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Living the Dream

The last year has been a hard one when dealing with idolatry. It was sneaky but it was present in almost every facet of my life and it wasn’t until it smashed me in the face that I realised I needed to deal with it.

The Set-Up

My dream job when I left my hometown and headed to university was to become a special ed teacher. I saw great value in education and the impact that it had on so many lives. Teachers were a central, if underappreciated resource, and good ones who wanted to work rural were hard to find. Unbeknownst to many people though, is that special education often requires an undergraduate teaching qualification AND postgraduate coursework. It’s at least a five year commitment.

The Creep

When I headed to university, my degree was my ticket away from a pretty hectic situation. Very few people left with purpose in my hometown, and even less actually stuck it out. I saw university and the career that came after as a means of freeing me and better circumstances.

Over the course of that five years, I enjoyed my coursework and placements. I loved teaching and I loved it’s impact. Often the struggle of the lesson was worth the pay-off. I enjoyed the challenge and the difference of every day.

I argued for its value and what it represented.

I always sought to make decisions which acknowledged God as sovereign, and didn’t place teaching first. But the creep of my sinfulness was silent. I didn’t know that I wasn’t wholeheartedly putting God first.

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. The appetite of laborers works for them; their hunger drives them on. – Proverbs 16: 25-26

The Ugly Head

I began to discuss the idea of overseas mission using my teaching degree and decided to go to a conference where we looked at pursuing ministry and mission. I had been to the conference before, and it seemed a good place to kick start that thought process. The questions that we considered were reasonably the same as the year before. But then someone asked:

Are you living a life in view of Christ and judgement day?

“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” – Acts 17: 29-31

What did that mean? Of course I was. Until I realised I wasn’t.

I was investing a significant amount of time and energy into my “dream job.” I was working hard at being a valuable teacher rather than a holy people saved by God. The idea of judgement hadn’t really played into how I viewed the world or prioritising people who weren’t yet on the Jesus boat. I was living a life in view of being a teacher; not Christ. Not the reality of the unsaved. And certainly not judgement day.

My reservations about ministry and mission were because I didn’t want to give up working in a rural setting as a teacher. I had a balance of worth – one side was the Gospel, and the other was education.

God was not number one.

Even if I make wise decisions for God, a balancing act of loves isn’t good enough. It’s idolatry.

All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit nothing? People who do that will be put to shame; such craftsmen are only human beings. – Isaiah 44: 9-11

My Heart Now

I still love teaching and working with people who have disabilities. I’m still finishing my degree and doing my coursework with honest effort. But my anxieties over work are not the same.

 It was hard moving past what people would think if I didn’t go into something I’d spent so long working towards. Yet, I’m not consumed by the need to fulfill my dream job and what will happen if I don’t, because it won’t actually matter on judgement day.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. – 2 Corinthians 5: 1 – 3

 

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Time to Quit

When I finished my undergrad I headed into a Youth Worker position that I was looking forward to. However, I soon came to realise that it was time to quit.

The job I accepted was working a 24/7 roster with children in residential care. For those of you who don’t know what residential care is, it is a care arrangement for children who have been removed from their families by the state welfare services. These kids often have aggressive behaviours and significant emotional regulation issues.

As I said, I was keen for this work. It paid, and it was challenging enough that I wouldn’t get bored. For the first four months of my job I enjoyed it. There were a few downs with clients who were just perpetually angry (and violent).

The start of my job was easy. I was able to turn down working when I had Bible study on, and to take two weeks off for mission. During university holidays, I dealt reasonably well with long shifts where I’d sleepover at work and with some of the more violent shifts. Yet when uni rolled around, the flexibility I needed slowly ebbed away.

Eventually, I began being asked to work when I already had made myself “unavailable.” I also began working with a client that was becoming increasingly violent. I was managing a full-time course load at university and was working no less that 21 rostered hours (but upward of 50 with sleepover shifts). It wasn’t until I had three weeks away from work, that I realised it was time to go.

I’m not one to shirk responsibilities I’ve taken on, irrespective of how much I like them. So why did I choose to leave?

In my previous blog post, I mentioned that we are workers for Christ. Our life is a sacrifice for God, and we must be prepared to live a life that pleases God. Our work AND lives must glorify Him.

Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him ~ Colossians 3:17

This means acknowledging God’s sovereignty in our jobs. We have jobs to live, and are not to live for our jobs. Jobs support us for worldly responsibilities like paying rent and feeding ourselves, but are not our purpose in life. God is.

Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. ~ 2 Chronicles 20:6

If God is sovereign, it also means that what we do not only at work but our spare time matters to Him.

The major issue of my job was that it was pushing me towards living for work. I was being encouraged to use my time outside of work for more work, and the emotional toil of working with troubled children alongside uni was pushing my spare time further away from God.

I became less inclined to meet regularly for bible reading. I struggled to maintain relationships, not just with my Christian friends but also other (just as important) non-Christian friends. I was tired and didn’t feel like reading my Bible and felt constantly pressed for time.

Meeting regularly, loving our brothers and sisters, loving our friends and growing in God’s word are all important. It wasn’t until I stopped to breathe, that I realised I was overwhelmed by my work. My job consumed my life, and left little space for God.

What did I do?

Well, I checked my contract and gave my minimum notice for resignation. I left without a job lined up, but knowing that it was a good choice.

…there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. ~ 1 Corinthians 8:6