I have worked outside the home since the age of 15, my first job was as a cashier. I quickly decided I did not like standing in one place for hours on end and started working for a dentist at the age of 16. I worked in the dental field as a receptionist, then became certified in expanded duties as an assistant, then orthodontics, insurance, billing and everything in between for the last 44 years. When I became a mom at age 25 I worked outside (for a dentist of course) and inside my home. When I was 30 and pregnant with our third child, my husband and I sold our house in Tampa and moved to Texas to go to seminary. I became a virtual single parent for almost four years as he worked and went to school full time. I juggled husband, kids, seminary classes, church and homemaking and an occasional side job of house cleaning. I know what it is to work.
Genesis 2:15 -“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
When God first assigned Adam work in the garden it was designed to be fulfilling and productive. Without the blight of sin, work was totally satisfying. With Adam and Eve’s choice to disobey God – work became, well… “work“! But as with all things the enemy and sin has corrupted God redeems as we surrender.
Colossians 3:22-24 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Do you embrace the work that God has put in front of you or try to escape it? Because if you are a follower of Christ it is about YOU being conformed to His image and thereby pointing others to Him. It’s not about having the right job, making the right amount of money ( I’m not telling you to get a crummy low paying job.) It’s not about as a homemaker having all the latest appliances, a bedroom and bathroom for each person in the family, a spiritual husband and children that rise up everyday and call you blessed (Proverbs 31:28) although all those things can be helpful and encouraging. It’s about us recognizing God as sovereign over our circumstances and knowing He can change them at anytime. Understanding that He wants to use our situation to make us more like Jesus. Listen to that first phrase in the Colossians passage- “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything”. Paul didn’t address whether slavery was right or wrong, he didn’t encourage slaves to seek their freedom. He instructed them to do their work with excellence and enthusiasm out of devotion to the Lord, confident that He would reward them in eternity. We are called to work with all of our hearts as if we are working for Jesus. In order to embrace our mission we must first surrender.
Will we surrender? That is the question. And that is also my struggle, because it is dynamic and daily, not merely a one time decision. As I’ve moved through various stages of life God has presented many opportunities for me to surrender my work to Him, to perform tasks, not just for a salary, but to do my work as unto the Lord. To be an example to the people I work with and to look for opportunities to point them to Jesus. I have failed often, occasionally I have succeeded. It is definitely challenging to be Christlike in the workplace. There is always the temptation to get sucked into pettiness, one-upmanship, gossip, and greed. But my greatest challenge was not in the workplace, but in my home.
In 2002 my mom moved in with us. My dad had passed away years earlier and my mom was tired of living alone. Shortly after she moved in she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. All three of my children still lived at home. My eldest would leave for college the next year. To say this was a big adjustment is an understatement. My mom and I had always been close, prior to her moving in we had talked and prayed for years about consolidating our households. My husband and I had even bought property to build a big new house that would accommodate all of us more comfortably. We subsequently sold the lot and decided to take the conservative route and make do with our 2200 square feet -4/2 older home. Still, I looked forward to the additional help around the house, doing Bible studies together, long conversations and girly get togethers with my mom and sisters. Instead, I was “trapped” in my own home with a confused, frightened, startled by loud noises, stuck in the past elderly person that daily became farther from the loving and unselfish mother I had always known.
Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to do this “work” that God called me to well. I wanted to love and care for my mom, but I also wanted to enjoy life as I had know it. I didn’t want someone following me around the house looking distressed all the time. I wanted to come and go as I pleased without making arrangements and having to deal with the resistance. I didn’t want to surrender or embrace the means God had allowed for me to become more Christlike. I took care of my mom and I also tried to escape. The means of escape were indulgence, distracting myself, and even trying to hide in my own house. The end result, instead of the fruit of the Spirit being birthed in me, the fruit of the flesh was -frustration, anger, self pity, and guilt.
Many would say of that time in my life, “It was a hard job, you did the best you could. You loved your mom and you did take care of her.” But I know what Jesus wanted to accomplish in that season of my life. He wanted me to embrace the mission with all of my heart confident that He was in control and would produce something far better than my immediate comfort.
What job, mission, or work has God called you to in this season of life that you are resisting and failing to embrace? Are you looking for Jesus to change your circumstances or you?
God is so gracious and merciful that if we fail He often allows a “redo”. Six months ago my son, his wife, his children ages 14, 7, 5 and 3 moved in with us. My space, privacy, order, quiet atmosphere is gone. We have all had to work to accommodate one another. There have been many times I’ve wanted to run and hide and occasions when I have. But I am striving daily to surrender and embrace the work God has called me to. In my heart I don’t want to retreat and escape the means that He has divinely appointed for me to become more like Jesus. I want to remember, “It is the Lord Jesus Christ I am serving!”
(This post was first delivered as a devotional talk at The Well-a women’s bible study and training ministry.)