I’ve been thinking a lot about job applications lately. I mean, I’ve been without a full-time job for a year and a half, so this is pretty natural. I applied for approximately 35 jobs in 2016; so far in 2017 I’ve applied for 32. And I haven’t gotten an interview for a single full-time position.
On May 4th, our pastor contacted me out of the blue and asked if I would be the church’s summer youth pastor–a part-time summer job. I was surprised and puzzled at first, and then realized this was actually a pretty good fit: I have a lot of experience teaching teenagers, I kind of have my finger on the pulse of the kinds of things they need, I’m knowledgeable in my faith, I’m a good teacher, I have no job this summer to take up my time, and I already have the clearances the church needs for working with minors, since I worked all of the school year as a substitute teacher at the local high school.
So I took the position. It’s been a challenge, but on the whole, I think it’s gone well. Only, since I got this position, I’ve found it very hard to make myself keep applying for jobs. I think part of the reason is that I’m happy with the part-time job I’ve got, whereas when I was working as a substitute, I hated that job, so I wanted out, and the way out was to apply, apply, apply. Now I’m not feeling the immediate necessity of doing that.
Also, ever since I’ve gotten this position, I’ve gotten the feeling that God’s got something planned. A couple of weeks in a row, the things that really stood out to me in the message at church functions was to follow when God calls you to something. So I’ve been waiting and waiting for Him to point out where he wants me–but He hasn’t, which is just killing me. I’ve also had the faint idea that maybe He wants me to stop applying for jobs.
Now, that sounds like complete nonsense–like my own laziness and discouragement in my job hunt makes me want to quit, so I’m finding a convenient excuse. But I realized today in church that it’s more than that.
Our new associate pastor (shout-out to Dale!) preached on 1 Kings 17, Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. God had brought a drought, but promised the widow, who was feeding Elijah, that she would have just enough food to last until the end of the drought. Not huge feasts, Dale pointed out: just enough. He encouraged us to remember ways that God is providing for us quietly.
Well, I’d been thinking about that, too. I’ve just gotten off the T3 only and back onto the T3/T4 medication, so I’m still a bit depressed, and I had a pretty bad fit of it last night. I felt absolutely worthless because I didn’t have a job, I wasn’t achieving anything, I wasn’t adding anything to society, I wasn’t supporting myself financially. I felt like I was in a terrible place. And one of the little whispers of reason said, “But God is taking care of you financially through your parents. And you DO matter, because you were worth enough for Jesus to die for.” But of course, I was too depressed to listen.
So I got to thinking about whether God wanted me to stop applying for jobs, and I started to think about the kinds of things I had said to myself last night. And the one thing that really stood out to me was that I felt worthless specifically because I wasn’t achieving anything.
My church is really big right now on Strengthfinders, a personality test kind of thing that tells you what your traits/talents are. My number two talent is “achiever,” and the description says things like, “You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by ‘every day’ you mean every single day — workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied.” I told the person coaching me that this was totally true, and that I experienced it, not as a strength, but as a torment: I HAD to do something every day, I couldn’t feel good about myself on days when I couldn’t, and a situation like the one I’m in now, when the thing I want to achieve–getting a job–seems more and more impossible all the time.
My old pastor preached once on Sabbath rest, and why it’s good for us to rest on at least one day a week. He pointed out that the reason the Israelites were commanded to do this was so that they would understand where their true worth lay. They had just come from slavery, in which your worth is tied up with how much you can accomplish, how much you work. And by forcing them to rest at least one day a week, God was saying, “Your worth in my eyes has nothing to do with how much you accomplish or achieve. My love for you is unconditional.”
I realize that, especially in times of depression, and in the place where I am right now in life, I’m exhibiting signs of achievement addiction, and I’m tying up my entire self-worth in how much I do, not in who I am or in how much God loves me. It’s super unhealthy, both emotionally and spiritually. I need a freaking break.
So I looked at an article that offers advice on how to break achievement addiction. They suggest ways to evaluate your life. “1. How happy you are.” Well, when I’m not making myself feel guilty for not applying for jobs or not doing this or that–and when my antidepressant regime is working!–I’m actually pretty happy right now. “2. The quality of your relationships.” I have some very good friendships, and I get along well with my family–a good thing, since I’m living with all three of them this summer! “3. How you give back to the world.” Now, this one bothers me, because it’s kind of achievement based again: I’m always feeling guilty because I don’t volunteer as much as I think I should. But the writers point out, “There are many ways to give back. Obvious ways include things like donating money or volunteering, but you can also give back by using the skills and knowledge you have to create things that help others.” Okay, well, I write about things in my life online, in a way that I hope helps and entertains others, and I’m a youth pastor, for heaven’s sake: I’m helping to educate and advise young people. I think that’s giving back.
But none of this answered the question about whether I should apply for jobs or not. And then I remembered the story of Gideon.
God told Gideon to put together an army, but he kept making Gideon do things that would seem stupid to anybody else: he kept making Gideon send more and more men home, until he had a tiny force of about 300, against an army of like 10,000. And God told Gideon it was because he wanted the Israelites to know it was God who had given them the victory, not their own strength. He wanted to increase their faith by forcing them to rely on Him in an impossible situation.
And I also remembered that the job I have now, I didn’t apply for. I didn’t even know it was open, and if I had, I wouldn’t have applied for it. I didn’t realize how well I was suited to it until someone actually offered it to me. I basically had the job almost before I did the “interview” (which was more of an info session than anything else). It was already a fait accompli--and accomplished by God, not by me.
So I’ve decided for now that I need to give up my obsessive need for accomplishments. I need to recognize that my worth is not based on how much I achieve. I need to learn that if I’m really going to trust God and believe that He’s the one directing my life, that maybe I need to stop trying so hard for a bit– to “let go and let God,” as the saying goes. I’ve decided to stop applying for jobs for the time being. I’m going to enjoy what I’ve got and trust that God’s got me covered.