I’ve had this internal crisis since I’ve moved home, which has now been 1/4 of a year ago. I have been home for a season and I still have not found permanent employment. You know what that does to a person, more specifically to me? It destroys.
I didn’t realize this until I was unemployed, but I place the majority of my identity on what I do for a living. I know I’m not supposed to, as a Christian, I’m supposed to root my identity in Christ. But it’s really hard to stay focused on that in social situations. It’s such an easy go-to question that rapidly follows, “What’s your name?” or “Do you have a family?” or the classic “How are you doing?” – “What do you do for a living?” or “Where do you work?” My answer for the last four months has been, “I’m still looking,” or “I’m unemployed,” which internally means “I’m a loser,” “I have no identity/purpose/reason to exist,” or “I’m lazy.” None of which are true, but they are the whispers that creep in, as I hopelessly respond to such an mundane life question.
People encourage my response in a variety of ways, but most of them add weight to my already burdening load. You see, I’m trying to have faith and follow Jesus, which often includes paths that are uncommon or nontraditional to the world. When God tells me to “Have faith and wait,” the world looks at me, disapprovingly shaking their heads saying, “Well clearly you need to try harder, apply more, or settle for awhile.” Oooo that word gives me knots in my shoulders. The being that God created in me is unnerved at the idea of settling, even temporarily. (Which also kills me inside, because it would be so. much. easier. to just have a darn job!)
This video summed up my emotions perfectly. I’m definitely the Cory in this clip, though I don’t know who I’m fighting with – God, this town, everyone, my internal critic, the jobs who take their time in the hiring process… but nothing makes me feel more worthless than not having a job.
Talk about an identity crisis. I really wish I could walk into a new social situation and say, “I follow Jesus for a living,” without sounding completely catty or slightly sarcastic. Then again, having support-raised for a living, a usual response is, “How do you pay the bills?” For me, this is when the internal sarcastic sh*t really hits the fan.
Basically our job identities plummet when one of the following three things happen:
- We are unemployed: Ah… I don’t have a job…?
- We don’t like what we do: Well… I work front desk at a hotel, but I really like the times when I don’t work – then I run half-marathons, and write letters to friends, and hip-hop dance (the last example I made up, but really who doesn’t want to rock the hip-hop dance-floor?)
- Who we are talking to, doesn’t approve of what we do: So I run the hospitality side of a retreat center that serves pastors and missionaries and their families… And I support-raise too! (Response: In America we work for our paycheck.) Ah… So do I…?
It is really easy when:
- We not only love what we do, but it also serves a greater good: I work with an awesome nonprofit in southeastern Kentucky that loves people for a living, and we help them help themselves get outta poverty while we’re at it! Woo! (Cheerleading kick for added enthusiasm for saving the world!)
- When our jobs provide affluently for our lifestyles (I’ve never known this reality, so I’ll make up an example): I work ten hour days with unbelievable pay and bennies, so that I can support myself, my hefty church tithe (wink wink), my family of adopted doggies, and all the gerbils I foster… Basically, I don’t know what to do with all my money!
- We do the thing that we always wanted to do (my brother is a good example for this one, so I’ll, in this instance only, pretend to be him): When I was a wee boy, I got my amazing little sis to play news with me. I’d anchor of course. Why, of course! I always knew I wanted to rock at news reporting, and now I do! Funny, how life works out!
I just vomited in my mouth.
But really, I’m happy for those people!
(Okay, the exclamation mark was slightly sarcastic…)
Anyway, identity. During the past several months I’ve been searching for mine – Who am I, when I’m not saving the world? More specifically – Who am I, when I don’t have a steady paycheck coming in? How do I make my time worthwhile? How do I not waste the days away in worry?
I’ve tried everything. I’ve written letters to friends, exercised like crazy, created yummy food and eaten too much, finished all the books I started at the beginning of the summer, spent time with family and friends, tried to reconnect with old friends, camped, hiked, road-tripped, healed, binged watched TV shows and movies, written, watched writing seminars online to improve my craft, and begged… Boy, have I begged God to just let me have a job that I somewhat enjoy that also pays my minimum hourly wage with good bennies!!! Please??? PLEASE!!!
But there’s one thing I haven’t done. I have yet to humble myself down, and ask God to help me root my identity in Him. So in future life crises, I’ll at least know who I am.
“Who are you?” – I am a child of God. – “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
“What do you do?” – I follow Jesus wherever he sends me. – “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
“How do you pay your bills?” – God provides. – “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
“How do you know that what you’re doing is right?” – Because it doesn’t make sense to me… – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
“Okay… How do I join?!” – Be born again. – Read the story of Nicodemus here
and CELEBRATE!!! IT’S NOT AN EASY PATH, BUT IT’S SO WORTH IT!!! – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Today was the day I was “supposed” to score an interview with the job that I lakeside cheers’d God for over the weekend. But I knew there was going to be trouble… ahem… life was not going to go according to my plan when I drew my word of the day – “FAITH”. My exact response was: Sigh, God. Come on! Really? So I’m going to have to wait longer? I called to “check in” and remind the organization that I am indeed human, and I am still interested (since the last time we talked… you know… last week…) They didn’t even record that I called, but kindly stated, “Well the closing date was Monday, so they’ll probably review applications this week. Maybe call back next week.” I hope I didn’t sound too disappointed as I responded that I would indeed check back in next week.
My heart sank. Fear crept in. My bank account sent daggers flying in my direction. I found my way swiftly to Indeed.com, and started frantically “easy applying,” when I heard a calm whisper: You’re doing this out of fear. You don’t trust me? I need something to do God! I need a job God! You need to trust me. I’m an adult! I need to provide for myself. My ship is sinking! Am I just supposed to wait on you? That doesn’t seem practical. Yes. Trust me. I will provide. Have I given you any reason to doubt this? No… So what’s the problem? I feel like I’m disappointing everyone, because while everyone else is working… I am not. So?… To everything there is a season. A time to rest, and a time to work. So rest. A time to work is coming soon. Have faith darling, I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it abundantly (John 10:10). There is not crisis, when your identity is rooted in Me – the great I AM. But…? What do I do in the meantime? No buts about it, just trust. Take a risk – Have faith. 😉