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Much of what I’ve written on this blog centers around my faith in God, work and work-related issues, those two interact on a daily basis. I finally realizes today how to summarize this feeling I have when I speak to people about what I do (hence the name of this blog).

My biggest disappointment is talking to people who either size me up or pigeonhole me by what I do for an occupation. This is truly the crux of what I’ve been struggling with since this blog’s inception.

What I do for a living does not summarize who I am; my job title does not define me.

In my opinion, there is far too much missing from my life if I were to simply define myself through my work. Even if I held a grand position, I still think it would only capture a small portion of who I am. Such is the predicament that I think a lot of people fall into (some might not consider it in this light): we live for our work, and our work defines us.

What happens when we are unemployed? Does that mean we no longer have any essence to our being? Does it mean that we no longer exist as a contribution to our community? Does it mean that we are no longer parents or spouses, with a service to each other?

Of course the questions above are rhetorical. No one is truly defined by their work. And even though work tends to be one of the first things we talk about at parties or first encounters (hence the name of this blog), I’ve made a conscious effort to make this an aside, rather than a primary question of a conversation. What lies behind a person is not necessarily the work that he/she does, but a constellation of experiences, activities, hobbies, loves, hates, travel, education, sports, dreams and pursuits that can’t simply be captured in one title. We owe it to the person we’re talking to to not summarize their lives with the question, “What do you do?” but to inquire more about who they are as a person.

Ever try Twitter, the micro-blogging service? It’s a Website that allow you to post 180 words to summarize what’s happening right now. Led by the question, “What are you doing now?” you can update from just about anywhere, with very brief descriptions about your current state. This is probably what we try to do when we answer the question, “What do you do?” Do we not try to describe ourselves through our work, so that as briefly as possible, we offer a “tweet” about who we are?

However, if you’ve ever used Twitter (and it’s an amazing service!!), you’ll find that you run short of space in your descriptions. Often you say things as concisely as possible, but still can’t distill everything into a 180-word “tweet.” And this is the same problem we have about describing who we are, for of course, who we are is not the same as what we do for a living.

If there’s one thing in my life that I want to define myself by, it’s Jesus Christ. If God is my firm foundation, I want to be built upwards from that foundation. Much of my discouragement comes from worrying about what might happen in the future, or what has happened in the past. But if I’m surrendered to God, then I’d want to be fully available to God for “the here and now.” It’ not about tomorrow or yesterday, but about being with God today, right now.

It’s incredible how words can affect us, and how often we might not consider the impact of those utterances and combination of sounds that come from our own mouths. The literal meaning of sarcasm in Greek is “tearing of flesh,” which gives us a raw picture of how words, when spoken with bitterness or acrimony, can be as harmful as sharp daggers. The Bible tells us that our tongues are the hardest part of body to control, and that no one can tame the tongue.

 

Ever been the recipient of harsh words? Ever had your flesh torn by someone’s thoughtless or hateful words?

 

I had this happen at work, where someone thought that I was “wasting my talent” working in my position. I write this now with a much calmer mind, and I now see how she didn’t mean the harm that she inevitably caused. With just that word, “wasting,” my heart shriveled up and I could feel my ears turning red. I got my cup of tea and briskly walked away.

 

I’ve struggled with this for months: why am I working in a position that “seems” so lowly?

 

Recently, I’ve understood this as God’s instruction for me to carve out a servant’s heart and attitude, so that I can do anything regardless of the job title or the position or prestige. Yet, with that sudden statement, “why are you wasting your talent,” I cringed out of embarrassment and, I’ll admit, anger.

 

It’s hard to have a godly attitude at work when you’re doing something that hurts your pride, but that’s precisely why God’s got you in that position. If you’re pride’s been wounded, bruised, and downright run over, there’s probably a good reason. Perhaps God is trying to teach us humility and how to serve, instead of being boastful and taking the service from others.

 

We all know this: God’s got a map for our lives, and we need to believe that He’s got our best interests in mind when he places us in places. My position is no different. Although I may struggle with pride when I encounter statements like that, I need to cling to my Rock and my Saviour!

 

Yes, I feel under-valued and under-paid, and over-educated and over-qualified. But who am I to question God? I’m here for a season, not an eternity. People will always gossip about others, and that’s something we can’t change. People will say the cruelest things about people without any care or consideration. But if we’re on the Rock, we know that we’re on solid ground. These people will only be in our lives for a brief moment. Indeed, their words hurt us, cut deeply into us. But God’s the one who protects us and heals us.

 

Most important is our ability to forgive the person (or people) whose mouth the words came from. I realized this as I prayed and prayed for a peaceful heart at my desk. I think the peace can’t come unless we’ve forgiven the person. Am I not also capable of saying those very words? Have I not also said harmful words to someone before? Of course I have, and that’s why we all need forgiveness.

 

“…and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.  And don’t let us yield to temptation.” Luke 11:4

Has this ever happened to you?

You’ve been praying for something (all the time thinking that it’s not even a remote possibility) and then it happens. It shows up at your doorstep. It appears on your desk. It manifests itself in your bank account. The cheque arrives in the mail.

We’ve been praying about funding for school next year. We’ve got enough to live on, and we’ve never been without. And we know that God’s going to provide for our needs in ways that He wants to, whether it’s in abundance or just adequate. But we were thinking about where the funds would come from after government loans have been used up.

Well, our funding arrived: twelve years later!

When my grandmother passed away twelve years ago, she left her grandchildren an inheritance. Not a huge amount, but significant for our modest lifestyle. At the time, it wasn’t given to us, so I never thought about it.

Here we are twelve years later and, as it happens, we’re praying for funding for the next 14 months as I go back to school and we live on zero income.

God answered.

I don’t know how or why God answered, but I see it as a great blessing and answer. I’m not sure how else to interpret it, and I’m thankful. Deeply thankful.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and mind, and lean not on your own understanding. His blessing overflow.

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"Wanderlust: A Social History of Travel," by Laura Byrne Paquet (Fredericton:Goose Lane Editions, 2007) "The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping malls, and the Search for Home," by Pico Iyer (Toronto: Random House of Canada, 2000). "Outliers: The Story of Success," by Malcolm Gladwell (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2008).

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