You are more than what you do.
Did you know that? Because, I can assure you it’s true!
And I’m going to show you why if you keep on reading.
I only ask as there are many people who have never realised this life-changing truth. Instead they live for their careers. Worse than that, they see their career as giving their life its value, its meaning and its worth. And, even worse than that, they only see themselves through the light of their career and then try to gain security from the image that this creates.
Now, you might be wondering what I mean by that…
Well, I am thinking in particular of a friend of mine who worked as a teacher. She was good at it, very good in fact – and she enjoyed it very much. But, she’d never say that she just WORKED as a teacher; in her mind, she WAS a teacher. Over the years that she taught, she began to define herself more and more by her work.
It became not only a passion of hers, not only a job she threw herself into, but it also became her identity.
This was how she saw herself and indeed how she felt others saw her too. The image of a hard-working teacher that was cultivated in her own mind and the minds of others gave her a sense of security. She enjoyed the feeling that her reputation gave her and, without realising it, began to build on this foundation bit by bit. Eventually, everything else in her life – her peace, her joy, her pride – all this now stemmed from the deep-rooted idea that she did not just teach but that she WAS a teacher.
Now this kind of thinking is not just exclusive to teaching (and of course not all teachers fall into this trap of unhelpful thinking). There are doctors, politicians, actors, bankers, business owners, office workers, bosses, CEOs, managers and a whole host of other roles and professions where it is possible to think you’ve found yourself in your work.
And there is one certain way to know whether your identity is too tightly bound up in your job… and that is to have your job taken away from you.
It is never pleasant to lose a job.
Of course it’s not. It’s hard for anyone. But, those whose identity is elsewhere find their feet relatively quickly… in terms of their thinking at least. They may not find another job for a long time and often face struggles financially, relationally, and emotionally – but, these individuals who have not attached their sense of identity to one particular role in life… well, these are the ones who don’t end up lost just because their job is.
When my friend lost her teaching job, it was devastating to her. It was hard enough trying to find a new job but this was made exceptionally harder because she was also trying to find herself at the same time. The sense of loss was so much greater because she had lost her security, not just financially, but at a very deep level right at the core of her thinking.
Without her job, who was she?
It took her a long time to realise that she was more than the job she did.
Eventually, she asked the important question that so many never even get close to, let alone embrace with open arms as we all should do… ‘Who does God say I am?’ It was a difficult process but asking this question, and being ready to hear the answer, was exactly what led her to finding out who she really was.
First, she needed to know what God says about our roles in life:
God tells us that whatever we do, we should work at it with all our heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters since we know that we will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.
(Colossians 3 v 23-24.)
He never says in His word that it is essential we all carry out certain jobs or roles in life or else we will not be good enough to Him.
We are also not told that we must all achieve the same set of goals in life in order to “make it” in His eyes.
The opposite is true, in fact: He has made us wonderfully unique, with different skills, passions and paths we can walk.
He is quite clear: WHATEVER we do, it is HOW we do it rather than WHAT we do that really matters.
Of course there are times when He does lead us into certain jobs or to undertake particular roles because it is His plan for us to do so, but, even in these situations, we are not all told to do the same thing.
We are not measured against a scale of professions before God decides who has managed the grab hold of the ‘better’ ones with the most money or power or influence.
There are NO better jobs when it comes to God – and yet we cling so tightly to some of them that our sense of identity becomes stuck to our job.
When the job is then removed, it wrenches away our identity as well and leaves us feeling empty.
God is very clear – when He allows us to choose our job (and even when He tells us exactly what to do), it is not because He wants us discover ourselves in this. He does want us to reach our potential and will help us to do this, of course. But, all we find when we try find ourselves in our job, is the fleeting adoration of others; a puffed up sense of how important our work is (and by extension how important WE are) and the eventual realisation that we ended up spending far too much of our time, energy, and attention on our job when really they should have been spent on God, instead.
When will we realise that we are more than what we do?
The actions we perform, whether paid or unpaid, may be very worthwhile things to do indeed… but, that is all they are. They are our actions, but they are not who we ARE. Our actions may be amazing but we are even better than that.
So who ARE we?
I’ve said a lot about what we aren’t… but what is left when we remove our job?
Well, it’s not a case of what’s left but, actually, what we start to see when we don’t allow our attention to be distracted by our profession.
Man may look at the outward appearance and see what we have managed to achieve, but God looks at the heart.
He sees our motives, our character, our integrity and our goals – and THAT is what he values, THAT is what we should seek to develop, THAT is who we are!
But, we are even MORE than that too… as we will find out a little later on.