I am Canadian, 28, single and a Wildland Firefighter. While I love my career and believe the Lord has brought me to where I am, it presents a couple of problems. First, while I am a member of a great church that I love, I find it difficult to be involved in the community like I once was. I am away from home so often that I can only attend Sunday service once a month. Joining a small group or volunteering are also impractical due to my inability to commit consistently. My second problem is in regards to dating. Again, the time I spend away makes it difficult to meet single godly women let alone date them. I guess I am looking for some guidance in how to balance working at times 21 days on and 4 off when conditions are extreme with being part of a church community and meeting potential dates.
Thanks for your question – I certainly feel for you in your dilemma. Let me offer you a few big picture ideas to consider and then some specific suggestions.
First, your statement that you believe the Lord has “brought you” to your job as a Wildland Firefighter stuck out to me a bit. Certainly, your statement is quite true in a very basic sense. But unless I am reading too much into the statement (always possible!), it seems like you may be assigning some sort of mystical sense of “calling” into your job as a firefighter, such that God necessarily “wants” you in that specific job and you don’t really have the choice of doing something else. If that’s your position, I would suggest that it’s a touch off theologically.
As I’ve written in this space before, the main way God authoritatively leads His people is not through subjective feelings (including the over-spiritualized term “calling”) but through His Word. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that “[a]ll Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ” This is the main passage supporting the doctrine of the “sufficiency of Scripture,” which just means that God’s Word is sufficient to guide us in all areas of life and doctrine — even areas of life not explicitly dealt with in Scripture.
When it comes to job or career, Scripture generally gives us a tremendous amount of freedom, and God doesn’t really authoritatively “call” or “assign” us to one thing such that we are outside his will if we choose to do anything else. (See Colossians 3:17-24.) Of course, choosing to do one job or another can be sinful depending on our motivation for doing it, but essentially, Scripture allows that if the job or career you’re in or contemplating isn’t sin per se, then you’re free to do it.
Of course, any career we choose needs to be chosen in light of the positive instructions God gives to all Christians. Those instructions include admonitions to actively love and encourage God’s people in the context of a church (see Hebrews 10:24-25, among other passages), and, for those men who get married, to actively and sacrificially love our wives and build them up spiritually (Ephesians 5:25-27).
By raising that last point, I don’t necessarily mean to suggest that you should jettison a career you love. Men who are Christians do jobs all the time that require extensive travel and time away from church – especially for relatively short, acute periods, as in military service. I have also known men who changed careers or turned down promotions in order to strike a more spiritually healthy balance in their lives, and those decisions very often bear good fruit. I simply raise all this to suggest (1) that you not mistakenly think this is the only career you can pursue and still be within God’s will (no matter what the cost to you spiritually and in regard to marriage); and (2) that you seek counsel from spiritually mature brothers in Christ who know you well to think through whether continuing in your current career (especially long-term) is the right move spiritually and otherwise.
Okay, enough on that. Assuming you stay in your current career, how can you mitigate the cost to your church life and efforts to find a spouse? I have one main suggestion that goes to both issues: get as involved in your church as you possibly can within the limitations your career places upon you. Ignore the instinct (implied in your question) to be completely uninvolved just because you can’t participate exactly like someone with a normal schedule. Explain your job and schedule to people in various ministries and contexts within the church, and then get busy! Join a small group even if you can’t always make it. Fully participate with an eye toward encouraging others when you are there. Ask the people in your small group to pray for you when you’re gone – and make it a point to regularly pray for them. Volunteer where you can. Serve in ministries as your schedule allows. Find an accountability partner who doesn’t mind talking by phone or email when you can’t meet face-to-face. Prioritize those things over other non-work aspects of your life, especially during the seasons of the year when you’re not gone so much.
Doing so will not only build you (and others) up spiritually even as you’re gone, it will also give you more opportunities to meet women in your church and to observe them (as they can observe you) serving in the ministries of the church. Another suggestion on the dating front is to let an older, married brother or couple in the church know you are interested in marriage and ask them to help. Could be as formal as a blind date or just including you in some group activities with singles when you’re in town. Yet another suggestion – I’m listing it last but it is of first importance – is to pray. Pray for wisdom regarding your career and involvement in the church; pray that God would make you an encouragement to others and that he would help you see opportunities to serve; pray that he would make you a godly man who is prepared for marriage; pray that he would give you a wife.
I myself will pray that the Lord would give you wisdom in all these things.
For his glory,