One night a friend called to tell me that she had a friend, who was also her insurance agent, who would be adding to his team in the capacity of a Customer Service Representative. I love this friend. I trust her. I know instinctively based on who she is and our relationship, that her words have value. Those words spoken to me by another person may have held little value.
She gave me a few more pieces of information, but because I was having a conversation in my own head, I heard very little. What I heard was: INSURANCE. He’s a CHRISTIAN man, he’s a big supporter of YOUNG LIFE, his office is CLOSE, you don’t HAVE to sell, but you’re good with people, and I thought I’d just let you know about the opportunity. In my own silent conversation I was considering what life could be like working for a Christian. But working in insurance has never been on my radar (except for two good friends who have found a lot of satisfaction working in insurance for years). Would I be settling? Should I wait for the secretary job to open up at the local grade school my kids attended, being part of a schedule that allows me to share my son’s schedule, and the district benefits. I thought about my efforts in the last year to learn Spanish, which is a real desire, but a slow progress. Would I be learning something new that has never been on my “Professional To Do” list, and would these be skills I could use in other professions that would qualify me for other jobs in the future?
I considered all these things as my friend kindly told me about this opportunity. I appreciated this gift, but would it look good when I put it on? Even though my own voice was louder than hers (it usually is), I heard enough to know, I was to pursue the job. So, it was in obedience that I submitted my resume and proceeded with an interview.
My prayer was this: God, give me clarity. A concern I’ve had in my job search has been that I would be too particular. I often hear people struggle over “God’s will for their life.” I understand their confusion. When we want one thing, but it doesn’t make sense because we’re limited by health, family circumstances, finances, etc. it can be hard to reconcile our desire with our resources. Aren’t desires placed in our hearts by God? My own Bridgette had the desire to be a swimmer, but no matter how much PT we engaged in, how much she worked around an uncooperative shoulder, after three years of pain and complicated circumstances, she gave up swimming. It was a huge loss. The same was true for her other injuries and running. It was torment. She finally adjusted and gave up her dream of running in college.
I think many of us have had those moments where we feel “called,” only to discover that the calling evades us. So, comes the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” The answer came to me about 10 years ago.
My mother was mentally ill. When I was about 10 years old, we were taken from her. We were also taken from her when I was about five, but that was a short lived period of time. She came back into my life when I was 35. At about age forty my husband and I took on the responsibility of taking care of her. For five years I looked after her until she died. I did that while my husband traveled extensively and my young children required a lot of attention. I had very little time to relax or have fun with other women. I attended a bible study every Thursday morning, but it was often interrupted by the unpredictable fire that needed my attention.
I recall a particular morning that I had looked forward to bible study. But my mother was persistent that I come over and help. It was a juggling act in those days, trying to decipher an “emergency” from something that could wait. My heart felt for her, knowing how hard it was that she face her limitations. I also fought resentment with frustration that she didn’t value my time, or desire my life to be less burdensome. She was expectant and entitled, and legitimately needful at the same time.
That morning, I found myself cleaning her shower. The water from the showerhead mixed with the tears that fell down my face, as I thought about bible study, and what I was missing. “Why Lord, wouldn’t you allow me to go to bible study? Why aren’t I able to cultivate the relationships that allow me to be blessed, and to bless?” I considered the other ladies who attended bible study without the weight of burdens that required them to miss out. I was envious of women who organized church events or lead worship. Both things for which I was equipped. I begged God for answers. He created me to love interaction with people. I love to give and to get. It’s a two way street that I find invigorating. It’s been hard wired in me from the day I was born. Why then would God place me, me? “of all people”, in a musty shower, in a home that smells, with piles of junk mail that I’m prohibited to touch, with a mom who I felt was siphoning me dry.
The water ran longer than it needed to. The grout was meticulously scrubbed, not because it was required of me. But, I didn’t want my mom to hear the tears and emotion. Anything that pointed a finger at her would require more of me. Instead, I sobbed before the Lord. Somewhere between the tiles and the grout, I heard him say, “You are right where I want you. There is no better place for you, than here, in this moment, serving your mom.” It was a defining moment for me. God’s will: That we serve him, wherever we are, wherever he wants us.
In Matthew 19 a rich man asks God how to be assured of eternal life, and Jesus says, “Obey my commandments.” Then the man says, “and what else?” I would have been like, “Grrr… isn’t that enough? I answered your question!” But, Jesus says, “To be perfect you must give up your wealth and follow me.” The man walks away sad, because he has great wealth.
I don’t believe Jesus was speaking only to people with great wealth. What else must we give up to serve Jesus? I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t say we have to be perfect. He first said, “To gain eternal life, follow my commandments.” Since we’re incapable of being perfect, I’m not going to walk away sad, because perfection isn’t my aim. I am joyful that I can look forward to an eternal life with Jesus and I’ll do my best to follow God’s commandments.
I think we confuse God’s will with our own personal ambitions. I get it. I’ve have ambitions that haven’t been fulfilled. If you’re a dreamer with a lot of ambition, it’s hard to be confined. But when health or finances or divorce get in the way of a dream, isn’t it God’s will that we take care of those things first? Isn’t God’s will that we provide for our family? Shouldn’t we take care of our bodies, so we can serve others (for me, my concern is that I’m available to my children, and my children’s children). As a parent, wouldn’t God’s will be that we nurture and grow our children, to prepare them for a life of self sufficiency, according to God’s word? For some, these things get taken for granted. For others, they are the dream.
Did the realization that I needed to serve my mom remove my desire to be and do more? Absolutely, 100%, it did not. But this is my perspective: God’s will in my life, wherever I am, is following his commandments.
So, when I consider potential jobs, I must be mindful not to reach for a dream that will cause me to miss out on the basics that are the stepping stones to our dreams, not to mention, the most fundamental form of glorifying God.
So, in obedience I went to the interview, uncertain of what to expect, but asking God this: Please give me clarity. In no uncertain terms, God gave me clarity, in spite of myself. I look forward to sharing more with you, but for now, I will finish so you can get on with your life on this day, and return to mine, on another.