A friend of mine has been mulling over making a job/career change and sought my counsel. My immediate response was “Yes! Do it!” He was surprised (shocked?) by my prompt, resolute response. I’m not one to hem and haw, mulling over options. I am pretty steadfast when it comes to making decisions. Unlike my three year old self who could never decide on anything, most famously between a blue and a pink dress!
But in this case, I was certain. For ten years I have watched how miserable and frustrated my friend has been in his chosen field. And for ten years I have sat back and witnessed how unfulfilling his job is to him.
As I reflect on that, I feel so fortunate to have found my way to what I truly love. For it is not an easy path, but takes perseverance down an often rocky path. The world makes it difficult to follow our hearts, bombarding our mind with so many other (valid) considerations.
One must have the courage to truly step out, take risk, and discover what it is that God created him or her to do. I have a rather long-winded story of how God finally convinced me to follow His plan of going into ministry, but I did finally relent. But at first I relented on my own terms and told God how I was going to do it. And that was as a Children’s Minister. You see I could not imagine myself as a pastor, especially a preaching pastor. But I loved children and had been teaching Sunday school, after-school programs, and mentoring in a public school so I said fine God, if you want me in ministry I’ll go into Children’s Ministry. I was accepted into a dual-degree program for a Masters of Divinity and a Masters of Arts in Children’s Ministry. It was a small program and I felt very fortunate to get into it, but a funny thing happened the summer before I started. I was working in early childhood ministry at a church and after weeks of sitting in a preschool-sized chair doing crafts I had the epiphany that this was not my gift. I cannot sit on the floor for endless hours playing with three year olds and keep up the passion, joy, and interest. I was downright exhausted! There are incredibly talented people who have the creativity and enthusiasm and patience it takes to serve young children. They can play for hours with them and share in their awe at new discoveries in the world. They can take puppets and crafts and make the Bible come alive. I am not one of those people. I adore children and children’s ministry, God just didn’t make me to serve them in this capacity.
The following summer I was working as a hospital chaplain (quite begrudgingly because I still had this notion that I was called to children’s ministry). And what do you know, I fell head over heels in love with it. Hospital ministry is what drives me out of bed in the morning, it is my passion. I absolutely love serving the vast needs in a hospital. People often say they do not know how I sit with the dying and suffering, that they cannot imagine a harder profession. But to speak candidly, it is easy. And I believe that is because it is what I was created to do. That doesn’t mean that it is not trying or difficult at times because every patient I encounter leaves a mark on my heart. But I am able to do it without feeling burdened and weighed down with the suffering that I witness. While some may view my profession as difficult, likewise I view their profession as difficult. I cannot tell you how often I watch people go about their work and think I could not do that day in and day out. But that’s because that’s not my purpose. I believe what God calls you to, He equips you to do.
Are you serving where God desires you to serve?
(1) In my experience, the miserable feeling of work comes when you are not in the right place. The first step is recognizing that you are not in the right place. It is easier said than done. It takes a great deal of self-awareness and often the perspective of family and friends.
(2) Your eyes have been opened, but now your ears must listen for His word. Once you have identified the problem, you have to identify the solution. This is where it can get murky. So I’m not in the right place, I’m not following my passions, I am not where God desires me to be, now what? Now you must draw close to God and let the Lord lead your steps. Where is God calling you? What is God’s purpose in your life at this very moment? Scripture, devotional time, prayer, solitude, fellowship can all help illuminate God’s next step for you. Some good questions to ask yourself are:
(a) What are you passionate about?
(b) What makes your eyes come alive and your heart beat quicken?
(c) If you had no others concerns, what would you do with your life?
(d) How do you choose to spend your free time?
(3) Now the rubber meets the road. Take your hands off the wheel and see where God is driving you. Once you identify where God is calling you now, you must have the courage to step out in faith and follow that path. It takes a lot of guts to leave behind the familiar and the known, the comfortable and the convenient. But God has a history of calling people to the difficult and daunting in order to show His power and grace. Wherever He calls, He equips so have no fear, He will be by your side. Keep leaning into Him.