A relatively new phenomenon that men and women in my generation are experiencing is something called a quarter life crisis. Instead of waiting til we’re 40 to break down as we reflect on the choices that got us to where we are, at which point we’d take a leave of absence, buy a convertible, and have an Eat, Pray, Love experience, the Millennials have chosen to preemptively act out. Ours is a generation desperately obsessed with ourselves. What are we doing here? Why are we here? What should we be DOING with our lives? What will make me happy? What if I choose wrong and then ten years later I’m stuck at the same desk and I’ve wasted our lives, and I’ve missed my calling?!?!?
For Christians this seems, of course, only partially solved. Yes, we know we are here to know Jesus and make Him known. Our purpose on this earth is to bring Him joy and spread His Good News. But this, for many of us, is still not enough. The path is not yet clear; we can’t all be missionaries. We can’t all go into non profit. Most of us are doing our best to share God’s love with our friends, family, and neighbors, and still struggling to uncover what it is God wants us to occupy our time with. I was taught in Sunday School that God gives us all particular passions and desires, and that we are operating in our fullest potential when we are able to marry these skills with our faith. That God would help me figure “it” out when it came time.
Well, I’m a few months from finishing my graduate degree, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been lied to. There’s been no writing on the wall. No dream. No vision. No prophetic word. When I was in high school I thought I was meant to pursue the arts; to sing or act or interview people since it was the only thing I liked to do and I thought (at the time) I was pretty good at it. I thanked God for showing me something I loved and promised Him I’d use it to spread the Gospel, and never take the credit for myself. Two years later, futureless and close to hopeless I decided to finally declare a major and get on with my education. I did my best to question God nicely about His silence, I controlled my rants about songs, movies, and other pusher’s the phrase “just believe in yourself!”
I’ve spent countless sleepless nights tossing and turning over what I’m meant to do with my life. I’ve had dozens of discussions with my parents, my roommates; you’d think I’d be sick of talking about myself. It was during one of these woe-is-me discussions with my brother that I was given a little reminder about the dangers of the emphasis I’d been placing on my job search and its ability to define me. I was complaining about my lack of guidance and frustration over which path to choose when my younger, less experienced brother interrupted with, “Par…. Jesus was a carpenter.” I reluctantly stopped and hesitated, waiting for him to go. “Jesus was the Christ, but He maintained a profession for most of his life — he wasn’t just a missionary, or a hippie or vagabond. He built things for a living, most likely because that’s what Joseph did, so that’s what he was taught to do.”
Before I could object he continued, “it was Jesus’ job, not who He was. It was how He made an income, not His calling. You don’t see Matthew writing about how Jesus dreamt of making rocking chairs as a child. Mark didn’t devote any verses to that one time Jesus made the most balanced, symmetric dinette set ever seen in Israel. No stories about HGTV interviewed him for furniture designer of the year. You are placing so much emphasis on your 9-5 when, in the end, I think we’ll discover that was never the point. We’ve just got to work to live, stop acting like you’re living to work.”
Well that shut me up pretty good. The guy had a point. Maybe I SHOULD be taking a closer look at the fact that Jesus chose fishermen and tax collectors to hang around. Not because they could hook a huge salmon or tell him what tax bracket he would fall into that year, but for aspects of themselves completely unrelated to their day job. This got me thinking that even if I didn’t know exactly what I was supposed to be doing or have a solid grip on a five-year plan, it didn’t mean that I was messing up the big picture for my life. I have been genuinely fearful that one wrong step will throw me into an unredeemable limbo.
I started to think about my grandparents, and their parents before them. I felt fairly certain that my grandpa wasn’t “called” to factory work for 40 years of his life. I also had a sneaking suspicion that my grandmother probably hadn’t dreamt of being a bookkeeper as a little girl. Still, they went to work every day. They brought home a paycheck and made a living and worked to live — to build a life. They never thought about building their life around their occupation. I feel like most of our grandparents understood the difference. Their legacy was their family, what they left behind and who they raised the values they instilled. That was enough. To say it wasn’t would be an insult to their memory and calling countless individuals’ lives insufficient. Nowadays it’s not uncommon to hear about a friend who decided to up and quit his 9-5 job in order to move to Bali and pursue his true passion of becoming a poet, or that classmate that decided the whole grown up thing wasn’t her and has been working at a beach bar in Puerto Rico. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with taking some time and figuring out what you like, but I think most of us are a little off when we obsessively attempt to discover that perfect marriage of what we love to do and what we’re called to do, and are make a living from it. Of course I dream of greatness, of truly leaving my mark on the world, but sometimes I wonder if I haven’t been given that opportunity because maybe I wouldn’t give 100% credit to God. Maybe I would thank people and just smile when they coo over how hard I must’ve worked. I’d like to think I’m working on that part of myself, but in the meantime, God knows best. It’s wonderful when the explosion of faith and profession happens, and to watch that have succeeded (shout out to Tim Tebow), is exhilarating.
For the vast majority of us, I think it’s time to stop taking ourselves and our jobs so seriously, and start thinking about the effects we’re having on those around us in the mean time. As for me, since my little brother schooled me, I’ve really tried hard to be in the moment and not to miss out on the fun that should be this season of my life. I’ve started my job search and instead of asking myself “is this THE ONE?” I’m just asking, could I try this for a few years and see? As I continue to pray and seek God’s guidance in ordering my steps into the next chapter, I know that He’s got it under control. I know that what I do isn’t who I am, and if I’m listening faithfully, He’ll put me in the right spot. May not be when I want to hear it, but I’m trying to learn patience, and that my idea of greatness might not line up with his. Worst-case scenario, I could always drop everything and move to Italy for a few years.