I’d always wanted to be a doctor, since as long as I could remember. My heart was drawn to help people. Medicine fascinated me. In 1987, I made a huge decision that would shift the course of my life. As I began to look at colleges, I realized that maybe I couldn’t be a good doctor and a good mom… and I wanted to be a mom more. Not to say that other women can’t do it, but I didn’t feel I could, and wanted to take no chances. Eight years of school and $100K was a lot to only practice for a few years. This decision made sense to me (intellectually and as I prayed) and I proceeded into a career in health administration.
Had I known I would be single at 35, I would have chosen very differently. I simply didn’t know. Have you ever had times in your career where you thought: “Man, how did I get here? This wasn’t part of the plan.” The thing is, God knew. God always knew.
This summer I really wrestled with this. My heart longed to return to Africa, desperately wanting to serve the medically underserved, especially the HIV population and/or teach HIV prevention. As a Public Health professional, I have a deep understanding of this pandemic and the unbelievable impact it is having, and will continue to have, on the African people. This seemed like a noble desire, to return to Africa, and one I was certain God would bless. But I found door after door closing. I didn’t just try one route to go, but played out idea after idea, organization after organization, and it just didn’t work out. I couldn’t help but think that if I were a clinician, not an administrator and educator, this would be easier. I feared I’d made a terrible mistake, a tragic mistake, in the route I had chosen. For those of you that know me, you know I’ve been struggling with direction and contentment in my job for several years now; this seemed like the final blow.
I would come to understand though how badly the Enemy wants us to believe we’re off track when we’re exactly where we should be. Things may not be going as WE planned, but are exactly as God planned. Maybe our dreams were off track… not our steps.
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
God slowly reassured me that his plan is perfect, his timing perfect, and though my job is rarely all I’d hoped for, I am doing his work here, which is far more important. In hindsight I can see year after year, how God has shaped my career and used me in each place. And maybe it’s all timing. Maybe I’ll have an impact more like my dream (here or abroad) in the future, or maybe God will introduce to me an even bigger or better dream. But as for right now, God appears to believe I’m needed here, more than anywhere, and that has never been more evident than this week.
The rain has been falling hard at my company for about two months now: deaths of team members, home fires, car accidents… and then this week, several deaths in Iraq, including the son of a Director I work closely with. There is tragedy everywhere, and other personal suffering I’m not willing to broadcast on the Internet. But time and time again… I’m in a position to lend comfort and assistance. People seem to talk to me.
I have been praying in the last several days that the Lord would help me get my mind off myself and my stuff… to free me up to love and serve others. I prayed for open eyes to see those around me in new ways and be open to any needs the Lord would throw my way. He’s doing it and I feel so blessed. I feel like I’m really good this week. REALLY good. But my heart bleeds for those around me. I’m thankful life goes in waves, so we can carry one another. It is my turn to do the carrying this week. And it is a privilege.
Maybe I’m at my company today… for such a time as this. (Esther 4:14b)
I think back on my life: What if I had gone to medical school? Would I have lived in Europe? Would I have had the time with my family that I’ve had? Would God have used me as he has and taught me all I’ve learned? Would I know any of you? The answers to some of these may still be yes, but my life would be VERY different. Not better or worse necessarily, but different. I’ve lived a great life so far. Maybe I wouldn’t change a thing.
You see… we spend too much time trying to figure out where we’re supposed to work, when maybe we should be focusing more on how we should be working and who we are called to impact in the process. People watch us in the workplace. Yes, that’s a scary thought… often for me too… but they are. Are we working hard? What character are we exhibiting as we work? I know I need to be careful to stay focused so I’m a good steward of my time. I also need to make sure for the sake of a project I don’t run over people. I need to remind myself regularly that I have a bigger boss I must answer to.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24
I used to joke in my 20’s, when I was a volunteer Young Life leader, that youth ministry was my job. My secular work was merely how I paid the bills. Maybe this is true of all of us, to some extent. I mean, in scripture, time and time again, we see those working for the Lord also holding secular jobs to financially support themselves. Paul was a tentmaker and speaks in Corinthians a lot about this. Maybe our secular jobs pay the bills so we can serve in ministries elsewhere. Or maybe our jobs, the people we encounter there, are to be our ministries. Where is God calling you? Live out your call.
“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17
From time to time, I worry a little that I share too much at work. Maybe I bring too much of my personal life to work. Or maybe I talk about Jesus too much. How silly I’m realizing these sentiments are. God has perfectly wired us for the roles we’re meant to play. By being vulnerable and open with my life, the emotional me, others are drawn to me for a listening ear, wisdom, comfort and even prayer when things in their lives go terribly wrong. When they have questions about religion and the meaning of life, they come to me because they know I will share these things with them, with acceptance, not judgment and pressure. How has God uniquely gifted you? Be who you were meant to be, evangelist, caregiver, protector, among those you work with.
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6-8
The wild thing about the workplace… is that there are a lot of people there – a lot of people seeking and a lot of people hurting. Never get so bogged down in the work and climbing that ladder, that you can’t see who’s standing next to you and how God may use you in their life. God’s put you there for a reason. Are you up for the task?
Father God, bless the work of my hands. Help me to be diligent in my work, so I may be viewed of high character. But in the process, help me to remember the people I work with and consistently ask you how you’d like to use me. May I never be so consumed by my own life and worries that I fail to see a blessing you may have me bestow.
I pray for those that read this, that they are able to rest where you have them. Relieve any anxiety their job may bring them. Especially calm them in the area of any lost dreams (even if only a temporary loss). Help them to see what you are doing so they may have confidence that they are right where they should be. Give them the strength to ask you regularly how you want to use them right where they are. God, direct their steps. AMEN.
“My Hope” – David Crowder
Here I am again
In this raging sea
On my knees again
Deep calls to deep
I feel I'm drowning
My arms are
Just too tired to swim
I feel I'm sinking
On my knees again
In the roar of Your waterfall
In the storm of You
May You find me holding on
May You find me true
And I put my hope
And I put my trust
And I put myself in You
In You, Lord [2x]
Wash me clean
Set me free
Hold me close
And cover me