What does one do when they find their job unfulfilling? One answer? Try looking at their job in a different light.
I was searching through my documents (looking for something else) when I found this "thought" which I saved over a year ago. It was written by Gene Twilley, who works for CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach) and oversees CCO staff who work on college campuses doing outreach in the Philadelphia area. I felt his insights could help those caught is a similar predicament, so I thought I would pass it along as we begin 2019. It is entitled "Attitude Adjustment." Most all of us could use that on one occasion of another! Enjoy.
"Eight months after finishing my undergraduate studies, I started working as an auto liability claims adjuster for a very large insurance company. There were ample benefits with the job—from day one, I was vested in a matched 401k; I had a pension, nearly a month of vacation per year, and great health benefits. I loved the people I worked with An older African-American woman called me her newly adopted son. We worked in collaborative cubicles—four to a large cube—and laughed a lot.
But I hated the work. In a claims environment, every call is a complaint The workload is heavy. I was threatened with physical violence over the phone, bullied with potential lawsuits, and accused of all sorts of character flaws. There were and are far worse places to be employed. But in the moment of any sort of seemingly bad circumstance, we don’t usually think about what could be worse. We long for something better.
Then my wife and I attended a wedding for one of her co-workers, and I was making small talk with a woman I didn’t know, and who I probably wouldn’t recognize if I saw her today. In the midst of conveying to her what I did, before I had the opportunity to complain about my job, she exclaimed, “How exciting! You have the opportunity to help put people’s lives back together every day.”
I was willing to approach my work as a Christian who had hope in Jesus, but not as a Christian who had hope that my work actually mattered. I don’t know where this woman was in terms of faith, but she pointed out something that I was completely missing.
Isaiah 61 is a messianic prophetic utterance. Jesus took up this section, read it in a synagogue in Nazareth, and explained, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).
He was anointed to preach good news to the poor.
He was sent to proclaim liberty to captives.
He was sent to give sight to the blind
He came to release the oppressed.
In all of that, Jesus was announcing the “year of the Lord’s favor.” In the broader context of Isaiah 61, we see other really good things too! There is comfort for those who mourn. Those who sit in shame and in repentance are made beautiful. They are planted deeply into God’s grace, that they might praise rather than mourn. The people of God are called by the Servant of God to be re-creators of things that are broken… All that hope, that expectation, that rebuilding of the things that have been broken—it’s in Isaiah 61. It all finds its beginning, current, and end in Jesus.
And this is the kind of hope that can lift me out of myself and all my meandering thoughts about greener pastures. I start to ask different questions. After all, aren’t we called to care about the situations that God has placed us in, the broken places already in our midst? How can we make the most of our God-given opportunities today? How might we redeem the time that he’s given into our possession?
As a claims adjuster, I was occupied with my work—getting through the day, looking for the next best thing. It was a job, not a calling. Or was it? What if every opportunity to serve others is a calling from the Lord? Tim Keller explains, “our work can be a calling only if it is re-imagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests. Thinking of work mainly as a means of self-fulfillment and self-realization slowly crushes a person.”
Calling is found at the sweet spot where my vertical and horizontal relationships meet—where I love the Lord and where I love my neighbor. Too often, maybe we’re disappointed with where we are because we simply don’t see the potential of the work ahead of us. But what if some of us are so concerned with our own emptiness that we don’t see the joy set before us? Isaiah 61 tells a bigger story, and in this story, work becomes service, pain becomes joy, and despair becomes hope. Come, Lord Jesus. Give us eyes to see."
Where might an "attitude adjustment" (or simply looking at something from a different perspective) help you in your struggle to find fulfillment in something which is not at present? Only you can know. But it is worth pondering!
Living in the Grace of Jesus, Pastor Jeff