Husband and I are in this great life group. We love all our people! They are a huge blessing to us! Husband is also in this men’s group of church guys who look out for and encourage each other daily. One of the themes that I’ve seen in both of these groups is general grouchiness toward jobs. None of the people complain or anything. Nobody is openly miserable or anything. And it comes and goes in seasons – like sometimes people love what they do or are at least content, and then other times they are like “get me outta here!” and/or “what am I doing with my life?!?!?!”
And the grouchiness toward jobs is not exclusive to these two groups. I know that so, so, so many people do jobs that aren’t what they really want to do. So many people take what they can get. So many people are overworked and underpaid. Basically nobody gets appropriate paid leave when they have children. Basically nobody gets sufficient vacation time. Jobs just aren’t what we expected them to be when we were kiddos and dreamed of doing what we loved someday. Nobody wants to be a whiner, but we are, as a general group I think, disappointed in how things really are versus how we dreamed of them being.
I’m kind of a freak. I knew from like day one of life that music teaching and mommying were exactly what I wanted to do forever. When I was two, I would regularly line up my stuffed animals and teach them the abc’s and then discipline them when they were bad. I distinctly remember my Mickey Mouse doll getting put in the wardrobe on time out. Then I dreamed as a third grader of being a teacher, and I remember mentioning to my teacher that I was excited to be a teacher because they make lots of money. My friend overheard and said, “Teachers do not make any money! If you want to make lots of money, you should be a doctor.” I protested the truth of this statement, and my teacher confirmed. “Teachers don’t make much money compared to doctors, but it’s still fun to be a teacher.”
So I was prepared right from the start that I wouldn’t make very much money, but I would be in it for the fun. I am ridiculously passionate about teaching music. I’m passionate enough that I can be irritating. I’m passionate enough that I can’t give it up forever, even though I absolutely love staying home with my kids. I’m passionate about seeing kids learn and be successful and finding ways to express themselves. I’m passionate about teaching kids to acknowledge the incredible influence that music has on our culture and on cultures around the world. I care. So, so much.
But even music teaching hasn’t been exactly what I dreamed it would be. But has anything in life been like that, really? (If you’re looking for an answer, the answer is no – nothing in life is exactly what you expect it to be.) I’m going to be doing the exact thing that I’ve always, always wanted to do, but I bet a lot of you readers are not in that boat. I think most people aren’t.
Here’s the thing, though: your life is not your job. Your job isn’t the be-all, end-all for happiness and joy. It will always leave you unfulfilled, because even if it is exactly the thing you always dreamed of doing, there will be parts of your job where the sin of the world touches it. This is especially true if your job involves other people in any capacity. There are times of trial, times of being unfairly blamed for stuff, times of being unappreciated, times of hating the tasks you have to do, times of truly disliking a coworker, times of disappointment in the expectations versus reality of your daily tasks, times where you just can’t do well enough, times of boredom, etc., etc.
We tend to put our value in the work we’re doing. When someone new meets us, they ask immediately, “So what do you do?” Our jobs are a core part of our identity, so it is easy to place all our bets on how we’re doing there. I think this is especially true for traditional married men, who see themselves as the breadwinners and providers for their family. I know many a Godly man who has failed at work and it has had a major negative impact on his family. This, of course, applies to women, too.
The point is this: work is part of our lives, but not all of it. Work is part of our identity, but not all of it. Work is part of our mission, but not the point of it. As Christians, the point of our lives is to bring glory to God by doing life with Him and showing Him to the people we encounter. This comes through in everything we do in our jobs. When we are relating to other people, when we are performing menial tasks with little thanks, when we are disliked, when we are given unrealistic expectations, our attitude is either bringing glory to God or it isn’t.
Husband’s best friend is a musician. He considered going into music when he went to college, but his dad gave him some different advice. He said something along the lines of “Do something as a job that can provide for your family, and then you’ll have the resources to do music on the side.” I think that this was very wise of him. Husband’s best friend is a fantastic musician. He has used his music to make a little extra cash, but mostly he’s used it to glorify God by praising Him and sharing that with others. The wisdom of this idea is not discouraging a person to pursue a career in music, because that really is the place for some people (like me! yay!). The point of it is that your life is not completely wrapped up in your work. Just because you are doing something from 8-5 every day for 40 years, it doesn’t mean that was your whole life.
Part of it is especially prevalent in my generation, it seems. We grew up thinking that the sun shined out of our every crevice, that we were special and wonderful and great. I think probably what happened is that in the concern that we’d grow up with little self-esteem, we were overly and unrealistically esteemed. This has been a real problem for many people my age and has resulted in that dreaded word we all hate to hear about ourselves: entitlement. We think we are the bee’s knees, and nobody else does, so we defend ourselves and our awesomeness until we are blue in the face. But as we continually see that others don’t think we are as great as we think we are, we start to have an even harsher blow than reality, and we pervert the view of ourselves too far the other direction. We say that we must not be worth anything at all because nobody can see it. We’ve spent our whole lives being encouraged to just try and that’s all and that’s okay without any results. We’ve been coddled and helicoptered and every problem has been bulldozed out of the way for us, and we’re left with enormous obstacles that are now impossible to climb. If only we’d had to learn to climb the molehill, perhaps the mountain wouldn’t seem so alarmingly tall. Perhaps if we had a more realistic view that we are special and unique and we do matter, but we aren’t more special or more unique or more important than Suzy from next door, we would realize that we should try our best at whatever task we’re given all for the glory of God because He’s in it with us. And that would be enough.
I’m coming to terms with enough-ness. I need to figure out contentment wherever I am. I need to figure out how to do my life with Christ instead of just for Him. I sure think it’ll be more enjoyable that way. A little hard work with a little bit of Jesus joy might be all it takes to enjoy life, regardless of the 40-hour-per-week duties we have. God is with us, and that makes absolutely anything we have to deal with not only bearable, but even fun.
May we never forget Emmanuel, God is with us.