had created for him. He kept challenging my spiritual framework forcing me to come to terms with Him.

At the conclusion of my studies, I discovered something I had longed for but had yet to experience —  the God of my childhood was now real.


About The Author

Jonathan G. Smith

The Rev'd Dr. Jonathan G. Smith is the Senior Minister of Redeemer Church in Orlando, Founder of Grace Nation, and owner of Higher Purpose Coaching. His passion is to see people transformed by the Gospel, the liberating power of Jesus Christ.


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