Our Saturday consisted of a coffee date, our favorite 4-year-old’s birthday party, and a date-night-in. I’ve been fighting off headaches this weekend, but they couldn’t put a damper on our Saturday plans. Dawn and Michael Trest’s baby boy, Liam, had a birthday party and we were too excited to celebrate with him to miss out. I’ve mentioned the Trests before, but if you want to get better acquainted, here’s Dawn’s blog, go take a look! We consider the Trest family as our Mississippi family, our home away from home. They were the first to show us hospitality here, and have continued to be a stable support system and fountain of wisdom for Jim and I throughout our time transitioning to a new place. It’s a blessing to have folks like that in your lives, and we don’t take it for granted!
Recently, I’ve thought a lot about our time here. May marks a full year of living in Mississippi. And when I step back to think about it, I wonder – where has the time gone? And look at God’s faithfulness through every step of our journey, especially during our time in Laurel. Our home, our church, our jobs, all of it! But I’ve really dwelled on our work lately. And I find myself wondering how I can find joy and pleasure in my work while rooting my identity in something solid, in Christ. What does that look like for me, especially in my line of work that I’m in now?
Let me take you back for a minute.
Growing up, my favorite subject in school was theology. Hermeneutics, systematic theology, apologetics – I loved it all. I was leaning toward pursuing Biblical and Theological Studies at Covenant College for a majority of my high school career based off of my enjoyment and fascination with the subjects. I loved gaining an understanding of my faith; but what’s more, to be frankly honest, I enjoyed them because I did well in them. I understood this subject better than others in school. And we all like to do something we’re good at, right? My disdain for math began in the 9th grade, and has continued to this day. Let’s face it, I stink at math. I didn’t understand it well in school, so I didn’t want to pursue it any further than I had to at the time.
I remember in my 10th grade systematic theology class, Mr. Isenberg was handing us back our test scores. This was the first test I had taken with Mr. Isenberg as my teacher, but I felt confident when I took the exam. He hands me my exam, and I stare at the red ink at the top of my paper. 89%. A solid B. Looking back on this now, an 89% isn’t bad at all. I had studied and done my best. Besides, a B in math or Spanish would be stellar for me, so why was I disappointed with a B? Because it was in my theology course, a course I had always done well in, and a B just wasn’t good enough. I approached my teacher after class to discuss the exam, and asked him why I had scored lower on certain questions. Oh yes, I was that student. But this conversation really stood out to me because Mr. Isenberg looked past the initial situation and identified what the root of my problem was – it wasn’t the questions asked on the test or my lack of understanding – it was a pride issue, an issue with my heart. I didn’t get an A; therefore, I didn’t feel “fulfilled.” My confidence and identity was found by doing well in these exams – and when I didn’t do well, uh-oh! This is where I felt fulfilled, but now it’s gone! Where do I find my stability now?
I was experiencing an identity crisis.
Typing this all feels so childish and silly. Identity in your grades? So immature. But you’d be surprised how easily we place our identity in earthly, perishable entities: our colleges, our majors, our spouse, our kids, our jobs… the list goes on.
Our pastor at Crosspointe recently explained the value of every person’s gifts. He was teaching from an extremely familiar passage to me and I’m sure to many of you if you’ve grown up in the church, Romans 12:1-8. This is the passage that addresses the church as the body of Christ.
4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:4-8)
Our gifts are not greater than the other, they’re all equal. We just have different strengths. It’s a level playing ground, and God can use each gift for His glory. I believe the same goes with your work place. Not just using your gifts in your profession, but your actual profession. Have you ever thought about how wonderful garbage men are? Seriously, without them, outside would be a dump. Literally. Customer service folks? I was on the phone with an HP rep for over thirty minutes and he helped me efficiently and effectively solve problems with our fax machine at work. I know what y’all are thinking.. yes, we still use fax machines here in Mississippi. I’ll have to tell you all about my story with the fax machine. It involves free shipping, myself and my coworkers, and a serious lack of communication. But I’ll save that for a rainy day.
Now let’s look at this practically – for Jim and I. Mechanical engineers? Jim monitors and repairs machines that, in short, help create paper products. You know, toilet paper, paper towels, cardboard boxes. But he’s in the beginning stages of that process, and you would not believe the work that goes into creating toilet paper! (No, really, I hear about it all the time, and it’s a lot. I will never look at TP the same. I’ve always appreciated it, but now I admire the process it takes to create it. Ok, I’ve spent too long talking about TP now). Administrative assistants? Well, in a non profit organization like I work at, you get to wear many different hats. But to list a few, they help an office run more smoothly, answer phones, and create a billion spreadsheets just for fun. Just kidding, I don’t find personal enjoyment in creating lots of spreadsheets.
My point is, we all work together as a body – one job isn’t superior to another. And one shouldn’t elevate their work as “more important.” Every person’s calling is important, even if it’s different from your own, because that person has been called specifically by God for that individual purpose. And I think our work and our faith should always be linked – your worldview affects how you work. They build off of one another. You can’t have one without the other, no matter what your occupation is and where your work leads you. I think it’s healthy for me to be passionate and excited about my job, but I think it’s wrong of me to elevate it. It’s difficult in a culture like ours, where so many find their identity in their jobs, in what they do. And that’s why my identity, my purpose, needs to be rooted in something solid, in something that never lets me down. A job? You will be let down. You will be disappointed. There’s always more to be done, you’ll always be giving, there’s no rest. It won’t last forever. It’s sinking sand. Ultimately, we should be finding fulfillment in our solid rock, in the one who will never let us down.
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.