Somewhere around preschool or kindergarten we start asking kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We host Career Days and encourage even the youngest learners to start exploring various options through “Community Helper” units of study. We inundate tiny brains with thoughts, hopes, goals for the future all in an effort to get a head start on a path that is best suited for their personality types and skill sets. This isn’t in itself a bad plan, after all we want our children to succeed and be happy in areas in which they are interested. But what if all of our planning, strategizing, categorizing and goal-setting actually gets in the way of our happiness, our joy, our purpose?
This is exactly where I have found myself over the last couple of years. Up to my eyeballs in selfish ambition, a long list of accomplishments, several degrees and on-the-surface fulfillment. But missing something. Not totally sure of what the something was, but left with it nonetheless. I especially noticed the feeling after a long day of slaying an event, speaking and motivating a group of people or creatively solving problems that had gone without solutions for too long. Times when I should have been the most content, the most joyful, I instead felt lack.
I can’t tell you the number of times I looked up and asked God, “What is wrong with me?” Chances are you have asked the same thing. Many people I have spoken with over the last several months have expressed some of the same feelings. Is it lack of purpose? Is it a shift in society that is dragging us away from community and closer to self-sufficiency? Is it lack of dependence of God? Is it that we have believed the lie that busyness equals importance? Is it because we have twisted the American Dream to include the belief that being a follower of Christ means that we deserve to be without struggle? Maybe it’s all of these things.
Maybe it’s also that God uses discontent as a catalyst for change. Change that He can see that we don’t know is coming. Change that we wouldn’t be receptive of if we were in a place of perpetual joy and contentment. This place of restlessness becomes a springboard for courage.
So, after 13 years of burying my heart and soul in education, God called me away from the place where I found my identity for so many years. Away from my idol. Away from my comfort-zone. I tried not to listen. I tried to say no. I tried to argue that the sacrifice was asking “too much” of me. But when all of the excuses and emotions were stripped away the decision was simple–be obedient and step out into the unknown or be disobedient and remain in a place of security, but always wondering “what if?” My gypsy soul would never allow for the second option, so I turned in my resignation and stepped away from my work family.
Here I am three months after my epic career break-up and it is easier and harder than I thought it would be. It’s been easier to step into the new world of nonprofit lingo (did I mention I’m helping start a community center?) and adjust to a new set of expectations and day-to-day schedule changes. But SO MUCH HARDER to let go of the false, imperfectly crafted identity that I adopted and identified with for so long. To adjust to being stripped down to just me. To accept that I am loved, seen and important just for who I am and not for what I do. To learn how to be alone with myself. To rest.
We all need these things. I don’t think God asks everyone to quit their jobs to find it, BUT he definitely calls each one of us out of our comfort-zone. You know why? Because out here in the scary unknown we NEED Him…like REALLY NEED Him. Because I do not know what I am doing and without His wisdom and guidance I absolutely will fail. And because He never called me Teacher, Mom, Wife, Administrator, Speaker, Trainer, Writer…those are all labels that I gave myself so that I could craft an identity that makes me feel like my life has meaning. GOD JUST CALLS ME HIS. And for the first time in my life that is enough for me.