If you and I have had a conversation in the past two years, you probably know that I work at a used bookstore. I probably mentioned it as some kind of apology, with some added-on disclaimer like “but only until I find a teaching job!” or “but I have a Master’s degree!”
I never realized how much I mix identity with my occupation. Between the ages of five and twenty five I was a full-time student: straight A’s, high-school valedictorian, and even in grad school – a Master’s in Creative Writing – I was regularly publishing sections of my thesis in magazine and journals. I have been incredibly blessed academically, and have wanted to be a teacher because that is the environment in which I feel most comfortable. I never realized how much I combined identity with occupation because I was incredibly happy with my work, so I never had a reason to question it!
Fast forward two years, and over one hundred fifty job applications later, to where I work a full time job and make less than I did working ten hours a week as an English TA, where I make less hourly than I did in my summer job when I was 18, where I’m often embarrassed to tell people what I do for a living.
And it’s times like this that I am so grateful for the work Christ has done in my life, for the scripture that helps me understand that I shouldn’t be making idols out of work or money or prestige.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11
As I stress about the future, especially since my wife and I are expecting our first child in a few short weeks, this passage sticks out as something I cannot hear enough. I know that the plans I have for my life are not necessarily God’s plan, and his is the one that I should be trying to follow. I might struggle with my work-life, but there are a lot of blessings that have come from it: new relationships with co-workers, health insurance, and nearly unlimited access to books and movies that have helped to educate and enrich me in new and profound ways. There are ways that God is working through this job, even if it’s not the type of work I would like to be doing.
Think about this: What really defines you? How are you tempted to let your accomplishments be the measure of your worth? What defines your worth?
– David LaGault