By Vanessa Rasanen
Years ago I found myself sitting in a fairly small, basement office contemplating how to answer my manager’s question. I was fresh out of college and grateful to have landed the job (and not have to spend another few years in graduate school). I had loved my major, so it was a bit of a shock to find my first job — one in which my title actually matched the words on my degree — held so little resemblance to my expectations. And there I was, facing my manager and struggling to find the words to explain where I hoped to be in five years.
Five years seemed like forever. He obviously didn’t care that I hoped to be married with a couple children, perhaps. I was so new to the industry, I only vaguely had a sense of what routes lay before me at all, and in my foggy, newbie view I saw only two paths. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do down one — the technical side, but I knew with every fiber of my being that I most definitely did not want the other option — management. *shudder*
And so the words awkwardly stumbled out.
“Anywhere but management”.
He laughed. I then — being the forward, nosy, and tactless person that I was (am?) — asked him if he liked his job. Now, I don’t remember exactly what he said, but the gist of it was — his job afforded him the money and the time to do what he truly loved. He came to that office and worked hard and climbed the ladder for over 25 years not because he loved mentoring new hires like me and managing teams of people in a windowless building, but because he enjoyed skiing and hunting and traveling and brewing beer and whatever else.
This post isn’t really about my career, though, as if I would call it a “career” at all. Yes, I still work, but I’m not planning to climb any ladders any time soon. I’m more the find-a-comfy-spot-and-camp-there-for-a-while type. But I regularly think about that manager and his response.
I’ve felt a lot of pressure, as I’m sure many people have, to listen to the world’s insistence that we follow our hearts or passions or dreams or joys or whatever word you want to use. We are to do what we love and then find someone to pay us for it. (Who said that? I can’t remember…)
Regardless, it’s a bunch of hooey.
As I say to my kids — more often than I wish I had to — life is not about being happy. If you happen to land your dream job and have success and truly love going to work every day, more power to you. You shouldn’t be ashamed for having that. That’s a wonderful gift from God to have joy in your service to others. But if you don’t… well, there’s still something to be thankful for there, too.
I’ve seen those who absolutely without a doubt love their jobs, and I’ve watched others battle the loathing they have for their position. It’s the latter that has me praying fervently.
See, our vocations aren’t given to us to make us happy. We are given our vocations in order to serve our neighbors. We won’t always like what we have to do. We won’t always find joy in the day in and day out grind of it all. But, there is indeed joy to be found — the joy of working for the Lord.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Colossians 3:23 (ESV)
Through our hands God provides for our neighbors — whether those are our customers, our patients, our coworkers, our congregation, or our family. We have gifts and talents and experiences that God is using in our jobs, whether we love doing it or not, and we can give thanks even for the jobs we loathe when we see how it is helping others.
But, but… what if the reason you hate your job is because you can’t see how it’s helping anyone! Things are so broken! Everything’s corrupt! It’s not good for anybody!
First off, obviously, this shouldn’t even need to be said, you are completely free to find another vocation if the one you have is detrimental to you and your faith — note, I am of course not encouraging anyone to abandon their vocations of spouse or parent, ahem. But, before you hurriedly jump ship or hop over to greener pastures, I’d encourage you to reconsider, at least temporarily.
How can you fix the things broken around you? How can you address the shortfalls? How can you foster change so people are being served and helped?
You might try and try and try and still be left with that pit of despair. I urge you in these cases to seek out your pastor. No, he’s not your life coach — duh — but he does care for your soul, and he can help you navigate your situation with a solid Christian worldview. If you’re seriously struggling to serve others through your vocation, your pastor can help you through confession and absolution. If you’re weighing ethical or moral concerns, your pastor can help you sort through them in light of scripture.
There may be, also, the times when you find the job — though it certainly helps others — has taken its toll on you to the point it’s time to walk away. These are the jobs that become so stressful and so emotionally draining that they hurt your ability to serve your closest neighbors, your family. In these times, pray and pray and pray and converse with family to determine the best path for you.
We won’t always be happy in our various vocations. Some will grate on us. Others will wear us down. And some may even try to break us. Let’s pray that we can find the peace to serve in the positions God provides, the courage to speak up when something is wrong, and the wisdom to walk away when we must protect ourselves, our family, and our faith.