About two weeks ago I spent time speaking to a wonderful group of people about what it means to find purpose in life. We laughingly adopted the phrase “Don’t quit your day job” as a reminder that God often uses the day-to-day stuff of living to strengthen and grow us into people who can fulfill the dreams He puts in our hearts. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share what we talked about in our quest to live with more purpose, lead with more grace, and love with more heart.
I vividly remember twelve years ago attending the final session of a Bible study that had truly built up my faith. I happened to be 38-weeks pregnant with our second child and could barely waddle into the room, but what I recall most was that as full of baby as I was, I was also full of a sense of God’s purpose for my life. I heaved my big old self to my feet, full of excitement as the speaker prayed over us, commissioning us for whatever lay ahead. I felt strongly that I was stepping out in a new direction. In fact, the image that came into my mind as we prayed was from Joshua 3, which we had studied a few weeks before. It was a scene of Israel’s priests carrying the ark and stepping into the Jordan River so that the water completely dried up. The people then crossed over, passing by the priests, and everyone finally entered the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering.
Eyes squeezed shut, I stood there thinking, “This is awesome! I’m going to be like one of those priests, those ministry leaders that stepped into the river of the unknown and saw miraculous things happen.” I knew it was a moment of commissioning, of calling.
However, I probably should’ve paid attention to some of the other details in that account from Joshua—words like “dried up,” “the people passing by,” and even “40 years”—because after my second child was born I was completely overwhelmed with parenting little ones. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure that I suffered some depression, as well. While not to the level of depression I had suffered in college (that’s a story I discuss in New Woman, New Clothes), I experienced an emotional numbness so that I seemed unable to connect well with others, especially my husband, for almost a year after my daughter’s birth. I was extremely exhausted, and frankly, I felt spiritually dried up and like all the people around me were passing me by.
Just as I began to feel like myself again, things took a turn for the wacky when my husband got an offer for us to move overseas. We were moving to a country that I sheepishly admit I couldn’t yet find on a map. (Note to self: Taiwan and Thailand are not the same.) Things were feeling exciting again, but this didn’t exactly feel like ministry or calling in the way I thought. I remember standing somewhat bewildered in my kitchen thinking, “OK, God, maybe it’s Your plan that when I go to Taiwan, I’ll become a missionary. That’s got to be it.”
Then, I heard in my heart the words, “Don’t quit your day job.” I looked down at the verse-of-the-day calendar on my kitchen counter and saw a passage relating to parenting. I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud because even though I didn’t fully understand what God was trying to tell me then, I knew He didn’t want me to forget the work He’d already given me while I was in the process of figuring out this thing called purpose and calling.
What I would learn over the next twelve years was that being willing to show up in love and live out what sometimes seemed like a day-job-kind-of-life with the people He had entrusted to me was going to be the way He transformed me into a person who could embrace her calling.
I’m not talking about whether we make various employment changes throughout our lives, by the way. I’ve been everything from a (very bad!) barista at a coffee house to a product manager in the tech industry to a busy, at-home parent taking writing jobs along the way. This also isn’t about skipping out on the necessary work WE MUST DO to develop skills and seize opportunities that allow us to fulfill God-given dreams. What I’m talking about is not quitting our real jobs, our daily jobs of loving God and loving the people He’s put in our lives. I’ve found that job description summarized extremely well in Colossians 3:12-14:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
In other words, “Don’t quit your day job!”
No matter what our tasks, assignments, ministries, hobbies, or passions are, we have a day job as God’s chosen, holy, dearly loved people to put on some spiritual work clothes and go build relationships with others. My encouragement for us this week is to examine and identify ways God is using our day jobs to strengthen, equip, or mature us into people who can embrace purpose. Next week, I’ll discuss some practical ways that has played out in my life. See you then!