Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? -Matthew 6:26
She is far more precious than jewels. -Proverbs 31:10
For we are God’s handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. -Ephesians 2:10
This past weekend, I had an afternoon where I was by myself (Happy Dance! – as this is a rarity these days).
I was alone for a couple of hours before meeting with a friend, and so I decided to get something to eat.
As I walked into a cozy bakery and coffee shop for some breakfast, I was reminded of a younger me. I remembered what it was like to just be by myself and go about my day as I pleased. It was an odd feeling.
I wasn’t holding on to a squirmy toddler’s hand or digging through a purse full of wipes, snacks, and diapers. I could take my time looking at the menu, ordering, and then enjoy a meal to myself. I didn’t have to worry about wiping messy hands, keeping a little boy in his chair, or come up with a plan on how to entertain a toddler while I quickly scarfed down the rest of my meal.
Don’t get me wrong, I love those moments with my son, as hard as they can be at times. We’ve had some great mommy-son breakfast and lunch dates, just the two of us. But this moment alone was special. It wasn’t awkward sitting by myself, and I didn’t feel the urge to look at my phone, check e-mails, or call someone. I just wanted to enjoy being by myself, in this cozy bakery and coffee shop.
As I sat eating alone, I thought back to the “me” from 7 years ago. I remembered sitting alone in a different coffee shop. At the time, I was occupied with lots of grading, as I was student teaching and only a few months away from becoming a high school English teacher.
I loved my work, and I was excited to be so close to having my first job with my degree. I was almost a “real adult”. The planning, grading, and classroom management were all a lot of work- especially with being an English teacher, but I loved the journey I was on, and I knew that this was what I wanted to “do”, this job was meant for me.
There was even another teacher in the coffee shop who recognized what I was doing and made a comment about how a teacher’s work is never done, even off the clock. I smiled and agreed; it was the first time I had been acknowledged as a “real” teacher while I was still student teaching.
But two years into the job that I loved, I was called to give it up. I was newly married and I moved to a different part of the state. I had 8 months of uncertainty and anxiety about what I wanted to do, or what I was supposed to be doing.
I started to question whether I wanted to teach for the rest of my life. It scared me. I never thought I would choose to leave teaching.
Another job presented itself after those 8 months of uncertainty, and I fell in love with it immediately. I began coaching swimming full time for a USA and YMCA club team. I loved the families, the kids, the adult swimmers, my co-workers, and the life skills that were imparted to these individuals by being a part of the YMCA.
Again, after a couple short years, I was called to make another decision about my job. I was pregnant, and my priorities were changing about what was right for our family. I chose to step down from my position and only work part-time so that I could stay at home with my son.
It was difficult to let go of both of these jobs. These were jobs where I thought I was destined to be for all of my working life. I felt I was called to do them. “I’m making an impact,” I thought. “I’m changing lives and teaching life skills, why would God want to take me away from this?”. I questioned whether I really knew what I wanted to do. Had I wasted the time and money I put into college to stop teaching only a couple years later, and then to stop working full time only a few years after that?
In those moments, God was calling me to trust Him. He was asking me to take a leap of faith when I didn’t know what the other side looked like. There wasn’t a security net. There was only time, uncomfortable change, and sometimes blatant uncertainty and unanswered questions in the waiting.
I had to let go of these jobs, these “titles” that I was holding on to so dearly. It was clear in these moments that the time for me to teach or coach in a certain capacity was over, but it was hard for me to admit that. “This is a part of who I am,” I thought. “This is what I signed up for.”
But God had different plans for me. He took these moments to show me that these “things”, these “positions” were never mine. I didn’t own them, they didn’t define me, they were just a part of my life for the time being. He had given them to me, and He was free to take them back. He had placed certain roles and people in my life during these seasons for a reason. And those seasons had come to an end.
I had to recognize my warped view of a person’s value and identity- of my own value and identity.
While these jobs were tremendous blessings in my life, God wanted me to recognize something of even greater significance: My identity and my value aren’t wrapped up in what I do, how much I make, who I know, or where I’ll be on this earth 50 years from now.
Thanks to God, my value and identity are worth more that.
Because people are worth far more than things, job titles, and circumstances- Jesus made that perfectly clear in His life’s work, His interactions with the least of these, and by His ultimate sacrifice made in love for all mankind.
God is continually showing me that I can’t rely on things of this earth to satisfy me, to uphold me, or to define how much I’m worth. It’s when I recognize the love that He has for me, and for all of us, that I can be who I’m truly destined to be- a child of God who loves and works out of that love because He first loved us.
Sometimes that work is paid and other times it is not. Sometimes that work is recognized by the world and other times it is not. But God is ultimately the One who sees us, He knows us, He loves us, and He appreciates the work that we do in love for His name and His Kingdom. Even when no one else is watching.
As I finished my coffee and oatmeal this past weekend, I was thankful for these reminders.
Seven years later, now that I am in this season of young motherhood, it can often feel like a job that goes unnoticed. The days can sometimes run together, and some days just feel like an endless cycle of messes and little rest.
But between the sticky fingers, toddler tantrums, and a dog that doesn’t get enough attention, are the kisses for mommy, snuggles on the couch, learning how to put on shoes and understanding how to follow directions.
The job is hard, but it’s rewarding in a way that the world doesn’t always see or value- investing in a little person day in and day out. Because this little person will one day be a big person who will impact others and the world around him.
When I recognize how much I’m valued, how much my work is valued, and how much my son is valued by God, I know that what I’m doing is important. What I’m doing doesn’t go unnoticed.
The days of this little boy’s life change quickly and frequently, and though I don’t know what the next day may look like, I know the One who makes each day just wants me to trust Him with one more step of obedience in that day’s work- whatever it may be.