For those struggling to separate purpose and career.
For those who took one sure step into the world and became all kinds of lost.
This messy and longing and lost chapter in the book the Lord is writing on my life is not just for me, but for you.
It’s far easier to read to the world a chapter that is finished.
A chapter that now uniquely fits into the grand story of this Author’s purpose.
I can, reading back, see this.
Like a mistype. A misstep. Something to be erased. Something that needed fixing.
It was the dream, the goal.
And during my time at the university, I worked toward a bright and flourishing career.
It was the new dream, the new goal.
But, in the words of the beloved Flynn Rider, Eugene Fitzherbert (because who am I if I don’t squeeze Disney into my own writing?),
And then that moment ended.
A mess of anxiety.
A mess of comparison.
A mess of doubt.
A mess of fear.
This dream that I wrapped like a present through the years was finally ready to be opened. Now, the paper was torn, the ribbons scattered, and the gift inside was far more disappointing than I had imagined it would be.
Everyone else’s gifts seemed perfect. I watched them take it out to play and show the world, a testament to how wonderful their gift Giver was.
And even if their gifts were not as they seemed, I knew their Giver was wonderful.
I rejoiced for them.
But mine…I feared was meant for someone else.
What I hoped was a shiny new toy, ready to be played with, batteries included, turned out to be an oversized dress, big enough for me to swim in.
And that’s exactly how I felt.
Small and swimming in something too big for me.
I sought answers, advice, and counsel. I scheduled and canceled several advising appointments, spiritual, emotional, and academic. And I longed to find someone walking around with the same baggy dress that I was wearing.
Oh, how we ache to relate and be understood. To be found and known in the dark.
But the Lord let me get lost. Be lost.
For He alone needed to be the one that found me.
Unknowingly, I rested in the security of people’s certainty in my choice of profession.
I fed off their affirmations and drank deep their praises.
“Oh, you were made for this!”
“You will make the most incredible teacher!”
“Teaching suits you so well!”
Pondering these things, now, I truly do believe the Lord used these words. They were well placed. They were thought through and honest. They saw gifts I was too blind or insecure to recognize.
But, in the end, it was often their word I clung to, and not the Lord’s.
Their confidence was often my foundation, and not the Lord’s unchanging promises.
And soon enough, their words, their confidence were not enough to convince me.
My own doubts overshadowed their sureness and the foundation that held me up crumbled.
Inevitably, I fell.
It was a long fall and the Lord took His patient time lifting me back up.
For He was not merely seeking to raise me, but to build me up.
I needed a new foundation. One that was planted on solid ground.
Built from unwavering truth. Carefully fixed. And designed to endure.
And, the truth He chose to be the cornerstone was entirely unrelated to my career, which I often equated to my “calling.”
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
The verse that I was taught again and again as a young girl in GEMS throughout the years (please tell me y’all did GEMS, too?).
I sang it every Wednesday night. I’m pretty sure it was to the tune of a Greece song.
Ridiculous to think of it now, but boy, did my heart need it, more than I knew at 10 years old.
This verse comes as a response from the minor prophet to the question, “What does the Lord require of you?” It goes through a long list of costly sacrifices and weighty duties.
I hear the sorrow and the agony in the voices, crying out, “Lord, what must we do?”
I hear it because my voice uttered the same words with heavy, heavy tears.
“Lord, what must I do? I need to do this thing to please you. I must do this thing to follow you. Surely, I’m required to do this thing to find my purpose. Fulfill my purpose. Otherwise, I’m wasting. Wasting my life. Wasting my time. Wasting away.”
My purpose. The Lord’s pleasure. A fulfilling life. It was all rooted in this career.
And to my surprise, in response to work-harder-do-more perspective, He gently offered these words.
“Mary, what have I told you? What is good? That you live just and free. That you take great delight in My steadfast love. That you walk ever nearer with Me. This is what is required. This pleases me. This is full life. This is where you find your purpose, because, my darling, this is where you find Me.”
I was looking for an occupation. I was looking for a job.
I was looking for purpose outside of the One Who purposes me for good things.
He took me aside. He took away my security.
He let the foundation that other’s had built tumble down, with me tumbling after it.
And what caught me was not a job.
I fell to be caught by the hands of my Maker. The One who gives me purpose.
And so, I start again. Fresh. New.
Same gifts. Slightly new direction.
I’m back in school.
Yes, teaching is surely my future. But making coffee is my present.
And with this new time, this blessed and purposed time, I have the space to use my gifts still.
Not in the school. Not teaching geometry and history. Not to a class of 30 students.
But rather, in the Church. Teaching the Gospel. To a group of 12 hungry, seeking, and delightfully eager sixth grade girls.
It took a year. It took a long hard fall. My moment of perfection had to end.
But, a moment of perfection gave way to a lifetime of purpose.
Purpose rooted in Christ and loving Him, in all I do.
And, to quote Tangled just once more,
This is my new dream.
Oh, and that dress?
It fits now. Like it was made for me.
Our Father really does know how to give good gifts.